|Social workers are taught to take notice of their own feelings evoked by a client or situation. If we can step back and look at our reactions, we can better understand how other people feel. This tunes us to the client’s own emotional state, and how other people experience them. |
So deliver this word to them: My eyes well up with tears; I can’t stop weeping—day and night, Jeremiah 14:17a (CEB)
I’ve been noticing my own resistance. Some of it is subtle. When the local newspaper started highlighting black voices in our community, printing their stories on black background with white text, I read them with interest. I looked for connections, people I knew.
Several weeks in, I realized that I had been skipping them. Scanning the paper for “real” news, and unconsciously sliding right past the black boxes. The strategy meant to highlight black stories now enabled me to ignore them, without realizing I was doing so.
Even both prophet and priest wander about aimlessly in ignorance. Jer. 14:18b (CEB)
Reminding me again that I have the privilege of attending to the black experience when I feel like it. When I have time or emotional energy. But as a white person, I can just turn back to what is important to me, whenever I want. Whereas my black neighbors and friends can never take a day off from being black in America. Just forget it for a while. Take a day off from stress.
When I mentioned to the leadership team that reparations are on my mind- what is my individual responsibility? or that of the church?- Carolyn Vance sent me links to five short articles. I resisted reading them. I wanted to reply, “That’s not what I meant. Please don’t send me more stuff to read.” I noticed my avoidance.
We look for peace, but nothing good comes of it; for a time of healing, only to be terrorized. Jer. 14:19b (CEB)
Based on my own reactions, I assume that white Christians may be tiring of this conversation. Give us a break. Can’t we talk about something else for a while? No wonder people found Jeremiah annoying.
I am fiercely individualistic. Which makes me susceptible to the white American version of Christianity that defines sin primarily as individual sexual transgression, rather than systemic oppression and economic exploitation. As a married heterosexual who doesn’t commit adultery or murder, I get a pass. Which isn’t biblical.
We acknowledge our sin, Lord, the wrongdoing of our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. Jer. 14:20 (CEB)
I am tempted to define my ancestors narrowly. Turn a blind eye to the systems of America that benefit me and oppress others. Or at least give myself a break. Perhaps you, too, would like a pass. I understand. I feel you.
Despite our friendship, it was hard to read Jeff Trask’s letter as founder of Champaign County Christian Health Center. It seemed long. Which he acknowledged.
“Do I matter enough for everyone reading this letter to start with empathy and concern before defensiveness and justification? …. Do I matter enough for my non-Black brothers and sisters reading this letter to be moved enough to learn more about Black history and gain a better understanding of what Black people go through in America? …. If you think this letter is long,.. it would still be 3 minutes less than the time a police officer put his knee on the neck of George Floyd.”
Perhaps you want to take a few more minutes to read his letter. Pushing past your own resistance. Scrolling back up to the link. I think it would be worth your time.