It’s my birthday today. I turn 51 years old.
And though this phrase fits me perfectly about 98% of the time, the words aren’t from me.
They are from my Non-White brothers and sisters. And here’s what I know – some of my White brothers and sisters just rolled their eyes and stopped reading because they too think, “Ugh…I’m tired of this.”
While one community is begging to be heard, seen, counted as human.
The other has “had enough” of hearing about racism and wants to just focus on something else “for once” – without the lens of race. Not all – but enough that I see it and hear it regularly.
One group of people cry out in frustration and anger at being sacrificed and marginalized for centuries.
Another demands to stop “making everything about race” because it makes no sense that things could really STILL be about race.
We are tired.
If I’m honest, all I’ve thought about leading up to my Pandemic Birthday is “what have I done with my life?”
Perhaps you recall the final scene in Schindler’s List ~ if the copyright police wouldn’t come after me, I’d post it here cause it’s ahmazing. ~
Oskar Schindler is given a gift inscribed with the Hebrew words, “He who saves one life, saves the world entire.” At the reality of how much more he could have done during the Holocaust, he broke down and repeated, “I could have gotten one more person out, and I didn’t.” He was riddled with regret that he had not done MORE to help.
That scene haunts me at 51.
It also pushes me past my exhausted state of ineptitude when it comes to the race conversation. I haven’t done, said, created, moved, pushed, demanded, fought or even prayed enough.
I – like Schindler – can’t change “The” past. I can’t even change my past.
But here’s what I have learned.
No one is asking me to change the past.
I am being asked to be a part of changing the NOW.
Of changing the future for my children ~ my non-white children and their children’s children ~ based on what we know about about the past. A hard, complicated and sometimes cruel past.
What’s being begged of me, and those who look like me, is to push past our sighs and huffs ~ driven by not understanding ~ and to bend a knee.
Even that very image of humility and deference now evokes rage and debate.
But our heavenly Father says when we come to Him, and I dare say to each other, on bended knee – humbled – willing to listen – and repent when necessary – that is when things change.
The endless stories and reports of unarmed Black and Brown brothers and sisters losing their lives can become “white noise” – no pun intended. Or maybe it is.
We loudly proclaim – “I’m not racist, and being White hasn’t given me anything,” all while silencing Black voices.
Until a few years ago, I didn’t like being called White. It’s a label that felt icky and unnecessary. “I’m not white,” I’d think to myself. Look at my skin – it’s pink and beige – and who knows what all kinds of ancestry I have running through my veins. Caucasian sounded better, until I became a student and realized that even that title was created out of racism.
What I didn’t understand is that it doesn’t matter what label I am comfortable with. What matters is that the world sees me as White – and all that comes with that.
I can run through streets. I can be rude to authority. I can demand my own way. I can expect not to be followed through a store. I can deliver packages in a gated community and not have to “explain myself.” And I can imagine that if I am unarmed and murdered in my bed, someone will stand up and fight for justice for my life – without debate – without suspicion – without every thought and action from my past discrediting my right to said justice.
Much like Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, I get something special to wear everyday that affords me privileges ~ another super-charged trigger word ~ many others don’t have. My white skin assures me the ability to feel tired and to get to walk away if I so choose. I can ignore the pain that is so thick in the air that others scream, “I can’t breathe.”
I can remove myself from sight or the conversation because it’s just too dang exhausting. I can bury my head in the sand when others raise their arms and beg, “Please don’t shoot me.”
I can even become indignant that “I” am not being heard, and that people don’t know or understand that my life has been hard. After all, I too didn’t grow up in wealth or have things handed to me on a silver platter. I can look away when I see the poverty, the violence, the discrepancy in every aspect of life, and I can drown out the voices calling for me to speak up because their lives matter – not above mine but in sync with mine.
I turn 51 today. And I’m tired.
I believe I can say with a modicum of certainty that I am not nearly as tired as EVERY Non-White person who is turning 51 with me today. The only thing different in our level of weariness is the amount of time they have fought this battle, understood the systematic contrast they face, and been told to be quiet and stop disrupting an otherwise civilized society.
If you are White, Caucasian, Non-minority – whatever title allows you to hear me – and find yourself feeling “tired,” ask yourself what’s draining you so?
Like me, are you tired for and with those who are asking for our help?
Are you worn out “being made to feel guilty about your race”?
If so, I implore you to ask yourself these questions –
– If we are so far apart in the way we feel about this, how much do I not understand?
– Could I be deliberately shutting someone down before I grant them the opportunity to REALLY be heard – simply because it makes me uncomfortable?
– Does something rise up and demand, internally or externally, that Non-White people “prove” that “it” – whatever it is – was racially motivated? Because trust me. Their ability to see and know injustice of this type comes from generations of having to know it, see it and ENDURE it.
Perhaps dig deeper –
Why isn’t their request to be believed enough?
Why aren’t their tears enough?
Why isn’t their anger allowed?
And finally –
How many Brothers and Sisters who don’t share my level of melanin have I ACTUALLY sat down with and said – “Tell me what it is to be you.” And then LISTENED with the intent to understand and not rebuke, correct or dismiss.
Or better yet, isn’t it time we educate ourselves – and take the burden off others to have to once again explain it?
We can read, watch, listen, seek out the information that is so readily available about what it is like to NOT be White in this country and this world.
It isn’t hard. What’s hard is embracing the idea that it’s necessary.
As a believer, I’ve come to a place where Jesus’ words to His disciples mean more than ever before –
“He told them, ‘This kind (meaning an evil that enslaves) can come out only by prayer and FASTING.’” Mark 9:29 KJV
For those who look like me and actually kept reading this post and didn’t get tired and scroll on…
Let’s FAST together –
How about until this demon of racism is eradicated – we FAST?
Let’s give up:
Giving up just those things would be a game changer, and we can still breathe, sit up, take nourishment and even have cake on this FAST.
No one is going to kill us if we practice this particular FAST, but someone else will most likely die (again) if we don’t.
Happy Birthday to me – a tired old(er) White woman who is desperate for the King of Glory to gather His children’s hearts in unity over the suffering and pain that has been allowed to continue for far too long. The Enemy of our souls wants us all to remain tired. It means we haven’t the strength to fight him as long as we are fighting each other.
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV