I’m going to start out by saying that I’m proud of myself. On some level, I have kept my composure surrounding Baltimore. I sought to internalize first, attempted to avoid every Facebook post that teetered on ignorance, and rode the wave of “letting it unfold” (the best and most often repeated advice my therapist has given me).
It was not until last night that I was given the opportunity to verbally process all of what has happened in Baltimore. The subject was breached when my Substance Abuse Counseling instructor, who happens to be black, asked our opinion on what we thought about the word “thug” being used to describe the looters, vandals or violent protestors. I would have to use a lot of asterisks in order to convey the overall opinion of the class, so I won’t go into great detail. Keep in mind, roughly 80% of my class is made up of minorities, but the asterisks belong to a woman who is white. I will say that it was absolutely heartbreaking and remains heartbreaking to see just how blind we — those with lighter skin — can be when it comes to the use of the word “thug,” or how we choose not to see that this isn’t just one incident.
My argument last night was twofold and I hope to present this as well-informed as I can.
The Real Issue
I have seen many comments on social media that raise my blood pressure. It seems that majority of us are getting caught up in two different mindsets: Is the looting/property damage justifiable or not? We are caught between two extremes of what is going on and missing the message entirely.
The real issue? We are still a country in the grips of prejudices and discrimination, no matter the circumstance that is given national attention. I get that it is hard to claim the realism of this issue when you live the suburban dream, but plant yourself in an urban city and see how you react to someone who is of a different race and ethnicity; someone who you don’t believe is “assimilated.” What does your heart do? What are your initial reactions?
Going through this in class last night, I kept saying how I will never fully understand. I am privileged because I can walk outside and assume safety. I can walk down the street and into stores without judgment of my actions. But my instructor and other classmates verbalized that they wake up every single day thinking of how their skin color affects them.
And just because I don’t understand it does not give me the right to dismiss it.
There is way more to this issue in Baltimore than we could imagine. Again, it is not just this incident. It is years and years and years of a human race fighting for a chance. Quiet the issue of whether or not the physical destruction is justifiable. Can you even imagine the internal emotional destruction that has been stocked piled?
Unless you’re a minority — no.
Also, Jesus flipped tables in market places, furious at how others were cheating others. But maybe that’s beside the point….
The Christian’s Call
OK. So, I have an urge to get off of Facebook, solely for the fact that I see status updates that read something like this when it comes to matters like these:
“Pray for Baltimore! But I would totally shoot all of those people. #pray”
I wish I could say I was kidding. To put it plainly, my current read surrounding race, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, says: “Mrs. Breedlove was not interested in Christ the Redeemer, but rather Christ the Judge.”
After I read this, I paused and thought about how often I float into that mindset myself, and then I thought about Baltimore and status updates like the one above. As a Christian who firmly believes in the power of the Cross and the depths of grace, it is devastating to see the term “pray” and “shoot people” together in one statement.
It would be easy to list every scripture to back up the fact that Christ (the Redeemer) called us to love each other as we love ourselves, even in these circumstances. In cases such as this, Romans 2 always lends itself as the leading favorite for me. Following on the trail of Romans 1, where Paul gives a list of what is considered sin in the eyes of God, he says this:
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
That is the image I receive when I read Romans 2:1-4. I am thankful that the weight of judgment is not in my hands, and that grace is still given to me despite me. We all have tainted hearts, and if we are followers, we are called to see through our perceptions, dig for empathy or sympathy and, most importantly, pray. For me this week, I needed to internalize and pray. I felt heartache for every single black friend I have, but I also needed to know how I was going to respond, not react.
Me, a Sanchez
There are many friends that have no idea the name I was given at birth was BreAnna Lane Sanchez. Yes, I actually have a capital “A” that I never actually capitalize, and yes, my birth name is Sanchez. I was too young to understand that when my step-dad adopted me to his last name at two-years-old my world was also given a shift. A shift towards privilege.
I often wonder what it would be like to have grown up with Sanchez written on a resume or on a name tag. What would people have assumed of me? Not only by hearing my name, but seeing my tanner skin color and darker hair — from the combination of Mexican and Comanche Indian — how would someone judge my character?
It is these things I will never know. Growing up being a Breanna Jones has been easy. This is not to generalize and say that every Breanna Jones is not of a different race or ethnicity, either. It is my specific case that I can say I have been given the silver platter, even in the parts of my story where I had to work to get to where I am — it was still empty of assumptions and with open doors.
But, again, just because I don’t understand it does not give me the right to dismiss it.
I don’t know how long it will take us to understand and see just how important it is to embrace. I also don’t know how much more will occur before a permanent line is drawn, something I pray never happens. What I do know is that if we found the starting point of sameness in heartbeats and blood in our veins, we would see that we do have something in common. We could start there and go from there.
Until then, what is next?