Concerning our American race problems, do you feel overwhelmed with conflicting emotions and a lack of understanding? You’re in good company. The amount that many of us need to learn is enormous, but there’s good news. You don’t have to learn it all today. You can take one do-able step at a time. Tune in today to hear what Cheri and Amy have been learning that’s making a difference.
(This page contains affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help support Grit 'n' Grace at no extra charge to you.)
- Dr. Berry’s book — What Lies Between Us Journal & Guide: Fostering First Steps Toward Racial Healing
- Dr. Berry’s first Grit ‘n’ Grace Interview — “Bringing Grace Solutions to the Problem of Race” Part 1 & Part 2
- Last week’s new interview with Dr. Berry — Episode #201: “What You Learn About Race Today Can Help Tomorrow“
- Brownicity membership site — https://brownicity.com
- Dr. Berry’s TED Talk — “Children will light up the world if we don’t keep them in the dark”
- Amy’s Facebook Group — “30 Days Toward Love and Unity“
- Am I listening? REALLY listening?
- Am I choosing my words with care?
- Am I expanding my vocabulary?
- Am I clear about how key words and phrases are being used before diving into discussions?
Featured Author — Dr. Lucretia Berry
Dr. Lucretia Berry is the author of What LIES Between Us: Fostering First Steps Towards Racial Healing, the creator of Brownicity.com, a contributor for (In)courage.me, and a TED and Q Ideas speaker (Charlotte).
Transcript — scroll to read here (or download above)
Grit ‘n’ Grace: Good Girls Breaking Bad Rules
Episode #202: How to Harness the Problem-Solving Power of Learning
Cheri: So, let us dive deep into living the examined life now.
Okay, can I ask you to pray for us before we begin?
Amy: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Lord Jesus, we come to you this morning because we need you so much in this conversation, Lord, we want to do good; not to build barriers, not to cast aspersions, Lord, but we really want to have Your heart of love and truth. In this conversation, Lord, would you fill our mouths. In your precious name, Jesus, amen.
Cheri: All right, I added way too much. And I’m going to try to condense so I don’t have a lot to say. But I think I represent a certain segment of our listeners.
All right. Okay, Amy, you ready?
Amy: I’m ready. Let’s do this.
Cheri: We’re going in.
So we’re gonna start out of course with lose who you’re not. And you’ve put together this statement here, so I’m going to read it. “You’re not responsible to understand everything about our race problems.” Whew, okay. I’m feeling a little bit of relief here right now.
Amy: Everybody exhale.
Cheri: Exhale. That’s right. “You’re not responsible to understand everything about our race problems.”
So we asked Lucretia this question: we asked her how have the events following Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and others’ deaths impacted how you’re communicating with your family, your friends, and the people you lead? So we asked that of Lucretia last week. Now, I’m gonna ask you, how would you answer that question?
Amy: Well, I would say Lucretia said she hadn’t experienced much change. I would say in the Carroll household, there has been radical change. I’m not a race educator. However, God has had me on a journey for about three years now. And I had no idea how this was all going to culminate during this time. But probably – about three years ago, I started with a group at Proverbs 31 Ministries, that we were going through a racial reconciliation, curriculum – Lucretia’s – together, and having great conversations, it was a diverse group, and we were just, we were trying to process and learn and also see how it would affect the ministry and some really great things have happened out of that. And then our whole group went to Memphis to the MLK 50 Convention. And that rocked my world because I heard from black leaders and white leaders who are all working towards solutions. Solutions that were God-centered. It was that was very, very impactful for me and really made me start thinking in some more creative ways about solutions. So that was positive. And then when I came home, I was like, okay, God, what’s next? You know, because I had the sense we had some momentum going and that God was doing a work in me. I joined a friend’s Bible study at a historically black church. And so I went every Wednesday night and I was the white girl in the room. And so this year, another white girl joined me, it was awesome. So another friend of someone at the church came. So anyway, learned a lot there; and joined a dinner group Barry and I did that’s in the area that discusses – was kind of a book club. So I’ve been pretty immersed for about three years, but I haven’t been speaking much. And that’s on purpose. Because I didn’t really know what to say, you know?
Cheri: Hang on Amy. That’s never bothered you before has it?
Amy: (Laughs) Hey! Well, yeah. Fair enough.
But as you know, because you and Kathi helped me in a conversation, God has been taking me through a process and the process is “listen.” So listen to God, really study scripture, listen to other people’s stories without feeling like I have to respond – that’s a big deal. Feel, to stop this American habit of numbing that we have to so that we can connect our hearts to God, do something, and my do something was to join some of these groups so I could listen some more. And then the last thing is to speak. Do you have anything – I mean, that’s so counterintuitive in our American culture.
Cheri: I’m just staring at you like are you sure? Are you sure? Isn’t are – you and me, our first reaction is to talk. Talk first, think later.
Amy: Absolutely. I’m like, God, wait, I have to go through a whole process before I can say anything? Whaaat? I mean, you know.
But you’ve seen me, I’ve been living this the last three years and really trying to stay faithful to it. But with all of these precipitating tragedies happened – murders, let’s call them what they were – happened; I was, I knew God was telling me that it was time to speak. And so we’ve done a lot of speaking in our household. Anson, my oldest son has been home on a hiatus from a tour he was on, so we have three of us in the household, and lots and lots and lots of conversations. I’ve been speaking up more on my social media feed and getting shot at some in the process; it’s all fair game out there in Facebook land, isn’t it? And then also in personal conversations, and in response to emails from concerned friends – who haven’t spoken to me in 10 years – and also family members. Sorry, a little snark had to come out in the numbers.
So anyway, but here’s the thing, here’s why I started with you’re not responsible to understand everything about our race problems. Now, that’s not to say you’re not responsible to understand anything.
Cheri: Yeah, I noticed the italics on that. You were very clear about that.
Amy: But there’s a lot to learn. There is a lot to learn. This problem is 400 years in the making, and it is not going to be solved overnight. So you don’t have to know it all today, but it is time. It’s past time. So we can all step up in some way and start educating ourselves today. And, you know, one of the – I read this, and I don’t know who to give it credit to who to give credit to, because I just am immersed in so much right now. But someone said, you know, so many of us white folks are saying things like, “What do I do?” right? And that is a legitimate question, and it comes from a really good place. But this person challenged us to change our question to “What am I prepared to do?”
Cheri: Oooh, that’s good.
Amy: You know, and I think what we are prepared to do just has to be the next step.
So how has all of this played out in your family Cheri?
Cheri: Well, you know that what should I do versus what am I prepared to do that leads in beautifully because honestly, I’m still very much in the preparation stage. You know, you’re ahead of me in this whole conversation, and I don’t say that in any way to play a comparison game, but I appreciate your leadership and I appreciate the process that you have chosen today. Through. So I’m still very much in a listening phase.
And, you know, we also have our adult children home with us. And let me tell you, Annemarie has been reading through a whole stack of books. And then we have all sorts of great direct conversations. And then Jonathan’s also been reading – a lot of his stuff is more in economics, Annemarie’s is more in literature and in history, Jonathan’s is more in economics; but they dovetail in many places. And here’s the thing: so much of what they either have known for years or are learning rapidly, I have not known anything about. And so I’m getting this rapid education, and it is – it’s odd, and it’s humbling, because as parents, we think that it’s our job to educate our children and help them get the worldview that’s going to carry them, you know, through to, you know, through their lives, and in many ways, it’s happening in reverse in this household and I’m very grateful for it, because they’re the ones who are doing the research. They’re the ones who are out there having conversations and, and taking action and then they’re helping me understand things and giving me language that I had had no idea, and then helping me become motivated to do my own research.
So I’ve been actively seeking allies and advocates and educators, because that’s, again, where I’m at in this conversation. I’ve been paying a – really close attention to the social media feeds of my friends who are persons of color. And for me, it’s been important not to be posting because – and this is one of the words Annemarie taught me – that would be performative for me to sit and go, “Oh, I want to look good. I need to look like I care. I need to, I need to put up a trendy hashtag right now so that I’m one of the first to get out there.” And I, for me, that would be attention seeking. And, you know, I’m not saying that’s true of anybody else. I’m just saying, I’m very aware that I need to be in a listening phase.
Amy: Can we pause there for just a second? Because I think that’s really important. You know, there’s been there’s a lot being said about cancel culture and if you don’t say something now I’m going to cancel you; I just don’t think we need to respond to that. And I just want to say that I think that your response in being slow to respond – it’s not that your heart isn’t responding. But that just because you haven’t posted something on social media doesn’t mean that God’s not at work. So anyway, I just want to say that because I – this cancel culture thing is a little nuts.
Well, and you used the term – I think you got it from MLK 50 – trendy compassion. Like, that’s, – and so you know, I’ve certainly tried to share things that other people have posted. I just don’t feel like I have anything original to say. Like, and and again, that’s that is me being keenly aware of my own motivations. Like my motivation to put something on Facebook thus far has not been because I really care it’s been because I want to look good, and I want to stay up with the big girls in ministry and be posting something too. And whenever I’m aware of that, I know I need to keep, I need to keep quiet.
So now one of my high school classmates did post the question a few weeks ago, “What’s one thing big or small you’re doing to be anti racist this week?” And so with trembling fingers – and I actually checked with you first and you were busy, so I didn’t hear from you so I went ahead and did it anyways – I responded because I honestly, I didn’t know if this counted, or if it would be offensive or whatever. I said, I am reevaluating the literature that I’m teaching this year for AP English Lit & Composition. And, you know, I only posted it when I was at the point I didn’t need a response. See, that’s how, how, at the beginning I am. I’m like, “Oh, let me post something and maybe she’ll like it, and that will prove I’m doing a good job!” I’m like, “No, I need to only post it if it’s an authentic posting, and then I can move on from it.” Well, it turned out that she did leave a comment and she said that was important. And that was it. We didn’t have a long conversation, but it was like okay, so I took a little tiny baby step. And so that was good, but mostly, I’m Trying to listen to other stories and pray-cess their perspectives. And then most importantly, listening to the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart,
Amy: Well, I love your example because, you know, what are we called to do? I think we are called to impact our little corner of the world. You know, and your corner of the world is your classroom. What, I mean, that’s a powerful place to have impact. So that’s amazing.
Yeah, I think, um, you know – remember, we had that conversation, you and I and Kathi, and you guys were talking, you used the word activist and I thought I was gonna throw up because it just produced such anxiety in me. I was like, does this mean that I have to do X, Y, and Z? And I won’t list those things because goodness knows – well, anyway. I just saw it like, “I don’t think I am an activist.” And you know what, it turns out I’m not. I am an advocate and an ally. But I would say I’m not activist. I see the place for activists in our culture, but not all of us are called to the kind of activism that we see some filling the shoes of. And you and I respond so much better in some ways, let’s just be honest, to people like Lucretia. Like Karen McNary, like some of our friends that are doing education, that it changes our minds and it filters to our hearts and, and positive things happen there for us.
Cheri: Absolutely. All right. So let’s shift from ‘lose who you’re not.’ And so I’ll just read it again because I think it’s so important: “You’re not responsible to understand everything about our race problems.”
So let’s move to ‘love who you are.’ And each of us has a statement under this, and you’re going to tell us about a project you did to be an educator to help others learn. So what is your ‘love who you are’ statement?
Amy: You are responsible to start learning today. So you’re not responsible for everything. But each of us is individuals in this race problem in America, we are responsible to start learning today.
So I was – my family and I went to the beach, I had been just completely overwhelmed by social media immediately following following the series of deaths that we saw. And so I checked out of social media. I deleted everything from my phone. I didn’t take my computer. I just needed a break, you know, and I needed to be able to hear from the Lord and sometimes when those other voices are so loud, you can’t hear them. But I did get an email from a friend who was doing a panel discussion. And her name is Reggie Edwards, she’s done racial reconciliation work here, beautiful work, here in Wake County for decades. And she was doing a panel discussion and some of my friends were part of it. So I walked on the beach and streamed the panel discussion and listened. And at one point, Reggie shared that somebody had asked her to do a book club and there were 80 women already signed up for it. Very exciting stuff. And, you know, I think our hearts were so open during that time, but Reggie has been doing this for a long time. And she said, “And so I was excited about the 80, but I thought ‘Who’s going to be here in 30 days?’ And who’s going to be here in 60 days?” And that “Who’s going to be here in 30 days?” it was this haunting refrain even as I listened to the rest of the panel.
When I got back to the house, I felt like the Lord said, “Amy, help women be here in 30 days.” I was like whew. And so I processed that and prayed through that some. And I was like, “Lord, me? I’m not a race educator, you know.” And so but I felt like he said it – I said, “Lord, I’m not ready!” and He said “I’ve been preparing you for three years. Time to speak.” And so, through the wise advice of a friend of mine, who is a social media maven, which I am not, she said, “Amy, you need to do this in a private Facebook group. You don’t need to do it in your public group, nobody signed up for that, number one; and number two, you’re going to be shot at for 30 days.” And so she said, “Do it in a private group, invite people in.” And so I started a private Facebook group called 30 Days Toward Unity and Love – at first it was TO Unity and Love but I was like, “Oh, no, that’s too big of a goal. We’re just gonna move toward unity and love.” And I posted for 30 days.
Girl, I had no idea I was giving myself a new full time job. So between content creation and we had really strict roles because here’s what my goal was: is to create a safe space for women who were just at the beginning of this journey and wanted to learn some things in a place that they weren’t going to be ripped apart for saying it wrong, right? That they could think through things that they could process some things without without fear of being attacked. So we had really strict rules in the group, which meant that I had that I policed the group all the time, all the time, you know, to make sure that we kept it as a safe place and I did have to take down a few… not – nobody purposefully was nasty. There were a few inadvertently nasty… but we were all in a learning process.
And I’ll just tell our audience that that space is still there, it’s called 30 Days Toward Unity and Love. I have, by the by the time you hear this, I will have turned off comments completely. So you can go in there, you can read, you can learn, you cannot comment. If you’d like to do that I would love – I’ll have to admit you, and I will do that so that you can take a look and learn some things. I’d love that.
Cheri: Well, first of all, I so admire that you did that. And I think that is such a beautiful example of what should I do versus what am I prepared to do. Because I think when we start thinking, “Well, what should I do?” we concoct things, or we look and we see people doing things that are way beyond what we’re prepared to do, and then we try to do it, and then it all doesn’t work well and then we’re like “Well see, I tried and it failed. Ergo, I won’t try it again.” Whereas with you this really was – when you when you shared with me what you were doing, I’m like this is totally the next step. This is totally the organic, spirit-led next thing. And you were prepared – I mean, yes, it did take a lot of time and a lot of energy. But really, as you were posting things, you were even saying these were things – some of them were things you had created or written or gathered beforehand. So you were fully prepared. And it was such a blessing. You know, first of all, I learned so much in those 30 days that I hadn’t known before, which is huge; but then watching the hearts of women, as they were open to learning things that they hadn’t known and then reacting. I mean, it’s hard to discover things – that there’s a lot you don’t know. I mean, that’s an uncomfortable position to be in, it’s very, very vulnerable. And so there were women who you know, who just watching them react and make choices and make decisions to say “Yes, this is hard. This is painful. And I want to keep learning.” Like once you see, you can’t unsee. And that was that was beautiful.
Amy: Well, it turned out to be – it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in ministry. But it is probably one of the most joy-filled by the end, as well. To see women going, “Oh, I didn’t know. But now I know. And here’s how I’m going to share it with others.” which was amazing.
Cheri: Exactly, exactly.
All right. Well, my statement for ‘love who you are,’ mine is going to be “You are responsible for expanding your empathy.” And I almost said you’re responsible for expanding your perspective, but I really want to put the emphasis on empathy. It’s not just head knowledge, but it’s bringing that head knowledge into a heart experience.
Now, just real briefly, I want to go back to episode – I think it was 194 – when I shared this big epiphany, about it’s not my fault, and I don’t have to fix it. And I told a little story of when that epiphany hit me it was because there, somebody in the house had walked through a puddle of melted ice and they got cold water on their socks. And, and I was so worried that there was going to be a big uproar, and I was starting to rush to clean it all up to prevent that. And that’s when I had that big epiphany. It’s not my fault. I don’t have to fix it. Like it’s okay if people get wet socks. And so I want to just emphasize this was an interview is true about the small stuff, which becomes big stuff, because when we rescue people from little things like cold water, at least in my case, I’ve set people up in my life for all sorts of immaturity by inserting myself where I don’t belong. That kind of over-responsibility is actually – I believe you and I’ve had many conversations through the years – that’s actually very debilitating.
But I want to be clear that I’m not saying it’s not my fault, I don’t have to fix it, about the things God says actually are my responsibility. Like that little mantra was really helpful for those small things that I blow out of proportion as a people-pleaser. And what I’m realizing is that all the energy I have poured all my life into these small things, is actually what has kept me from being aware of these larger issues. I mean, in any day, there are dozens and hundreds of like little ice cube incidences, and when I’m so busy dealing with keeping all the people in, you know, in my house or my small, my small circle, happy, happy, happy, happy, then I’m not recognizing that what is actually happening around me is so huge and important. So basically, part of what I’ve had to realize is that people pleasing has caused me to major in minors, and I’ve gotten so concerned about inconveniencing the people in my life that I’ve not seen the fact that real actual people that God created and loves are dying.
And so I just really want to point out to myself and to our listeners that people pleasing is at the heart, for some of us, of this lack of awareness, because we poured our attention and we poured our energy into things that ultimately don’t matter. And that’s what sucked it away from being able to pay attention to what’s going on around us.
And so I’m going to make one more statement, and then I’m going to get back to kind of explaining my ‘love who you are’ statement, and that is – and you and I have talked about this a little bit, but I don’t think I’ve I’ve said this on the podcast yet. I had – I was in – the history of this doesn’t matter. I’m just going to go ahead and say it. What I have discovered is that people-pleasing is the counterfeit of servant leadership. It feels like I’m busy doing important things. But the truth is, I’m busy doing things that don’t really matter when I’m when I’m engaged in people-pleasing. And what we need right now are women who are willing to be servant leaders and that begins with leading ourselves rather than playing follow the leader. And in my case, it’s the leadership that would be followed the leader of family and cultural norms that I never ever bothered to question.
All right, so back to the you are, “You are responsible for expanding your empathy.” So, because I’ve been doing a lot of listening, I’m hearing a lot of things that don’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good. And so as an HSP, as a highly sensitive person, I have to really process the emotions that arise. Because if I’m not careful, I’m gonna label that initial feeling. This doesn’t feel good. It’s a really strong feeling, you know, going from ignorance to knowledge is like, I’m gonna label that initial reaction as shame and the devil loves shame; I think shame is one of the major weapons he uses against women especially. But what I’m discovering when I don’t label it so fast is that the true emotion is sorrow. And I have so little experience with grief, with lament, with godly sorrow, that I am discovering multiple ignorance. Like there’s so much I don’t know about the history of race and what what our brothers and sisters have experienced through the centuries, and I’m ignorant of how to experience sorrow. So it’s, you know, it’s like exponential ignorance.
And sorrow is an appropriate response. And as I examine what I was taught growing up regarding race, and as I process certain family stories that shaped me, and these are stories I didn’t even think to question for a half a century. For 50 years, I didn’t really even think to question them. So I look back on my teaching career and sorrow is an inappropriate response to my complete lack of awareness. And, you know, I keep using the word ignorance, and I’m not bashing myself, because that’s an accurate word. Like, if you don’t know something, it’s – I mean, I was ignorant in that area. And so for the longest time, I just thought my perspective was the only perspective. It’s not that I thought it was the best perspective. It’s – okay. I’ll be honest, I thought it was the best perspective. It felt like the right perspective because it felt like the only perspective and any other perspective felt threatening.
And so you know, the quick example I can share here is it was my third year teaching, I was at a brand new school, and I was teaching short story called The Day I Met Midnight. Now, this is a story I had loved when I was a junior high school students. So I was really excited to teach it. And it’s written from the perspective of a ranch hand who developed this relationship with a horse named midnight. And I was so excited to show off to my students, my English literacy knowledge, and I explained to them that the horse’s name, that the title and the horse’s name, Midnight, was foreshadowing, because – and this is actually what I said, “White is symbolic of good and black is symbolic of evil.” And so then one of my students, who was a person of color, raised her handed she said, “Why is black symbolic of evil?” And in that moment, I knew two things. One, I knew she wasn’t talking about literature anymore. And two, I knew I had no idea what to say next.
And here’s the thing. Looking back, I know the only thing I felt bad about in that moment is that it had been an awkward moment for me. That was it. I felt nothing – I had no curiosity about why she asked me that question. I had no sense that she was bringing a lifetime of experience to the classroom with her a lifetime of experience that was very different from mine experience. And I didn’t call up any of my teacher friends – I had mentors available. I had mentors available to me. And I could have said, “Hey, this happened in class today, and it gave me a funny feeling in my gut. Am I missing something?” And, you know, they could have said, “Oh, girl, you actually said that. You actually said those words out loud.” And when I attended teaching conferences, I was always looking for things that I could easily apply, which means that I skimmed right past any workshops about race, or culture, or diversity, like I did not notice recognize my own need to listen and learn.
So it is so important. You are responsible for expanding your empathy. What that means to me is not only listening, but then really processing and allowing the Holy Spirit time and space to bring that into a heart level so that I don’t just care about this in a theoretical sense, but that I care about the actual people so that I don’t do anything like I did that third year of teaching again, but if I do, I can then look at it not as “Oh, what did I do wrong?” but I can look at it as an opportunity to have a conversation with a person.
Amy: So good. Well, I want to address something right here that I know some of our listeners are having a reaction because I’ve just been walking this. Some of our listeners are going “I’m so sick of hearing about white guilt.” Or like, “I just don’t get the white guilt thing.” Well, so just to be clear, Cheri and I – neither of us feel guilty, God made us white, as I heard Matt Chandler say, but what we are doing is trying to grow and learn how to be responsible for the next thing. And so if this conversation is making you go, “God, I’m so sick of hearing about this.” listen, we understand. These are hard things, but we encourage you to lean into that emotion of like, “Why is this so uncomfortable?”
Cheri: That’s really helpful, Amy, because, you know, I tried to really carefully use the word sorrow because to me sorrow is different than guilt. But the other day I texted myself as I was falling asleep ‘Is this guilt or is this guidance?’ And I really feel like especially – and we’ve talked in past episodes about the fact that I think I’ve been coming to terms, that recrimination, you know this this habit of going back and beating myself up and wishing I could redo the past – you know, God’s really doing a work on me, in me with that, that I can catch myself as I’m doing it, I can’t go back and change the past I don’t have to waste more time and energy. That’s another people-pleasing thing, is to beat oneself up and waste time and energy living in the past. And so I would say, I don’t feel guilt, either for who God created me to be or the choices I made in the past. But I absolutely feel like these kinds of stories and the processing is God’s way of giving me guidance in the present and moving forward in the future.
Amy: No, I mean, I know where – like, you and I get each other but I just know what pushback is, and I understand. And so what we want to do is to encourage you to live your one life well, by starting to learn today by starting to embrace empathy today, and so – Cheri, give us some questions to help us go go down that path.
Cheri: Okay, so I have four of them.
Number 1: Am I listening, am I really listening, listening to other people’s stories and perspectives – and that’s listening just to hear, not to jump in and correct not to jump in and match their perspective with my perspective, but to really, really listen. And then more importantly, and these go together, am I listening to the Holy Spirit prompting me to notice the need with my name on it?
Number 2: Am I choosing my words with care. You know, there’s all – that’s what our family is doing. And we’re being very conscious. There are so many cultural and family phrases and clips that we’ve just quit using. And I’m not going to mention any of them because I don’t want to start a firestorm. But here’s my point. There are so many words to choose from in the English language, that there’s just a lot that we can discard. And that’s worth paying attention to.
Number 3: Am I expanding my vocabulary? You know, earlier in this episode, I used the word performative. Well, it’s really helpful for me to have a word that It describes that feeling of like, “I don’t think I should post I don’t think I’m ready to post.” To know for myself, “Oh, that would be performative.” helps me make better decisions because I have a more precise word for it. And it also allows for really good conversation discussion.
And then you know, another one that just recently came up, it was in an article I read, totally unrelated, to the term unremitting grief. And as soon as I read it, I thought “This must be what many persons of color experience, when they have this generational trauma.” And so I was understanding unremitting grief in in terms of something with my own life. And so then the Holy Spirit took that and connected it to what my brothers and sisters of color are experiencing, and I was – and that was a way of expanding empathy was to realize, “Oh, I now have another term to connect.”
And then Am I clear about how keywords and phrases are being used before diving into discussions? And I want to use a couple quick examples here that don’t have to do with race because we just aren’t going to go there in terms of jargon today; you and I decided that ahead –
Amy: We don’t have time.
Cheri: No. So years ago, when I was teaching junior high, we ended up with a bunch of students who had, who had copied essays and turned them in as their own. And we told them they had plagiarized. And I’ll never forget, one kid said, “Well, that’s not my definition of plagiarism.” And we had to look at him and say, “Well, you don’t get to decide what plagiarism means. This is what is in the school handbook. And whether you think it means this or not, it’s the definition of plagiarism.”
And so just a reminder to myself and all of us, we don’t get to decide what some of these words mean. And to just dive into headfirst into a discussion and say, “Well, that’s what it means to me!” is a far less mature way of interacting with people and it’s not going to expand empathy. Whereas listening and learning what is the definition that’s being used in a conversation is going to be more mature and it’s going to expand empathy.
And then just another quick example. In my English Lit & Comp classroom, if you were to walk in and hear us discussing an apostrophe, and all you thought that the word apostrophe means in an English classroom is that little, you know, hanging comma thingy. And we were actually talking about a poem that an early American poet had written to her child who died in childbirth and we were calling that an apostrophe, you might say, “You guys are a bunch of idiots. That’s not an apostrophe. I know an apostrophe is. An apostrophe is that little hanging comma thingy.” But the truth is, for those of us who are English Lit majors, we know that an apostrophe has two meaning, even in the English classroom. One of the meanings is that dangling comma thing, and the other meaning is something that is written to somebody who is not present and may even have passed away. And so it doesn’t make sense that it would mean both things, but it does. And so just to be really aware, what are the definitions of the words and key phrases that are being used become aware of those before diving into into a discussion and make sure that everybody’s using the same meanings so that there can be, there can be understanding, and again, that expansion of empathy.
All right, action Amy, tell us what to do.
Amy: Well, that’s really good. And I will add to that: asking curious questions about those definitions before you dive is a really good idea.
So the two actions that I have are number one, resist deflection. Let me say it again, for the people in the back. Resist deflections. And this is where I’m going to get on my soapbox for a moment. And don’t worry, I’ll end with something positive. But I’m a little outraged with the church right now. I’ll try to hold some of that back because, listen, this is an area that I really believe the church should be leading in. We should be. We are the people of the heart, right? Jesus is the heart changer. We’re the people of the changed heart. We are the people who should be leading with love in these race conversations. But that is not what I’m saying in every case and just be aware, that’s all I’ll say, when people start shaming you and calling you names, and calling your faith into question. Do not buckle to that. Do not. If you are pursuing solutions that are biblical and that are in love, then you are on the right track. Even if you’re making mistakes along the way, don’t buckle to name callers. Don’t do it. And there are those named callers out there. And they’re the same names that were used against MLK in the 60s. So you’re in really good company. And so just just hang in there.
Cheri and I’ve been processing this, that – she’s helped me put words around it. So I really believe that demonizing is a means of deflecting. And so if you’re on a journey with Jesus to find solutions for your corner of the world, stay the course and don’t let the deflectors and detractors you know, derail you. And then I got dry mouth saying that because man I’ve had it coming at me so if you have it, you’re in good company. Alright.
And then the second thing is to choose one way to start learning today and we have just an embarrassment of riches really around us at this point. There are so many ways that you can start learning today, that you don’t have to know everything today but here, choose one of these ways. You can go join my 30 Days Toward Unity and Love group and read some of that.
Lucretia has a subscription now with Brownicity at brownicity.com. Highly, highly recommend. There are lots of books out there. If you don’t want to join a group like that, then go pick up a book. The Color of Compromise is amazing. I’ve read that one. I have not read The Bridge, but I hear great things about it. If you’re somebody who’s a movie buff, well, there are lots of documentaries out. Facinghistory.com has a series of documentaries called the power of an illusion that is just fabulous. And you can watch them for free. You have to set up an account but you can see them for free. Watch a movie like Just Mercy with Bryan Stevenson or 13th is a documentary that’s found, I think, on Netflix. And then if you don’t like to read then The color of Compromise is actually on Amazon Prime and it has episodes and so you can watch him or listen to him, the author of the book. So, pick one way, just pick one and start learning today.
Cheri: Hmm, I love it so good. So, so good.
So what is the scripture that you’ve paired with these two episodes?
Amy: Well, there are so many that are applicable, but I chose Hebrews 2:11 that says “Both the one who makes people holy, and those who are made holy are of the same family.” So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. And I just want to just kind of end on this very hopeful thing. We are one blood. We’re one family. And so all of these divisive conversations about race right now, let’s ignore them and let’s focus on the one family.
I heard this beautiful thing it was through Brownicity, there was a video on their site, where a woman talked about how she was starting to confront some of these, these thoughts that would just come up unbidden that had prejudice and bias in them. And you know, I’ll – mine – it’s so funny because I’ve realized that some of my prejudice and bias is not even against people of color, that I have other prejudices and biases that I’m also trying to confront. And so, these thoughts would come up. And so whenever it does, she would look at that person, and not say it out loud, but she would consciously think “You are my family.” and I’ve been trying to do that as well. And it’s transformative. And that’s for the people that have been given me a hard time. You are my family, right? For people of color, you are my family. For people who might not have the same social position I do, you are my family. Or anyone that we have these prejudices or biases about, they are our family and that’s right there in Scripture. Hebrews 2:11
Cheri: So good. So good.
Amy: So what’s the grit Sherry?
Cheri: Oh girl, I’ll admit it. I want an easy way out. I just want to be able to apologize and do some grand sweeping gesture to make everything all better and then move forward with everything fixed. Because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable anymore. And that is incredibly self-centered. Like, I’m basically confessing I want to stay in ignorance. I want to go back to Egypt, except, no I don’t. So for me the grit is accepting that there are not going to be any A++ in this, there’s no gold stars, there’s no trophies. There’s no “‘Atta girl!”s, that this is a journey of sorrow, true godly sorrow, godly conviction and sorrow, repentance. And listening to the Holy Spirit lead me to take the next step.
What is the grace? From your perspective?
Amy: Well, that is so beautiful because yes, the journey starts that way. But it does end with unity and love and joy. And so that’s the goal of grace, is for myself when I get it wrong – because listen, I think so many of us, especially why people have been afraid to wade into this conversation because hey, it is charged. Can we just confess that? And we’re so afraid to get it wrong, but let’s just give ourselves grace that we are going to get it wrong at some point, but that’s okay. Because that’s part of learning and that it’s putting our hearts into action. That’s what matters, even if we’re doing it imperfectly.