What then are we to say?

July 11, 2016

The apostle Paul asks, “what then are we to say about these things?” (Romans 8:31)

The truth is that sometimes I am not sure what to say about these things.

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

Brent Thompson.

Patrick Zamarripa.

Michael Krol.

Michael Smith.

Lorne Ahrens.

It’s not just that I fail to understand our addiction to violence that makes taking a life too easy, or that I fail to understand unbridled hate (in the case of the five Dallas law enforcement officials who lost their lives to a man filled with rage).

What this latest chapter in our country’s unfolding series of tragic events has taught me is that as a white man in a “white collar” job in America, I will never understand what it feels like to be black or to wear blue.

That may sound obvious, but I think the events of this week may, finally, begin to disabuse many of us of our need to understand and explain away these kinds of tragedies.

For too long, people (like me) have heard, discussed, commented, debated, and—in many cases—judged these compounding American tragedies as if we had the perspective to offer wisdom.  People—like me—who will never know what it is to teach our children how the color of their skin might impact the way they are viewed by the police, or what it is like for a law enforcement officer to see every encounter as a potential for danger.

What we were really doing is exposing our privilege.

Maybe instead of feeling the need to say something about these things we might try to listen.

If we are white, maybe we might ask a friend who is a person of color what these things are like for them.  Or ask a police officer how these things impact their oath to protect and serve.

And then we might remember that Paul’s question isn’t really an invitation for us to fill the space with our feeble words.  For it is God who speaks the answers to the questions that arise from things like these.  And that answer is found in the person of Jesus, who knows what it is to suffer, and to love.

– Pen Peery