Race Conversations for People of Color in the Trump Era

The Trump campaign has never been on the side of people of color. And please do not push Omarosa or Ben Carson in my direction, either. There were many happy slaves that existed, as well, that don’t justify the existence of slavery. The Trump campaign assumed every black person was from the “inner city” and gave the pretentious platform promise of “what else do you have to lose?” This same administration, once in office, has not only laughed in the face of police brutality, but has also been unable, for whatever reason, to outright condemn white supremacy head on, publicly called for the firing of private citizens who have correctly used their right to the freedom of speech, and has most recently called more private citizens “sons of b******” for also correctly asserting their right to the freedom of speech. It is very evident: Trump is not for, nor has ever been, for the people of color in this country. And yes, I believe Trump is racist.

That last statement is incendiary, I know. And while I’m not too concerned with why you don’t agree, although that conclusion is definitely worthy of a conversation, my question is two-fold: how would you explain Trump’s actions to a friend or person of color, and do you know what that conversation does to said friend or person of color?

Lately the evangelical fashion trend has been to use the buzzword “racial reconciliation”, which sometimes seems like a code word for “say something without changing anything”. Regardless, I’m happy to see that there has been actual progress in seeing racial issues as gospel issues, and therefore priority issues. Lots of conversations regarding race and how race impacts us individually and corporately as a church have happened due to this “shift” and I am honestly very grateful for it.

The problem is that in these conversations, there is a rarity that both parties will end up on the same side. Now, this is not inherently the problem for all conversations need to two-sided to be considered a conversation; and sometimes those sides don’t agree. That’s human and it’s necessary for growth. But in an era where the highest office of the United States can use his position to personally and publically call for the firing, and subsequently harassment, of private citizens simply because they do not align with his personal agenda and regime, and when these private citizens are almost always persons of color, to have nothing to say, or nothing to rebuke, on the matter is not only telling but hurtful.

People of color and white persons enter into race conversations at different starting points. The way I see it, white persons can enter into the conversation from the starting point of an onlooker, a researcher, or a student. The onlooker is not interested in emotionally or even deeply connecting with the issue; they simply want to know what is going on. The researcher sees the issue and wants to gather information on it in order to be able to discern and formulate his or her own conclusion on the issue. And the student is simply there to gain knowledge with no intended end goal other than education.

People of color do not get to enter the conversation from this starting point. On the contrary, we are born into the conversation. We do not get to choose a vantage point from which to look at the issue because, in reality, we are inside the issue. Conversations of race for people of color are not simply relaxed rhetoric thrown around for sake of conversation but are, most often, verbalized cries and pleas to see the pain that this issue brings us. When white persons hear Trump call Colin Kaepernick an SOB, they call him stupid; when I hear Trump say that, I call him dangerous. 

Coming into the conversation as an onlooker, a researcher or a student isn’t an issue, for me. White persons were not born having to realize or see their color, and that is not a personal fault. But what matters more to me is not how you enter the conversation, but what you do once you are there and what you do after. So often conversations of race turn into historical debates about how much racism used to be a problem and how much “better” we are now. So instead of it being a time where humility and compassion can be employed to talk about a serious issue, it ends up being a battle of who paid attention more in their white-washed history class. And regardless of the outcome, the person of color generally spends a significant amount of emotional energy trying to be gracious with “stupid questions”, rebuff against skewed points of history, and just generally all around try to not look like the “angry black person” to try to preserve some form of credibility. Simply put, people of color often feel the burden to have to prove our pain to our white brothers and sisters and that is extremely taxing.

I wish these conversations were laced with more humility. I wish more people came to learn and empathize instead of coming to “well, what about…” me to death. I wish people could call a spade, a spade and call racism, racism. I wish we could all see that Trump is not only an idiot, but is in fact extremely dangerous. I wish the church spoke more about this, decisively and definitively. I wish Americans could see the hypocrisy in wanting to fight for rights of cake bakers and photographers while supporting the skewering of those who take a knee during the national anthem. I wish America was actually the America so many of my white brothers and sisters believe it was supposed to be, instead of the America it’s always been to people of color.

In the era of Trump, conversations of race for people of color are hard. Not that they have never been hard, but the hurdle seems somewhat higher now. We don’t debate to win; we debate to survive. We argue for our own safety. Criticizing America isn’t about disrespect, it is about personal safety. It is about holding this country accountable to being finally the land of the free. We show you our pain, not so that it can put in a museum and walked by as you read the excerpt next to it, but so that you see this issue has a face. That this issue has a son, a daughter, a brother and sister. Conversations on race are not about winning, for people of color. They are about living. 

As the Waves Crash, Tell The Truth

lightstock_136650_small_darryl.jpg

I remember this one time I went to the beach with a friend. I wasn’t feeling particularly well but decided to go anyway. So we drove down the highway to edge of the Georgia coast, parked the car and strolled towards the ocean. I decided to go ahead and get in the water after a few minutes of letting the sun bake my melanin well-done. As I began to get into the water, I felt the smoothness of the waves that seemed to lift me up and set me back down as they passed through me. After enjoying God’s creation for some time, I decided to head back to shore. As I’m doing that awkward swim-wade-walk thing you do when the water is not deep enough to swim but not swallow enough to walk normally, I remember a wave coming out of nowhere and crashing into my back. Normally, waves may just push you a little bit, your friends would laugh at you for looking foolish and you get back to the shore with a mouth full of saltwater. But, being sick, this wave basically almost killed me. Ok, so probably not killed me, but it did hurt. And it did actually knock the air out of me. After I composed myself a bit, I was able to make it back to shore but had to rest for a while. It’s funny how the same wave that once felt like a gentle hand that carried me over the ocean floor could in the next moment turn on me and become a hard shove to my fragile body. Waves can carry; but they can also crash.

Lately, the waves of life have been crashing against me hard. They have come in the form of crippling fear and intense hopelessness. Both realities are caused by believing in the lies of the enemy and both seem to crash hard every day. The fear has mainly affected my sleep. I lie awake at night wondering if someone, or something, is out there. Waiting. Lurking. Out to get me. It keeps me up at night, affects my rest, and causes deep senses of condemnation and sadness as I feel like a failure every morning. Shouldn’t I be able to get past this? Why is my faith so weak? What is wrong with me?

The hopelessness stems from the false belief. It tells me that I’ll always be alone, and that its my fault. It tells me I’ll never get a good night’s sleep again. It accuses me of not having enough faith and yells that I’ll always let God down. It foreshadows a future where my sin causes shame and disappointment. It tells me life will never get better and that there is no hope to have. 

Lies. All lies. Obvious lies. Subtle lies. Attractive lies. Ugly lies. Why are lies so easy to believe? Because, generally, they match how our flesh views the circumstances we are in. These lies may point out a part of the truth, but they never tell the full story. Being single does sometimes mean being lonely, but being single does not equal hopelessness. The dark can be scary and could be full of threats, but none of those threats are stronger than the God I say I believe in. Why can’t I see those truths? Because my eyes are on myself and my circumstances and not, instead, on the true promises of God.

For my hopelessness, God has promised me a hope in Jesus Christ. He says my singleness is a gift, not an issue to despair over (1 Cor. 7:7). He says that I have everything I need for life and godliness in Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3), and that He uses ever single event in my life for His glory and my good (Romans 8:28). Jesus came to give hope, and if I am given Jesus Christ, then there is nothing else needed that my Father would not give me (Romans 8:32).

For my fear, the Lord is a shield (Psalm 28:7; Psalm 33:20). He does not give a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He is the glory and the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3) . He gives rest to His children and protects them as they sleep (Psalm 4:8). They have no reason to fear the terror by night, or the arrows by day, or the pestilence that stalks in the dark (Psalm 91:5-6). The Lord provides armor to fight the enemy. And Jesus has disarmed the powers of this world (Colossians 2:15) and has overcome the world (John 16:33).

These are the truths I have try to tell myself as the waves crash into my back. They are the truths I try to gurgle up as the water sometimes seems to fill my lungs. They are the truths I cling to when the enemy wants to knock me off the solid rock that I hold onto for dear life. They are not truths I have held onto well, always, but they are truths none the less. Even now as I write this, I can hear the lies of the accuser telling me my faith is weak and that I don’t truly believe these verses that I quote. And maybe thats true, somewhat; but it’s not the full story. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). When I am faithless, he is still faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). My faith, as small and weak as it may be, still allows me to see power of God (Matthew 17:20). He is Truth; and Truth always outweighs lies. Lies aesthetically hold weight but when placed on the scale next to truth, always comes up extremely lacking.

The crashing waves are moments to remind yourself of the truth. The enemy uses the waves to disrupt you, disorient you, and to destroy you. But the Lord allows the waves to crash into us so that we can crash into Him, the solid Rock. He does not allow them to overwhelm us, even if He does allow them to crash into us. We may be submerged, but He will never let us drown. He knows we are dust, and we have a sympathetic High Priest in Heaven named Jesus Christ who sees our trials, who is concerned for us, and who asks us to cast our cares on Him. So tell the truth. Our Savior still saves. Even as the waves crash.