Try listening

No. Really listening.

Protests are not new in this country. Protests that turn violent are not new in this country.

But lately I have seen and heard smart, progressive, good people say "no, this is wrong. This is too much." And then try to engage in a "debate" about whether it (protesting) is good or bad or productive or valid. And I just want to scream, "are you even listening?"

This is not about a single shooting or a single town or a single protest. If you grew up in America, you took American history in school. You know about slavery and Jim Crow laws and Martin Luther King Jr. But that doesn't mean you can stop listening. History class wasn't the full story. Not by a long shot. 

Racism is not up for debate. It is not for black men and women to solve.

It is for us, white Americans, to admit to, come to terms with, and take action to end.

Our fellow Americans are shouting to be heard and we have to listen.

Some say we must condemn the unrest in Charlotte. As a pastor and as an organizer, I do not condone violence. I suspect that much of it has been instigated by provocateurs with their own agenda. But to condemn the uprising in Charlotte would be to condemn a man for thrashing when someone is trying to drown him.

Whatever righteous indignation the public can muster ought to be directed toward the systems that created a situation where a man can drive to the bus stop to pick up his son and end up dead before he gets there.
— William J. Barber, II

Instead of debating with your white friends on Facebook, talk to black men and women in your community. Start by reading about not just the protests in North Carolina but the lived experiences of black people in America. There is plenty to read if you look for it. Lift up those voices. Think hard. It might take time. But take the time to understand. And really listen.

Here, I'll make it easy for you. Start with this.

I, Too by Langston Hughes

 

I, too, sing America. 

 

I am the darker brother. 

They send me to eat in the kitchen 

When company comes, 

But I laugh, 

And eat well, 

And grow strong. 

 

Tomorrow, 

I’ll be at the table 

When company comes. 

Nobody’ll dare 

Say to me, 

“Eat in the kitchen,” 

Then. 

 

Besides, 

They’ll see how beautiful I am 

And be ashamed— 

 

I, too, am America.