The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
The Rev. Justin Grimm originally published this message on July 11, 2016, on his personal blog following the death of Philando Castile. He shared it again publicly last week on Twitter, saying "I give thanks to my daughter and others who are teaching me about the need to act. I know I must do more."
I am white. I am male. I will never know what it is like to be anything but white and male. As Bishop Eaton said last night at a service of prayer in the wake of this week’s shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, I was born on third base and have expected that I get to go home. Power, privilege simply because I was born white.
As long as I can remember, I have considered myself to be pretty good guy — supportive of my brothers and sisters of color, supportive of women getting a fair shot, expecting the LGBQT community to be treated equal. Anyone that knows me would probably agree those were things I thought important. But did they really know that? Did I ever really speak out? Did I do more than post a hash tag or an article someone else wrote? I don’t think so. I remained largely silent.
In the face of escalating oppression and injustice I pacified my own ineptness by largely thinking good thoughts and hiding in my silence. I want to say I am sorry. I need to confess my sin in not speaking up. My sin in remaining silent. I am truly sorry for those who I have hurt by not doing my part to bring change to this world. Bishop Eaton talked last night about the reality that our country may be breaking apart or waking up now in the face of all that is taking place. I think she’s right and I hope for a little of both. I know for me, I am waking up. I am waking up to the need to be more vocal, to love more openly, and to actually do something — intentionally on a daily basis that helps bring healing and helps end the sin that is racism. I can do more. I need to do more.
I will continue to post #blacklivesmatter and I will continue to get responses from people I know and love that #alllivesmatter. The thing is, I know that all lives matter — I get that — truly. But, until black lives really do matter to all of us, I feel the need to call out those that fail to see it. My eyes were opened this week. My heart was cracked a bit and I am working on restoring it. My brother-in-law who is a black man and I spoke the other day and it was actually the first time we have talked about race. Why did it take these killings this week to wake me up and actually push me to reach out to him about such things? I don’t know.
In the conversation with J, I learned that the things talked about on the news — the reality that black men and women experience every day is his reality. Being stopped by police for simply being black. Suspected of being up to no good simply for being black. Harassed by police and other people for being black. This is not a made-up story to prove a point but rather his life, his reality, our problem as a country. No one should ever be treated any different because of how they look. But they are. And I am done hiding behind avoiding conflict and will continue to speak truth.
I wish I could take credit for my own growth this week, but I have to give my daughter most of the credit. Last night after our prayer service we walked to the Governor’s mansion where the occupation continued. She was so moved by what she saw and what she heard that she needed to use her voice to speak out about love. When she told us she wanted to talk I immediately said “no, it’s not appropriate" — but she wouldn’t hear it and I am glad she didn’t. Who am I to stop her from using her voice — and so she did. She talked in front of a large crowd about why all people deserve to be loved. She gets it too that all lives matter — and spoke to that — but she gets also, right now, more than I do, how #blacklivesmatter must be something we all work to lift up. And because she is one at 10 years old who cares more deeply than I can even imagine…she also stopped and thanked the policemen for their service and let them know she appreciated them and would pray for them in their hard work. She's 10 years old, but so much wiser and further ahead than me.
I confess — I need to do better, I have remained silent too long. I need to find my voice and I am glad my daughter can lead me by her own example.
The Rev. Justin Grimm is Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop for Next Generation Ministries at the Saint Paul Area Synod.