As we both typed on our laptops, I heard her deep sigh and mumbled words “I have to get off of social media. I’m going to cry.” I immediately looked up and broke. I knew the reason this statement was being made, but I asked anyway, “Why, is that?” The answer that followed is the reason I’m writing this… “In his last words, he mentioned his mother, other family members, but never a pastor or a church leader. Where is the Church?”
My flatmate and I have become increasingly close the last few months. Quarantining with each other has brought forth so many interesting conversations. We are both living in the U.K., yet, are from America. Two very different upbringings, different cultures, languages, levels of melanin, sides of the country and ultimately experiences.
Through these conversations, I have found out that I would have maybe thrived in her part of the country as a Latin woman (Unfortunately, I wasn’t raised in that part of the country). I grew up fearing law enforcement as a normality in the minority Hispanic community I grew up in. I grew up knowing we had to try harder to be accepted by society and justify why I was worth being accepted in a country I was born in. I was 6 when I asked my mum what a green card was because a kid at school asked me if I had one. (Racism is taught, and taught young). I grew up hearing racial slurs by kids, then later adults. I was “brown” in small town Oklahoma. Something very comical among my African & Afro-Caribbean friends here in the U.K. since I’m actually quite fair skinned. I get drained by having to overly justify that I deserve my American citizenship despite being an “anchor baby”. Drained by having to prove my family has done what they can to do things the “right way”. Drained by carrying extra sets of IDs with me when I go anywhere so that I don’t get questioned about my legal status in my home country simply for being a “brown” woman. Drained by the treatment at the airport/border security when going back to my home country (literally nowhere else). I could go on about the many, many racial injustices that I’ve seen in my community within America. Injustices, that I believe should be talked about also, but stay with me.
Being brown in America is not the same as being Black in America. Truthfully, I can’t even imagine what it’s like, and unless you’re a black American, you can’t either. I’ve faced fear and racial slurs, yes, but I first realised I could fake my way to privilege on my first day of high school. As I arrived to my little country school on the first day of freshman year, someone came up to me and said to my FACE, “We are pretty racist around here, but don’t worry, we like Mexicans.” I heard stories about how they could never accept someone of colour, and somehow I wasn’t “that bad” because I didn’t meet the melanin count I guess. I could blend in if I learned to talk like my white peers, dress like my white peers, denounce my culture, dye my hair…(the list goes on). The point is, I could blend in. I could hide what made me different in order to try to be accepted. I remember someone once telling me that I shouldn’t date someone of colour. I was confused, because in my eyes, at least as I was told up to that point, I wasn’t particularly white. But this again reminded me, I could BLEND IN. This might be a trigger to some people, but white privilege does exist. I say this because I’ve experienced the difference when I’ve “looked” or “acted” more white. I’ve seen the difference when I’m out somewhere with my white friends vs when I’m with other people of colour. While having to hide who you are/change in order to blend in is wrong (different conversation for a different day). There are some that can’t float between being people of colour and being white. (They shouldn’t have to!!) I don’t know how I would’ve survived my time in America without floating and blending in. Therefore, I can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s like growing up black in America. I can't even begin to comprehend a fear stemmed from being targeted simply because of the colour of your skin, nothing else. The idea that how dark your skin is, is enough to "fit a description" is unacceptable.
I knew what it was like to grow up in fear, validating my existence and I suppose worth to a society that very openly says "go away". As an anchor baby, undocumented person, DREAMER, you spend your entire life validating yourself, explaining yourself, protecting yourself from racial profiling, injustices and defending your right to exist in a land you call home. But those of us that have fairer skin can hide behind it to avoid these injustices (or at least try to). My heart breaks today for all my friends and strangers that have had to face much worse fears than I ever did. Those that didn't get a chance to hide or blend in. Again, we shouldn't have to!! My heart hurts for those that have grown up hurting and fearing for YEARS (this isn't new folks), and are just now feeling like they're being given "permission" to speak up. My heart hurts for those that have had to grieve the loss of a loved one at the cost of these injustices that so many times go unheard. My heart hurts for #GeorgeFloyd's family, #AhmaudArbery's family, and #BreonnaTaylor's family but also every other family whose son, father, daughter or mother didn't become a trending hashtag. This is deeper that just one, two, or even three cases and something has to change.
All I can say is, I stand with those that want to see change. Those that are sharing their stories boldly. Those that are choosing to be vulnerable at the risk of social and even ministry suicide because it’s gone too far. I stand with you, because I don’t know your struggle, but I love you. I love you. So when you bleed, I bleed. When you smile, I smile, and until we can smile together, I will bleed with you. So my answer is, the Church is right here, fighting with you and for you.