Spiritual Practice: Opposing Injustice

Me at the Reno BLM Protest

The recent murder of George Floyd has once again brought to the forefront the state of racism in America. Thousands have rallied to peacefully protest, and small groups of agitators have turned these peaceful rallies into riots, bringing violence and destruction.

I walked in the Reno protest. One thousand people walking together, many holding signs. It was beautiful. Later that night a group drove into town and started breaking windows and burning property. That was not Reno, and that was not the organizers of the march, who immediately condemned the violence. There is much speculation about who the rioters were but no one knows for sure. Our community was heartbroken but turned out the next day to help clean up. That is who we are.

As I write this, it is #BlackOutTuesday. You may have seen some black profile pictures on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It’s a day to stay off social media and dedicate ourselves to learn more about racism and what we can do to end it. I’m still learning, but I want to share a few ideas which I will post Wednesday. Here are some easy onramp ideas to help us move forward.

  1. Listen. If you read something a person of color has written online, or if you are in a conversation with a person of color, don’t say “But what about…?” Just listen, ask clarifying questions and learn.
  2. Read. Read outside of your own culture. We often read from only our own culture. Let’s expand ourselves. Try one of these books:

Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? I read this book and it really helped me. It also led to my writing of the book, Cracker (see below).

Yesterday I joined a small group of people reading, Between the World and Me. I want to continue to grow, learn and understand.

Or if you prefer fiction try, The Hate You Give, which is also a fantastic movie and will help you understand how riots happen.

  1. Vote. Think about being involved in local politics or voting for candidates who support justice for the marginalized. Maybe you could staff a voting place, canvas or drive someone to the polls.
  2. Pray. Never has our land needed prayer more. This is a critical time to open ourselves to the Spirit of God. We need divine intervention to move forward as a people. Some people are too devastated even to pray. For them I recommend closing your eyes, lifting your hands, visualizing the hurting world and placing it in the hands of the divine. This is big and painful and we can’t shoulder it all at once or alone. Many groups are gathering together online to respond in prayer.
  3. Hope. For me, I find it a painful yet hopeful time. This quarantine has given us time to pause, look deeply at ourselves and take stock. We see the good in all the beautiful creativity that has gushed forward. We see the pain and fear, even the hate that has also been unleashed. It’s time to stand against the fear and hate. It’s time to heal the pain. It’s time to move the earth toward love and peace. We must pray together, work together, hope together.
  4. Act. DO SOMETHING/SAY SOMETHING. Speak out on social media and take the heat. Trust me, I know that is hard. I try to keep people from arguing on my wall but it seems to happen whenever I speak out. I try to respond in love and have taken breaks from Social Media to keep my heart from becoming bitter. You might try to march in a protest or stand with the marginalized in some way. Silence is not an option.  Call or write your representatives and ask, “What are you doing to change the systemic oppression of people of color?” Check out http://www.Theactionpac.com for up to the minute information about how to be involved.

When I was in middle school, I was trying to understand racism and my librarian (yay for librarians) recommended some books which I read and still think about today. One of them, Black Like Me, was a true story about a man who takes pills to turn his skin black, perms and dyes his hair and experienced life as a black man. His experiences were life changing for me because it was an opportunity as a white person to know what it felt like to live the black experience.

A few years ago, I was thinking of that book. I wrote Cracker to help people today have that same experience through  fiction. It flips the script so that we are forced to walk in a world where white folks are the oppressed minority. Everyone who reads it, black and white, says it’s really hard to keep yourself from flipping the script back over, but all agree it makes them more mindful of things like microaggression, systemic injustice and racism. It has a discussion guide in the back. It’s a good starting place. You can find it here.

Let me know what you are learning or trying in standing with our brothers and sisters of color to bring about a better world. Stay safe!

Photo of black women by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Navigating Climatic Culture Shifts

erosion

Rain in dry northern Nevada is unusual, averaging about seven inches of precipitation a year. Lately, we’ve had these crazy monsoonal rains. They come hard and fast, with hail, wind and pounding rain, and last about an hour. They cause instant flooding here because we just don’t know how to absorb that kind of water.

My husband and I took the dog hiking in the desert after it had a chance to dry from three days of these crazy rains, and we were shocked how the landscape had changed.  Sharp rocks, formerly covered in dirt, were exposed and made walking difficult. We had to tread gingerly to stay upright and keep our balance. Deep ruts where people had trekked through the mud made walking much more fatiguing. And landslides covered some of the trail, which caused us to look and listen carefully for safe passage over or around these obstructions. I was glad we were on this hike together as I would have felt rather unsafe were I alone; it would have been easy to fall or twist an ankle.

It reminded me of what it feels like to be a part of the American culture right now. Things keep shifting dramatically. Almost every day there is a storm that changes the landscape of our nation. Gays are getting greater civil rights, racism is getting uncovered for all to see, and the confederate flag is coming down. These big changes, these epic shifts, will eventually make us a better place if we can negotiate them well.

The problem is, how do we negotiate these changes well. If you’re like me, change is hard. Actually, I love change, if I’m the one choosing it, then it feels like an adventure. But, if a change is thrust upon me from outside, I find myself kicking hard against it. Some people have kicked hard against the culture shifts we are currently experiencing and now their feet hurt because no amount of kicking can stop a culture shift.

plant

How then, do we negotiate these changes with grace? Here are some ideas from my recent hike:

1. Sharp rocks, formerly covered in dirt, were exposed and make walking difficult. You have to tread gingerly to stay upright and keep your balance.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when you are faced with a culture shift. It’s easy to shut down and stop moving. The key is to keep walking. Walk slowly and carefully forward, engaging as much as you can with those around you who are also experiencing this shift. It may feel scary and strange, but God is still on the throne. None of this is outside of his providence. He wants to heal our land and we must keep moving forward to experience that healing. Be patient and gentle, sharp rocks (hurtful words) might be painful, try not to kick them at each other. We are all just trying to figure this out.

2. Deep ruts where people had trekked through the mud and were now dried, make walking much more fatiguing.

These changes might leave you feeling particularly fatigued. Be kind to yourself: rest, take breaks from the news and social media. But, don’t stay in that place too long. We need to continue the walk toward healing together.

3. Landslides covered some of the trail, which caused us to look and listen carefully for safe passage over or around these obstructions.

Right now, the most important thing we can offer each other is keeping our eyes open and listening carefully. Understanding will be the key to navigating these shifts together. If you find someone who has a different opinion or experience than yours keep your mouth closed and listen. Try to see the world from their point of view. Look for things you can agree on and start the discussion there. Talking about racism or LGBTQ issues can be uncomfortable. Be willing to be uncomfortable. We all in this together and we need to listen to each other in love.

4. I was glad we were on this hike together as I would have felt rather unsafe were I alone; it would have been easy to fall or twist an ankle.

Most importantly, we need to help each other. The best way to understand the LGBTQ experience is to make a friend from that community. Really get to know someone; it’s impossible to hate someone you have spent time getting to know.

The same is true with racism. Spend time with someone who looks different than you do. Really listen, invite each other over share food. Do this in community. We are on this hike together and we need to be there when the going gets tough.

Pretty soon your gay friend will become just — your friend. Your black friend will become just – your friend. Pretty soon we will see beyond our differences and see each other as fellow hikers on this new path together.

How are you feeling about the shifts in our culture today? What have you found helpful in negotiating the changes?

(One thing I’m trying is writing a book from the experience of a marginalized population. It’s my way of trying to identify with the daily issues of those who have been kept out and made to feel “other.” Please join me in my small attempt to change the world by pre-ordering “Cracker,” and sharing the link to this book).

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My Small Drop in the Ocean of Battling Racial Inequality

race-equality

You can’t turn on the news these days without being exposed to racial violence. Black men are gunned down and incarcerated at an alarming rate. Black churches are attacked with shooting and burning.

I, as a white person, would like to believe that none of this is really happening because it’s not happening to me. Or…is it?

As a Christian, I believe that when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. I suffer with people from my (mostly white) church when they lose a family member, a job or receive a horrible diagnosis. Why then, don’t I suffer with my black brothers and sisters when they face repeated injustices on a daily basis?

Once I had a difficult conversation with a friend of color. She said that it was like she was in a boxing ring, having to fight for equality every day, not only against systemic injustice but also racial prejudice. She experiences microaggressions every day. “little” aggressions, like being followed by undercover cops in a store, or finding the ethnic hair products in the “Pet Food” aisle.

My friend’s boxing ring is a place where the fight rages, and white folks can enter the ring to join the fight. But my friend said there is a big difference between us. She can not jump in and out of the boxing ring, but I can. By virtue of living her daily life, she is always in the ring. Her challenge to me was, “Stay in the ring with me.”

Those words haunted me. I’ve done a lot of reading and processing about my white identity and the power I was born into. I want my voice at the table of racial reconciliation to count for something. But…what could I do from largely white Northern Nevada?

Well…I’m a writer. I decided to literarily use my voice. I wrote an alternative history, with the hope that white readers would get that feeling of being stuck in the boxing ring, unable to get out, and perhaps take a step further on their own ethnic journeys. I even included a discussion guide at the end to help the conversation to move forward.

This was a terrifying book to write because it could easily be misunderstood – I could easily be misunderstood. I could offend people on both sides of the story; I could make matters worse rather than better. But really, how much worse could they be? I have the opportunity to influence, in my small way, our world for the better. I decided to take that opportunity, despite my fear.


“Cracker” is that book. Even the name is incendiary. You can find the book for pre-order on Amazon and in all formats on Smashwords. I’d love it if you would read it when it comes out and give me an honest review, or if you have a blog and would be willing to do a post, contact me and I’ll get you a copy now before the book is launched.

I’m taking a huge risk here, but it’s a risk my friends of color take every day. Once, when another difficult conversation with a friend of color got uncomfortable, I shut down. I got quiet. She asked why. I said, “I’m so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I feel like I’m stepping on eggshells in this conversation.“

She said, “Jacci, I need you to be willing to break eggshells. You need to be willing to say the wrong thing in this conversation. Keeping silent gives you power. By being willing to say the wrong thing in love, you open up the possibility for a real conversation, no matter how painful.

That is what I’m doing. I’m trying to open up a real conversation. Even if it’s painful.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to keep the conversation about racial equality moving forward. What have you tried that is working. Have you messed up like I have? I’d love to hear your stories. I really believe that we all need to do our small part to change the racial inequality in our country.  We can each add a drop of what eventually becomes an ocean of change.

I’m attaching a video I find very amusing. I think it makes “microaggressions” something we can talk about because it is done in a humorous way. That’s what I’m trying to do with Cracker. It’s not humorous, but I’m trying to use fiction to open up a dialogue. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Good Men Project