Lately, I have found my heart to be very heavy. There is so much fear, hatred, and division in the world. Some days I try to ignore it, other days it is too heavy to carry and my knees and my heart buckle under the pressure of its weight.
Maybe you have experienced this as well.
What is normal anymore? No matter what you do, it isn’t right to someone. To leave your house, or stay inside. To wear a mask, or not wear a mask. To support or oppose, it seems either way we lose with someone. It feels like we are all in charge of our own truth.
There is an old saying that was originally used to defend people’s view of God, but I can’t help but think that it is extremely relevant in today’s times.
“A man who has an argument is always at the mercy of a man who has an experience” ~ unknown
Today, I would like to introduce you to a few friends of mine. Friends that have experiences and earnestly desire to reclaim their stories both for their benefit, for their children, and generations to come.
re·claim | \ ri-ˈklām:
Rescue from an undesirable state. Restore to a previous natural state.
Over 20 years ago, Audrey and I worked together at Kay Jewelers. I was the store manager and Audrey was on our sales team. Several times over the years, a dissatisfied customer would stomp into the store and unload their frustrations on Audrey.
As they were going on and on about their finance charge, lost stone, or a competitor’s price, Audrey would listen with a gentle smile on her face. After they finished their venting, she would say something like, “Would you like to speak with our manager?” Confusion fell upon their face. “I thought you were the manager.” In which Audrey would reply, “Why would you think that?”
The store manager’s name (my name) is Denisha. In case you are not familiar, my name is a name that would traditionally belong to a black woman. Either through a business card, or a phone call, the customer would get the name of the manager and upon walking into our store, they would assume that manager was Audrey.
It was an ongoing inside joke to our staff. I would stand quietly out of the way, and when the moment came, she would ask them why they thought she was the manager, and an awkward moment would occur…Every Time.
As I introduced myself, their embarrassment would defuse the situation quickly.
To this day, I love Audrey. She was one of the most fun people to work with. If you would have asked me how I felt about her being black, I would have naively told you, “I don’t see color.”
Until recently, when she posted this picture of her daughter holding a sign.
As I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I stopped dead in my tracks.
I felt convicted, curious and confused all at the same time. That sign was talking to me.
What did I miss? What don’t I understand? I decided it was time to listen.
I am inviting you to listen with me.
Listen to her experience and listen to her heart.
Here are some of Audrey’s words as she explains her family’s reality.
“Monday was especially difficult as I put on mascara, lip gloss and a smile to go to work. “
“There were awkward moments/glances of those whom wanted to comment or give their opinions and advice, but had no words or were rightfully uncomfortable. I was relieved when my coworkers chose not to comment on this issue right now. Because honestly, people don’t have a clue of the daily struggles we live.”
“The fear, injustice and racism is so strong in our world and communities. This war we fight for our rights and freedom we fight daily. —it is OUR normal. This nation has gotten a small glimpse into our world of being an African American in this country.”
“We smile to make “others” comfortable as not to be perceived as a threat or too assertive. We are forced to have difficult and unfair conversations with our children—to protect them and prepare them at a young age of this very injustice that we see today.”
“My daughter was 8 years old when she came home crying. I didn’t know to have “the talk” with her this young—I failed to realize that no amount of distance, education, money, age or influence could change how she is perceived by the color of her skin. Suburbs and inner city, racism is still alive and well. She cried, I cried.”
“It’s a silent fear for me when my husband walks out the door or if we are out and get pulled over by the police not knowing who is behind the wheel and what may transpire. We’re innately aware of the color of our skin. And likewise, we are aware of the good people and good cops. But tell me, are others aware of their racism? Are YOU aware of the way you “see” me, my daughter, my husband??? Decades of African American men and women being devalued, reminding us with each senseless killing, that our lives don’t matter.”
“Not just killings but blatant racism at its finest. We have historically been told to keep the peace, by being quiet, be careful, watch what we say, or mind our business, etc. Our Protests and hashtags are soon forgotten and we go on with life until the next senseless murder of an unarmed black man, and yes…yet another hashtag. History is repeating itself and little change has evolved.”
“The conversations start at the dinner table in our homes of those who’s skin does not look like mine. I am so grateful to those who have genuinely checked in on me and my family and to those who have acknowledged the racial injustice without adding their “but…”.”
“See us through the eyes of Christ. Hear us with your heart. Do not minimize the call of action by making the unfortunate violence/riots/looting of some, bigger than the cause. Empathize with us. Pray for us and with us. Protests are not parades, they are hurting people crying for change.” ~Audrey
My heart was heavy as I realized that I had indeed, denied her reality.
My friend Emil helped me understand the meaning of racism.
“Everything gets thrown into the term racism, if I’m white and don’t like black people I’m racist, if I’m black and I don’t like white people I’m racist.”
1. “Not liking someone of another race isn’t racism, it’s prejudice. Everyone in the world probably has some kind of prejudice unfortunately and it’s not okay either.”
2. “But that’s not racism. Racism is when a group of people or organization IN POWER uses that power to bring down another group that is NOT in power. This is unfortunately why living in America, a white person could be looked at as racist if they engage in that kind of behavior. A black person can be prejudiced (and there are plenty who are) but racist? In America, that’s not possible.
If I live in Africa and I create rules and laws that hold back non-black people from advancement and freedom, then I or other black people could be racist because in many parts of that continent, Black people are in power. “
3. “Racism runs deep: If you think about America from the time you were born, the laws and rules in America were developed in some parts of the country to force black people into submission so that they couldn’t achieve the same level at others. Even though the vast majority of the law has changed, the effects of it are still in black communities, in public school systems where property tax pays for schools. There is still a disparity that is affecting people to this day. That’s for a much longer conversation.”
Emil goes on to say…
“Please talk to others. Don’t argue. Find out how you can help make a difference. Show love in everything that you say and do.”
“Find out from a black person you know how/or if racism has affected them. I promise it’s not an if. Help preserve unity in a time of such horrible division.”
“To my friends. Your friendship is so dear to me. I hope that this note builds an even stronger bridge between us and doesn’t divide. We can talk anytime.” ~ Emil
Jennifer’s formative years were in Iowa, where it was nearly 100% white. At the age of 23, she and Emil became newlyweds. They are raising four amazing children together.
She has recently been sharing about a beautiful journey that she is on with God of prayerful lamenting. Lamenting is when we share with God our, “that’s not fair” moments. Before she shares her prayer, she shares the story that demands the lament. I’d like to share a few with you.
1. Little Girl at the Park
“A few years ago, I brought my girls to our neighborhood park to play. A young girl, maybe 8 or 10 approached me. She had a lot of questions: How come my kids were black and not white like me? (I could not possibly be their mom.) Where did we come from? Her teacher said that all people with black skin live in poor areas of the world. What were we doing there?”
“My girls repeatedly asked her to play with them and she refused. Her parents, in ear distance, listened on with indifference.”
2. Meant to Put us Down:
“We were newlyweds traveling through the Midwest to visit family. We stopped to get gas as I got out to stretch my legs a truck with several young men speeds right by us yelling “Nigger Lover!””
“I passively aggressively leaned over to kiss Emil (they couldn’t get the best of me!!) as angry hot tears started to stream down my face. We quickly finished getting gas to get back on the road for fear they may come back.”
“I was 23. Even though small racist things had been happening for the 3 years before that while I was dating Emil, nothing was that overt before that. As we got in the car Emil said it had been happening to him his WHOLE LIFE.”
3. Attack in the Grocery Store
“This week my youngest daughter Janiya and I went to the grocery store to grab some food. Janiya was joyfully pushing the cart begging for sweets.”
“An older lady clearly looking agitated and frustrated passed by our cart and looked at her and said “Stupid Black…” under her breath.”
“This mama bear wanted to take out this older lady! These kinds of attacks come out of nowhere. It leads someone to never feel safe. To always feel on guard. How would you feel if you were “surprise attacked” all the time? Throughout history we see oppressed people groups rise up over and over, because they need to feel safe.”
“Janiya is 12. She should only be worried about what sweets she wants to beg for in the grocery store.”
These are just a few of her experiences. This is one of her many prayers…
LAMENT (My protest lifted to God):
“Tears sting my eyes Lord! We have allowed the injustice to continue!”
“By not standing against injustice I have enabled people to not see the errors of their ways. Please Lord, give me strength to stand. By keeping my head down the hatred continues. Lord rise up Godly voices in this time! Bring great change and healing to our nation and our world!”
“I can barely swallow for the lump in my throat. We want our future generations to be rid of this hatred. To not have to repeatedly fight the same battle.”
“Break our hearts Lord! Help us to see each other as the beautiful creation you see us as! Help us to treat each other as we would want our own children to be treated. Help us to reach equality.”
“Don’t let us just accept injustice. Help us to rise against it in loving and healing ways! Don’t let us tire of the battle, only to have fight it again. Only to have the stories continue to the next generation.”
“We have sinned against you when we have not loved in the way you love. God heal our hearts, convict us of our sin.”
“Lead us on the path to your redemption and freedom! Bring us to unity of heart and thought! Help us to prosper together!” ~Jennifer
Hearing the hearts of my friends shows me that we have some work to do as humans. We can not deny their reality. Their experiences speak volumes to us. Keep listening, keep talking, and keep praying.
Through the love of Christ working in us and through us, we can see stories reclaimed.
As human beings, our first previous natural state, is as a child of God. We all were made in His image to be loved, accepted, restored, and redeemed through the mighty name of Jesus. Who was born of a virgin, died on a cross and rose from the dead so that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.
Reclaim us Lord, each and every one of us, to your original intent. In Jesus name.
To my friends who gave me permission to share their stories, thank you. I am thankful for your courage to share your experiences and your heart.
You have opened my eyes, I see you, I care for you, and I will not deny your reality again! I am holding hope with you for a different tomorrow.
To get to know my friends a little more, click on their name to see their full posts.