Only he that cries out for the person of color may sing Hillsong songs.
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.”
These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer highlight his attitude towards his stance in the face of
injustice. Lately, I have been reading through the biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, written by Eric Metaxas, and it is becoming increasingly sobering to see the parallels between Nazi Germany and present day U.S.A. Though I will not at this point go into the full details of the comparison, the very real resemblance of injustice for people of color in this nation to the plight of the European Jews in the mid 1900's continues to further reveal itself.
Over the years, I have felt both too ignorant and unworthy to speak up against such atrocities, as we have seen even in the midst of a global pandemic with the blatant murder of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Unfortunately, all my silence has bought me over the decades is complacency in the continued oppression of my brothers and sisters of color. Instead of allowing the love of Christ to compel me to make a stand for my neighbors, I remained silent. For this, I cannot apologize enough, and the fear of getting it wrong will no longer keep me from speaking up. If I do get it wrong anywhere in this post or in the future, I deeply apologize. I am still learning.
The fact of the matter is that racism still runs strong in the veins of America. If you are reading this in disbelief, then you are ignorant. If you believe the slogan "Black Lives Matter" to be some form of reverse racism, you are ignorant. If you think that we have truly achieved equality in America, you are ignorant. If you think that the election of Barack Obama proves that racism no longer exists, you are ignorant.
It is okay to be ignorant. It is not okay to remain ignorant.
My eyes were not opened to our problem of racism until I began to see its effects manifest
before my eyes. I have seen coworkers ignored and discredited because of the color of their
skin. I have heard accounts of how systemic racism strips away any and all fair chance a
person of color might have. It is hard to understand privilege when you are the one who is
privileged, and we will never understand our own privilege until we begin to look outside
Bonhoeffer’s story hits hard because he could have avoided the wrath of the Nazi’s. He had
every opportunity to keep his mouth shut about the oppression of the Jewish people; however, the injustices committed by the Third Reich burdened the German pastor to such an extent that he could not longer ignore the situation. He even went so far as to declare “Only he that cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” Though this statement garnered criticism from some of Bonhoeffer’s closest allies, he did not allow other people’s opinions of him to stymie his disdain of Nazi oppression. He believed any oppression by any people towards any people was a blatant disregard of the love of Christ and the function of God’s church on earth. Eventually, Bonhoeffer would be executed for being involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and he would give his life to stand in the way of oppression.
At the risk of sounding foolish, I too declare, "only he that cries out for the person of color may sing Hillsong songs". Let us no longer be silent about oppression and injustice. Let us instead stand together with our fellow citizens in their struggle against a system that was designed to burden them. As Proverbs 31:8-9 advises us, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.”
Racism of our time is built on a legacy of ignorance. We are ignorant to the struggles people of color face. We are ignorant of the racism running through our laws and institutions. If we are able to finally take a stand against this ignorance, we would be taking our first steps of fighting this injustice. Here are a few ways you can begin.
You will be hard pressed to find a person of color who has not experienced racism. Ask them
about their stories. Approach friends with complete respect and humility, understanding that
what you will hear will probably be uncomfortable. Be prepared to hear that you may have even been a part of their oppression. Do not attempt to think or feel for that person. Do not attempt to make excuses for the guilty party. Shut your mouth and listen.
Continue to listen for headlines highlighting oppression. Unfortunately, we live in a world where news coverage of hate crimes is common. Do not discount these reports as “just another story.” Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are not just another story. They were men crafted in the image of God. They were sons, brothers, and beloved friends who were murdered and taken from their loved ones due to the unbridled hatred wrought in a cistern of sin. Listen to their lives.
Learn about experiences and stories that are outside yourself. It is easy to ignore anything that does not directly affect you. However, if we are to stand with our brothers and sisters, we need to learn about what affects them. There are countless books you can read that will enlighten some of the blatant racism that still plagues the system today. Learn about our history as a country. Though slavery has been abolished, the ripples of our greatest shame continue to echo through our nation’s legacy even into the present. It is because of our roots that we still struggle with racism, and the more we learn about this history, the better we will understand our current struggle.
We need to start reflecting on our own privilege if we want to better understand the blight that
is racism. Shortly after learning about he murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I went for a run. I realized on this run that at no point did I feel any fear. I did not have to worry about what someone might think of me on my run due to the color of my skin. I did not have to keep my head down and attempt to act innocent. Ahmaud, on the other hand, lost his life for something that I do several times a week.
White privilege extends even further than every day fear. I was never trapped in a system that continued to keep me down and out. I had access to every opportunity to succeed. I had a full home with a mother and father that loved and supported me throughout my entire life. Sure I had struggles, but they were not brought upon me because of my race. Perhaps the most difficult part of reflecting on our privilege and racism in general is recognizing our part in the problem. This is where our humility needs to overcome our pride. It is incredibly
uncomfortable to reflect on our internal struggle with racism; however, we owe it to our
neighbors to love them, as we would love ourselves.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Well that doesn’t happen everywhere. I know so-and-so
who had a great life and many opportunities to succeed.” There are two thing wrong with this
assumption. Firstly, the fact that this happens anywhere is still injustice and oppression. Secondly, you probably do not know “so-and-so’s” entire story. Take time and reflect on some of the ways you have benefited from privilege.
To echo Bonhoeffer’s words, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.” Bonhoeffer was not a Jew, but he fought for them and their rights until the bitter end. In fact, the racism of the Third Reich was as much as an issue to him as was the persecution of the church under Nazism. To modernize Bonhoeffer's heart, the oppression of people of color would be as important to him as churches not being able to meet due to COVID-19. If we are going to continue to remain silent in the face of our current day racism, then we are going to have to answer to God about our willing complacency.
Begin speaking up. Start conversations with friends or family members that still hold on to this false notion of true equality in America. Write in to your congressmen about the continued injustice we see on the news headlines every other week. Continue to share graphics, videos, statuses, and blog articles about racism in the U.S.A. Protest with people of color and others that wish to uproot the foundation of racism. Stand against any form of hate you come across during your day-to-day routine. Most importantly, continue to pray that God uses his church to combat this grotesque beast that continues to plague our country.
Jesus' heart continues to break for Ahmaud, George, and every other person of color that has been ruthlessly slaughtered because of our silence. If we are to sing songs of praise to our Lord, let us also chant for the equality and love that all men and women made in the image of God deserve.