Yesterday, I went to the grocery store. These bi-monthly trips normally consist of me looking at the grocery list I’ve made on my phone, speed-walking from aisle to aisle, usually missing something and having to backtrack, aggressively checking items off my list, then going to the self-checkout so that I can quickly get on to more important parts of my day. But yesterday was different. I parked, got out of my car, and as I walked toward the HEB doors, rather than looking at the list on my phone, I looked around. Walking out of HEB were two young black women. A bit further away, a black man was walking into the store. For a short moment, I just watched. I watched the women laugh, maybe about a joke one of them told. I watched the man walk into the store, maybe getting food for his family or picking up a quick necessity. I entered the store and proceeded with my grocery list, but I noticed I wasn’t walking with quite as much urgency as usual. I was distracted this time. I couldn’t stop looking at the diversity surrounding me, at all the beautiful colors. And as I watched, I felt three very distinct emotions: love, awe, and shame.
I felt love. An overwhelming, deep sense of love. Everything in me wanted to stop these strangers and tell them just how much I love them. I wanted to tell the black woman and her little baby girl that they are loved. I wanted to tell the Muslim man in the canned goods aisle that he is loved. And I wanted them to know that I, a random white twenty-something in a grocery store, physically ache because of how much I love them.
I felt awe. As I looked at these people, these masterpieces, my constant thought was, Wow. You are so beautiful. The Lord spent time to delicately design each and every one of them, just like he did for me. And I could not wrap my head around how amazing that is, or how thankful I am that each of these people were created just the way they are. I continued looking for my lunch meat and potato chips, pretending to mind my own business, when in reality I was looking at these people in complete and utter awe of their beauty.
And I felt shame. When I passed by those two black women in the parking lot, I felt immediate unspoken tension. I have no way of knowing if the feeling was mutual, but I wouldn’t blame them for feeling uneasy. I was (and am) ashamed of myself and of our world. It was difficult to even look them in the eye. With the recent brutal attacks on the black community, both physical and verbal, at the forefront of everybody’s minds, I passed these people with shocking awareness of my white skin. And I hated it. I hated feeling this divide between us. I hated knowing that these strangers might think I am one of the white people spewing hate towards them. And I absolutely hated that my love for them was not voiced because of the shame I felt.
I got home last night, I sat on my bed, and I cried.
I cried for Alton Sterling. I cried for Philando Castile. I cried for the Dallas Police. I cried for all of their families and friends. I cried for the hundreds killed by ISIS in just the past few days. I cried for the black community. I cried for the ignorance. I cried for the hatred. I cried for our country. I cried for our world.
Why is the world like this? Why is there so much hate? Why is there racism? Why, after all the progress Martin Luther King, Jr. made, the progress our country has made, are we still so stuck? Lord Jesus, help me understand. And help me change it.
I cannot imagine the heartbreak our Lord is experiencing, looking down on his Chosen and seeing their hatred toward each other. This is not what God intended for His people. This is not how human life should be.
I am angry. I am confused. I am baffled. I am tired. I am broken. But I am determined to remain hopeful. There has got to be more to this life than hate. Love DOES win. It always has, and it always will. But we cannot sit back and hope that someone else will love enough to make up for our lack thereof. We need to take responsibility. We need to love RIGHT NOW.
My dear black brothers and sisters – I am so sorry. I am sorry for not speaking out sooner. I am sorry for not being passionate enough about this issue until now. I am sorry for loving with condition. I am sorry for my silence. I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain you all are feeling. But my heart still breaks with yours. And please know that I am with you. I am white, and I am with you. I am a fellow human being, and I am with you.
Friends, we must love better. We must recognize that lives have been lost. We must insist that violence is not the answer. We must support our words of encouragement with our actions. We must begin to see the beauty in every human being. We must speak up and speak out against hate. We MUST love better.
To anybody reading this – black, white, brown, yellow, purple, rainbow, whomever… I love you. Please don’t forget it.
I love you. I love you. I love you.