Who are we? I’ve asked myself this question numerous times lately. As someone who tends to always find and focus on the good in others, I’ve truly struggled recently to reconcile some of the ugliness I’ve witnessed in those around me. I feel guilty for saying “I’m shocked,” because to admit shock is to admit I haven’t truly been listening to cries for help from people of color. I haven’t always believed their side of the story. It was a whole lot more comfortable to think their tales were exaggerated than to look an inconceivable hatred square in the eyes. I am so very sorry and ashamed.
It feels to me like we are living through a very dark time in history. But here’s what I really want us to hear: it’s only through darkness that God can best reveal the redemptive power of His light. And I hope and pray we’re turning on the lights.
Shining light into the darkness is a painful, but necessary, process. Without it, there is no progress. The vile ideas and habits that reside in the shadows scatter like cockroaches when we flip on the light switch. We know the disease-ridden bugs are there, living under the baseboards and inside the cracks in the walls, but when light floods the room, we can no longer pretend to deny their existence or presence. Suddenly we are forced to confront the nastiness of those vile creatures, and we have to take action to get rid of them.
Racism is like those cockroaches, infesting the homes and minds of our families, friends, and neighbors. And it is way past time to turn on the lights and expose them.
Have you ever hosted company at your fine dining table when a roach suddenly scurries across the floor? You pray your friends don’t notice, and your face flushes red while you silently panic about how to best handle the situation. We know roaches exist, and we know we may even play host to some, but unless we see the nasty bugs with our own eyes, we are quite content to claim we are immune to such an awful situation.
But the truth? Roaches are everywhere. But unless I suddenly turn on a light in the middle of the night, or shine a spotlight into the dark corners of the patio, I might never realize I’ve created a hospitable environment for them.
What I’ve recently realized is that it’s not enough to silently endure others’ racism while condemning it in my own head or speaking against it only in “safer” company. Not wanting to “make waves” is no excuse. Being able to see the good in someone does not mean I have to “let slide” that person’s racist remarks. To not call out racism and condemn it is to actually give it my blessing ; I’m creating that “hospitable environment” where people feel those hateful ideas are acceptable.
I would never allow cockroaches to take over my home, so why would I allow racism inside? If I saw cockroaches, I would grab a shoe and start swatting the little suckers, or pick up a can of Raid and drown them in poison; and, you better believe I would call an exterminator to draw a line of protection around my home so they could never return!
Like an exterminator spraying an insecticide barrier around our houses, we need to draw a blood line of Jesus around our homes. We need to refer our spiritual exterminator to everyone we know, because Jesus died for all. He created us different, yet the same. He clearly instructs us to love one another! Once your own home is clear of roaches, grab a shoe and start swatting other peoples’, too. Those insects nest and colonize and infest everywhere they land. Turn on the light and expose them! Root them out of their hiding places in the darkness, and shine the light of Truth. We cannot allow roaches of racism to multiply and take over our homes and communities or, let’s be real, even our newsfeeds.
I’ll say it again: shining light into the darkness is painful, and it’s ugly. It’s really ugly, shining light into the nasty infestation of racism. But if we can get through the painstaking process of exposing it and confronting it, we can then get to work on ending it. After hundreds of years, America still finds itself in the very first stage of simply turning on the lights! It’s shameful. It seems intolerance just keeps finding new ways to hide and proliferate. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I cannot be lackadaisical about racism. Like getting rid of cockroaches, annihilation is the only answer.
At my house, I will not turn a blind eye any longer. To my non-white friends: I believe you. It hurts to admit there is such evil in others, but I will no longer be silent under a misguided attempt to be “non-confrontational,” or to insulate myself from the hatred that exists in our world.
I vow to leave the light on for you.