I Don’t Understand Eric Garner

Allow me a few words to clarify, please.

I’m a twenty-three year old male. I grew up with a dad, a mom and a sister in a predominantly caucasian suburban middle class community. Although I am roughly three-quarter Mexican and only one-quarter Hungarian, most would say that I look white.

In school, I was taught about Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. While growing up, I was led to believe that racism and racial inequality was a story of the past that we should learn from rather than a current reality that we need to be a part of changing.

My church experience thus far (about six years) resembles a similar picture. In the give-or-take three hundred talks or messages I’ve sat through since regularly attending church, I’ve unfortunately heard race brought up maybe two or three times. Some may suggest this is due to the post-racist community we are a part of. Others may state this is simply due to blatant ignorance of a very real issue in our nation.

In high school I witnessed numerous white friends on multiple occasions commit crimes much worse than those that have led to black people being killed. Instead of their lives being robbed from them, these white friends at the most received a slap on the wrist. Personally, I’ve been let off of at least three driving tickets for no reason whatsoever.

If you think I’m the only one whose experienced this, check out the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag which has been trending on Twitter since last night alongside #ICantBreathe and #EricGarner. There have been nearly 400,000 tweets of white people confessing crimes that they’ve committed that are far worse than that of Eric Garner. There’s also one key aspect to each of these 400,000 tweets: the people are alive to tweet their experiences.

 The Reality

My wife and I have watched the video of Eric Garner being choked to his eventual death countless times. Each time angers and saddens us more and more.

I know roughly what happened in the Eric Garner case, but I am not nearly close to understanding it.

I don’t understand what it’s like to have people constantly assume the worst of me. I don’t understand what it’s like to live in a society that I have hardly any opportunity to better mine and my family’s life. I don’t understand what it’s like to be constantly confronted by authorities like Eric Garner and so many others do. I don’t understand what it’s like to live in fear of those who are called to protect us. I don’t understand what it’s like to have one person, let alone many people in my life that have either been locked up or killed. I cannot even fathom my grandparents and ancestors before them being treated brutally less than human. I cannot comprehend how Eric Garner’s family (and many others with similar stories) wakes up every day, gets out of bed, goes to school or work and so on. With Thanksgiving just passing and Christmas approaching, I mourn for them during this season.

As a white middle-class evangelical, I don’t understand racism or racial inequality at all, and it sickens me.

Yes, I am thankful and grateful that I have not had to endure racism and racial inequality. However, I am disturbed how much I have allowed myself to ignore the reality of present-day racism. As a Christian man, I have failed my fellow brothers and sisters.

What disgusts me even more is that I’m not the only one. Over the past week, the greater majority of my white evangelical friends, Facebook “friends” and Twitter users have revealed their true colors. Not only have I witnessed numerous Christians state their opinion of finding no fault in the police or the judicial system in place, I’ve also viewed the blatant apathy, ignorance and even hatred towards those who are in mourning. I’ve also witnessed the unfortunate lack of awareness or even vocalization for the oppressed.

Were we not commanded to “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15)?

What Needs to Happen

If you’re like me, lacking in the understanding racial inequality, here are four things we can do to grow in our understanding, care and support of our brothers and sisters of different races:

  1. Kneel. Get on your knees and beg God a) to open the eyes of your heart to see the injustice and wrongs of the world that we may currently not see and b) to “let justice roll down like waters” (Amos 5:24).
  2. Sit. Take time to a) listen to the stories of those in the black community and show that you want to understand not only their history but also their current events; also, b) study our role as Christians in advocating against racism, racial inequality and other social injustices in society (I’ve recommended some resources below).
  3. Stand. Get on your feet and stand up for the oppressed. Write a congressman. Use your voice in social media. Participate in a peaceful protest. Heed the charge of Proverbs 31:8 & 9:

    Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
        and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
    Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
        and to defend the needy and the poor.

  4. Walk. Don’t simply get caught up in the emotional high of the moment but instead commit to walk through this journey, however long it takes, with our brothers and sisters of all races.

I may not understand everything that my black brothers and sisters have had to endure but I am fighting to know, see, care, mourn, stand and most importantly love more.

Resources

I am especially grateful for white Christian leaders such as Jared C. WilsonRachel Held EvansAlbert Mohler and Russel Moore who have vocalized their disapproval and even disgust of recent events. Voices of all races definitely matter but it is especially important that white leaders and other non-black leaders vocalize their support for the black community.

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One thought on “I Don’t Understand Eric Garner

  1. hey brother – I wanted to give you my thoughts, however insufficient they are … Your bottom line is where it is — Prayer, to get your heart right, Listening, to get your heart right, and Living, letting those first two things be the only things –
    I wish I wasn’t such a Negative Nellie, but I personally am so weary of Christians who hide their prejudice behind conservative politics – I truly like how you gave personal perspective and then offered a solution – don’t get bogged (or is it ‘blogged’) down in the mess that is American Politics –
    My issue with all this is that no matter how much is said by insightful and intelligent people, so many uneducated people, or people influenced by outside sources, regardless of skin tone are fueling factions — I hope that we become the heard eventually instead of the small group only read by a few! Keep praying brother!

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