Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: The things we say


Please Stop Saying …

A guest post by Kristen Rimer Terrette

“Slavery ended over 150 years ago … I never owned slaves … I’m not privileged. I’ve had hardships too … Everyone has the same rights now!”

Do these sentences make you sigh? Part of me wants to rant when I hear them. Part of me wants to cry. White brothers and sisters, can I speak solely to you for a moment?

In my experience, these words are usually said in defense by my well-meaning white friends or acquaintances who feel they haven’t contributed to racism or displayed hatred toward people of color. They feel they’re not part of the problem. And in part, that’s true, because they don’t use racial slurs, shy away from friendships with different ethnicities, and may work cordially alongside people who don’t look like them.

But my frustration with these statements is that they degrade people of color’s experiences with racism, prejudice, and injustice, as well as their victories.

They also put us, the white majority, in a position of complacency and indifference.

Let me lay out some realities …

A few weeks ago, November 14, 2020, marked sixty years since six-year-old Ruby Bridges walked into a previously, like literally until that very moment, all white school in Louisiana. What a brave little girl! What a courageous mother to send her that morning!

To back up a bit more, in May of 1954, only six years earlier, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. the Board of Education that “state-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment and was therefore unconstitutional.” It took six years for this decision to trickle down to Ruby Bridges’ town. Six. Years. For a ruling over something that should have never been in place at all.

And my mother’s city, Chattanooga, TN, took even longer. It was 1963-1964 when her school desegregated. Almost ten years after Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling! Ten years for her school, and the surrounding area, to implement desegregation.

So, let’s talk some facts. I’m in my thirties (though my very late thirties, but let’s not go there). I have school-aged children, with one still in elementary. And my mother (my kids’ grandmother), who is only in her mid-sixties literally witnessed (as in a firsthand account) the very first black children being admitted into her previously all white grade school. And she was ten years old at the time—not a baby, not a kindergartener, but a child about to go into middle school.

This should put things in perspective for those who feel like the civil rights movement happened a long time ago. There is only one generation—mine—between the children who witnessed desegregation and the children who are seeing the racial tensions we’re witnessing now.

Only ONE generation.

Truth is slavery as an institution ended on paper roughly 150 years ago, but that’s only about six generations back by my count. And its oppressive affects lasted much longer. In fact, they are still being felt today.

Please, hear my heart, and let my information dump serve as a plea for us to live as Paul asks us to in 1 Corinthians 12. He eloquently discusses the importance of being of one accord in a passage aptly titled, Unity and Diversity in the Body (the church). According to this passage, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (NIV), “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 

Our Christian brothers and sisters have stories to tell. Ones of grief and ones of triumph. So, we must rid our minds and tongues from the demeaning phrases above. And, instead, listen to people of color who still struggle with the painful effects of racism, but who are afraid to tell their stories because of the responses they get in return. We must also celebrate greatly all minorities who have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time instead of diminishing their victories with flippant responses or, and possibly even worse, by acting like we understand their pain in these areas.

Let’s take Paul’s advice and approach our diverse relationships by asking Jesus for spiritual eyes and ears to listen and celebrate each other. We are one body of Christ after all.

People of color, do you have a story to tell? We’re ready to listen, so let’s keep the conversation going! Comment below or on social media to tell us your story, whether one of heartache or victory. We want to listen, learn, and celebrate with you.

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Author Bio:

Kristen's passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus. 

She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at www.kristenterrette.com.

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Connect with Kristen:
Website - www.kristenterrette.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authorkristenterrette/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/KTerrette
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kterrette/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16252020.Kristen_Terrette
Bookbub - https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kristen-terrette
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/kterrette2/

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