For 10 years, I've listened to donors say they couldn't support me. For 10 years, I've listened to the Christian community say I couldn't preach. For 10 years, I have listened to micro-aggressive comments. And all, solely because I am a woman. When a colleague said he didn't believe in women in leadership to a younger woman, I broke. I felt like I was being told my voice was unimportant. I was ashamed that I had not paved the way for women to follow me into leadership. In that moment, I wasn't thinking about editing my response. I wasn't concerned with how people would perceive my actions, I just needed to deal with the pain and my outburst was unprofessional.
When a supervisor addressed how I handled the conversation and not the underlining injustice that led to my reaction, I was devastated. When the reaction to oppression is critiqued while the oppression itself is ignored we reinforce the unjust conditions that led to the reaction.
The oppression I face as a woman in ministry pales in comparison to the oppression that people of color face every day in every facet of their life.
I don’t know how it feels to spend my whole life being thought of as “the other.” I have never been feared because of my skin color. I have never been pulled out of a car and put in handcuffs because I changed lanes. I do not know what it is like for people to assume that I am guilty. I do not know what it is like to fear that my child will be accused of a crime, convicted, and shot. But if my previous reaction to chauvinism is a litmus test, I believe these injustices would cause me to snap.
Over the past several years, I have had empathy for the Black Lives Matter Movement. I understood how their reactions were fraught with emotion. I admired my fellow citizens, who in the face of hate fought for equality with love, peace, and grace. I empathized with the frustration that spilled into rare acts of violence.
After years of watching the public vilify protesters, I watched with amazement as Colin Kaepernick reacted with humility. If you don't know the story, after seeing black bodies lying dead on the street, Kaepernick and Eric Reid discussed how they could make a statement. They visited Nate Boyer, a Green Beret and they came to the conclusion that they should knee.
Kneeling is the ultimate symbol of humility. Choosing to kneel gave Kaepernick - a committed Christian - an opportunity to protest respectfully while honoring his faith.
Channeling the grace, poise, and brilliance of Martin Luther King Jr., Kaepernick started a movement by kneeling during the National Anthem.
Seeing a man humble himself to raise awareness of the injustices, reminded me of Paul’s words, “Do nothing out of vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.” Kaepernick did not have to risk his career and reputation for others and yet his faith commanded him to fight for justice.
His protests only fault was its effectiveness. We couldn’t look away, because during America’s favorite pastime, one of our heroes knelt before the symbol of freedom. His humble act pointed out that our collective dream was not fully realized and he offered himself as a sacrifice to start a conversation. And we couldn’t look away.
We had to see his pain, and it made us uncomfortable. Rather than deal with that pain, we lashed out as a country. We said he was disrespecting the flag while we blatantly broke the US Flag code by using images of flags on clothing, athlete uniforms, napkins and plates. We called him unpatriotic and demanded that he respect the troops, choosing to ignore our countries patriotic history of civil disobedience. Our backlash to Kaepernick’s protest created a divide that we blamed on him.
In our effort to squirm away from an uncomfortable conversation, we shouted that freedom of speech was only awarded to those who agreed with us. Despite our yelling, the protest grew into a movement. Kaepernick’s humble knee had done exactly what it was meant to do. He started a conversation.
Let’s not nitpick about how people choose to have their voice heard, but let’s hear their pain. Martin Luther King Jr wrote, “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.” We are called to echo Martin Luther King Jr’s words and address the injustice.
We need to address the concerns and conditions that brought about Kaepernick’s protest. Let us see hear the pain of our brothers and sisters, respond to the injustice.