I'm sorry. I was wrong. I was thinking about myself. I wasn't really listening. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing.
Tomorrow I'll be teaching the third week of my new Bible study: All My Friends Have Issues: Building Remarkable Relationships Among Imperfect Women. This week is on apologizing and making amends. It's called "You Can Be Right or You Can Be Friends." I anticipate that it might be a bit of a tough lesson. Because saying we're sorry can be extremely risky; it makes us very vulnerable. We might not receive forgiveness. We might be accused of further wrong doing. But what I pray for the women in my study is that they will learn to do it anyway, and also offer grace to those who make amends to them. And I want to encourage them that we need to say "I'm sorry," not just for outright sin, but for missing the mark -- the small failures to love well that we may do unintentionally.
Since I read Latasha Richardson's book Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation in January, I've been wanting the write something about Black History month -- but I couldn't quite find the right message that I wanted to speak. And then I sat down to post on social media today about making amends and apologizing to our friends, and I suddenly knew what I wanted to say.
To the Black community: I'm sorry. I was wrong. I was thinking about myself. I wasn't really listening. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing.
Richardson's book opened my eyes to the fact that there was a 100 year gap in my education of Black rights in America. In school, I was taught about slavery and emancipation in the 1860s, and then the civil rights movement in the 1960s. I cried through that book. White friends, please read it. She teaches us how to lament over what our Black brothers and sisters have suffered -- both micro-agressions (to the individual) and systematic racism -- and how reconciliation requires those of us with white privilege to acknowledge our part in perpetuating it.
So I want to say to the Black community what I am teaching women to say to their friends.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what you have suffered. I'm sorry for all the ways you were blocked through micro-aggressions and municipal laws from increasing your wealth through property ownership; for how you have been stereotyped by the media and profiled by law enforcement; incarcerated at higher rates for the same crimes as White people; and denied justice in countless ways.
I was wrong. I've been wrong in things I have thought and said. I'm afraid to even put this in print, but when I have seen a Black family in Target or in a restaurant or at my church, I've made a purposeful effort to smile at them. I want them to know I'm not prejudice. That I'm okay with them. And what right have I to be okay with them, and them not okay with me.
I was thinking about myself when I did that.
I didn't really listen. I've never investigated institutionalized racism. I haven't intentionally seen Black movies. I haven't been interested in a deeper understanding of what my brothers and sisters have gone through. Especially how the church has stood by or even perpetuated racism.
I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing. I've been afraid to speak up in case I said something wrong. I have heard people make racist remarks and not stood up to them. I want to do better. I want to learn how to talk about this so that my voice can help bring comfort and reconciliation, and so I can raise my girls to do better than I have.
It's such a sad and scary political climate out there. So many voices are trying to convince that they are right. Well, we can be right, or we can be humble. We can be right, or we can be good listeners. We can be right, or we can be reconciled. Let's listen better today. Let's admit where we've been wrong. And let's forgive each other if we can.