How is it possible to be blind to racism? Being blind to anything in life is pretty easy especially if it has no adverse effects on your life.
Before September 11, 2001, I didn’t know the military existed. Of course, I had learned about the military in history class, but it was all tied to war. And I literally thought that when a war happened the United States would stand up a military to go and fight a war. From the limited knowledge I had from the pages of history, that explanation made sense to me. And since we were not at war and the last war happened when I was in kindergarten, I had no reason to believe there was a military force – fighting conflicts, providing humanitarian aid, and ready to respond. Until the day the US was attacked and the next day the military was ready to respond.
Everything changed that day.
Because my eyes were opened up to a world that never existed. And eventually, I joined the military through the Reserve Officer Training Corps Program (ROTC), which I started in 2003, and graduated and commissioned into the Air Force 2007.
This past week has been a September 11th moment in my life. It is as if the scales covering my eyes have come off. I’m no longer blind to what is happening.
I have seen a number of people frustrated with people like me.
People who were outraged in 2016 when football players kneeled on the field. We didn’t understand then, but now we are standing up. Now we realize there was more going on than we could see then. They ask, “Why didn’t I understand then?” I know they are wary of me standing up now. Is it real? Are we really going to take action? I have no answer except I didn’t understand then. I can’t change the past I can only move forward.
Which is what I am doing now. Just like my pre-9/11 self didn’t realize the military existed before they responded immediately. I can no longer live in a world where I don’t see the racial injustice that exists.
First, it was Ahmaud Arbery.
His story was a true testament of the hate in the world, but it was the fact that months went by before his story became viral and the father and son finally faced murder charges. Ahmaud’s story could have easily become one of the countless untold stories that never garnered national attention.
But as people stood up and signed petitions and said this isn’t right, finally a murder charge came forward. But that was only one of the many stories, stories I had been willful ignoring. And then last week George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. For the alleged crime of using counterfeit currency, the officer kneeled on George’s neck, pinning him to the ground for more than 8 minutes while he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” All the while George was unarmed and not resisting arrest.
It was a hard moment in my life to look back on because I didn’t care.
When I first heard the story, I had a lot of assumptions about what happened. A police officer kills someone there are a lot of questions surrounding the situation and I gave the cops the benefit of the doubt. It was easier to ignore it than learn about it. But I knew my heart was hard because of my personal reaction on social media about a particular post about having “the talk.” Isn’t having the talk with your kids what parenting is all about? But my friend who shared it was in real pain and I decided not to dismiss her pain. I dove deep into the words she was saying and how her life was different than mine.
So I prayed. “God open my eyes, change my heart. Let me see people as you see them.”
Truthfully, I prayed because I knew my response (in my head) was wrong, but I felt justified never the less. It is hard to write those words today, but they are the truth of where I was an important part of the story. And it is something we should all be doing as believers. Don’t rely on what you have been taught, but ask God to open your eyes. “Lord, let me see people as you see them.” And have an open heart to listen. I don’t know what I expected to happen. I do know I didn’t actually expect God to do something dramatic in my life. But God was listening and the next day an email popped in my inbox from Christianity Today sharing the life and work of George Floyd. I read the article in tears. Tears for the life lost. Tears from my bias of cops, always doing the right, thing blatantly shoved into my face.
I was part of the problem and I needed to change.
So now, I’m listening and supporting. Standing up and saying this isn’t right. I know we have a long way to go and we need to change our country and stop racial injustice. I’m not blind anymore. And truthfully I don’t know what my next step forward is. But right now, I am reading and listening, working to break down the unconscious bias and re-learning the things I was taught. I won’t sit back any longer ignorant to the world around me supporting those who won’t stand up against evil. Change is a process, and I’m willing to see it through.
Things I have learned:
Things I’m reading:
I’m Giving to: