Since the death of George Floyd, I have been found myself in the streets of the KC Metro in my clerical collar peacefully protesting, demonstrating, and marching. Here’s why.
Black Lives Matter*
Above all other reasons, I march because Black Lives Matter. At least, they should matter, but in America, where their existence began as possessions, their lives have only mattered insofar as they benefited the lives of white masters. White Supremacy in America has stripped BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) of their equality, their land, their freedom, and the full rights of citizenship. Part of my job as an ally is to use my privilege in the struggle to acknowledge those wrongs, work towards some kind of restoration, and do my damnedest to make sure they don’t happen again.
*For those of you still hung up on those words, to say that Black Lives Matter is not to say that others do not, and they do not matter more. To say that Black Lives Matter is to say that despite White supremacy’s utilization of slavery and segregation, intended to diminish the import of these Black children of God, these lives are, in fact, important In the face of 400 years of evidence to the contrary, Black Lives Matter to God, and therefore should matter to us. It is a reminder to all of us that they are not chattel, property, savages, or terrorists – as we have attempted to brand them – but human beings. The harming of Black bodies in our streets and in their homes testifies that we still need to be reminded of this truth.
God shows up in body
We call it the Incarnation, but it really just means that God decided to be with us in the flesh. That choice, the Christian tradition holds, is the key to God’s transformative work in this world, for it allowed God, the Creator, to know the joy and pain, the weal and woe, life and death, as creature. It puts God in solidarity with creation in a way that defies explanation – really, theologians have been trying for centuries to capture the depths of its significance on our relationship to God.
In this moment, Incarnation means that while there is important work to be done from a distance in terms of advocacy and legislation, there is just no substitute for bodily presence. It forges empathic relationships that bring allow both parties to understand and care for each other in divine ways – at least that’s what I’ve experienced by showing up with a spirit of humility and the demands for real justice. The Incarnation reminds us that such a posture is necessary for the kind of transformation the oppressed cry out and march for.
The Word Spoken
I have found the spaces in which people demand justice to be filled with echoes of the Word. Don’t misunderstand me: this space is not like a sappy, unrealistic “Christian” movie. There are tears and anger, profanity unvarnished accounts of racism in these spaces. But, there are many moments in which I hear the profound truths of our story.
“No justice, no peace” takes me to Jesus lamenting over an occupied Jerusalem . “You have nothing to lose but your chains” echoes the promises of Isaiah and the Gospels that the anointed of God will set captives free and Paul’s constant portrayal of freedom in Christ as both demanding and liberating. “This is what community looks like” takes me to Acts and pouring out of the Spirit that led those first communities to live with and for each other, empowered by the spirit to speak to and hear one another. These chants – in protest and demonstration – are the biblical story enacted.
My Presence is Disruptive
So if I say that Black Lives Matter, I need to live that way, and that means, in the era of systemic brutality still aimed at harming them, that I disrupt those moments. I disrupt those moments because I am a cis-gender man. I disrupt them because I am white. I disrupt them because the little white tab contrasting against the black collar of my shirt is for some a sign of peace and humility. And for others it is a sign of institutional power that is actually not against them or giving fertile soil to White nationalism, but for and with them in their struggle for liberation.
At direct actions, I have been able to serve as a deterrent and physical barrier between Black lives and those who would hurt them. I have been able to speak in White spaces and challenge White authority. I have been able to walk an armed White boogaloo out of a protest. I know this is because I carry so many types of privilege and agency. And I can think of no better use of my privilege or declaration of allyship than to join Black lives in their struggles in the streets of Kansas City.
I’m out of words
At this point, I’ve become convinced that there’s nothing else I can say to further this struggle, but much more I can do. I’m exhausted of conversations where I have to explain why we don’t say all lives matter, or looting, or the white supremacist talking point du jour. So, I’ll be here, doing this, collared and marching.