How to Engage in Conversations about Race with your Black Friends

How to Engage in Conversations about Race with your Black Friends

By Taylore Miller

How?

Just do it!

Seriously.

As a black woman, during this time in our history when conversations about racial reconciliation and social justice have risen to the surface, I have been blessed by my white friends who have reached out to me, sent me care packages, written me letters, and asked questions about working towards racial reconciliation. A common theme that runs throughout the messages that I have received is this line: “I don’t know what to say, but I didn’t want to be silent.” When considering what to say or what to ask your black friends in conversations about race, don’t try to be eloquent or find the perfect words. Like any hard conversation, lead with love, empathy, and a desire to stand with your friend in solidarity, and your heart for your friend will show. If necessary, start your text or phone call by saying, “I don’t know what to say but…” then go on to say all of the things that are running through your mind. Then, sit and listen to your friend, learning from their experience and hurt.

Here are a few of the texts that I have received from white brothers and sisters in Christ as examples:

  • “I’m aching in prayer today on your behalf. Asking for the Lord to hold you. Sent you something on Venmo & hope you can get some coffee or dessert & find rest today. Love you. Standing next to you.”
  • “Hey you. I just don’t have the words and probably never will and I don’t want to get bogged down by being eloquent but I just wanted you to know that I hate what’s going on, I support you, I want to learn, and I love you a whole lot.”
  • “I love you deeply. I am for you and for all people of color. I am sorry. I am praying. I am mourning. I am listening. I am learning. I am processing. I am sitting in uncomfortableness. I am moving toward growth and deep repentance. I am discovering how to best use my voice, privilege, and responsibility as a daughter of God and as a citizen of the United States. I am striving for better - demanding for better - in both myself, my family, my community, and our society. I am ashamed I did not say anything sooner, please forgive me.”
  • “Just wanted to say I love you and it hurts me that you have to go through racism like that when you’ve done nothing to warrant that hate. I’m not sure what to say but you’re such a kind person and I’m here for you.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” It’s okay if your words are not perfect, so long as they are present.

Jesus Himself teaches us that we should both speak up against racism and confront it with our actions. Though many of us may be familiar with the relationship between the Jewish people and the Samaritans of Jesus’s day, it is worth repeating here the lessons and examples that Jesus presented to us in the Gospels of Luke and John.

The nation of Israel was divided into two parts: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The Samaritans were half-Jew and half-Gentile, and they lived in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. The Samaritans and Jewish people were enemies because of deep-seated prejudices rooted in history. So, imagine the utter shock of the Jewish teachers when Jesus chose a Samaritan as the hero of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)! Jesus described the Samaritan in the story as the one willing to go above and beyond in showing mercy to a neighbor in need, thus loving his neighbor as himself. Who was his neighbor? It is likely that the man who the Samaritan helped was a Jewish man. In using the Samaritan as an example, Jesus called the Jewish teachers to confront their racism and change the way that they thought about the Samaritans: those who they had sworn as enemies could be the very people who would stop to have mercy on them if they were dying on the side of the road.

On another occasion, Jesus was leaving Judea to go to Galilee (John 4:3). On His journey, He passed through Samaria, not showing any hesitation or reluctance in doing so. When He got to a town in Samaria, He was tired from the journey so He sat down by a well, around noon. When a Samaritan woman approached the well, He asked her for a drink of water. She was shocked! She asked, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” The woman pointed out not only the racial difference between her and Jesus, but she also pointed out the gender difference between them. There is no way that Jesus should have been talking to her! A typical Jewish man would have despised her not only because she was a Samaritan but also because she was a woman. But, not Jesus. He interacted with the woman and revealed Himself to her as the Messiah (John 4:26). Many Samaritans went on to believe in Jesus because of this woman’s testimony (John 4:39) and because of the time that they spent with Jesus themselves, over a period of two days (John 4:40-42).

Lastly, before Jesus left earth to ascend to the right hand of the Father, He sent His disciples out to preach the gospel to the nations. He named Samaria specifically as a place that He desired for them to go: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

So, what does this all mean? In a conversation about racial reconciliation and the work that follows, Jesus is essential. He is the only Way to sustainable racial reconciliation because all human-made barriers fall at His name (Ephesians 2:14-16). Jesus calls us to unity as believers. In His prayer in John 17, He prayed, “The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are One” (John 17:22). Jesus sent His Spirit, the Spirit of the Son, to dwell within us. The Spirit of peace within us helps us to maintain unity with one another. Paul said these words in a different -and more eloquent- way when he told the church at Ephesus to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We are not creating unity by making every effort to be at peace with each other. Rather, we are maintaining the natural unity of the Spirit - the Spirit Who eternally lives in mutual harmony and love with the Father and the Son. We point to the harmonious unity of the Triune God when we display loving unity in our diverse communities.

"Jesus is essential. He is the only Way to sustainable racial reconciliation because all human-made barriers fall at His name."

To close, Revelation 7:9-10 reads, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

One day, we will all stand before the throne of the Father and the Son, united by the Spirit of peace. May we cling in hope to this day when love will be the air we breathe and the language we speak before the Presence of the Father and the Son. Until then, I’m praying that we would link arms as brothers and sisters in Christ as we work to make it on earth as it is in heaven. 

 

Taylore Miller is an editor on the EPIC curriculum team, a senior Religion major at Samford University and a central defender for the Bulldogs soccer team. She is passionate about mental health and hopes to be the full-time counselor on a church's staff one day.

 

References:

Article: “Martin Luther King, Jr.” | History.com Editors
https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/martin-luther-king-jr

Article: “History of Samaria” | Jack Zavada
https://www.learnreligions.com/history-of-samaria-4062174

Article: “Who Were the Samaritans?” | Don Stewart
https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_1319.cfm

Article: “Understanding the Good Samaritan Parable” | Biblical Archaeology Society Staff
https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/archaeology-today/archaeologists-biblical-scholars-works/understanding-the-good-samaritan-parable/


6 comments

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  • Estic Rollings

    You are a phenomenal young lady, and we are immensely proud of you and all of your endeavors.
    Thanks for sharing. The blog was well -written, informative, and
    thought provoking.
    BE BLESSED!

  • Estic Rollings

    You are a phenomenal young lady, and we are immensely proud of you and all of your endeavors.
    Thanks for sharing. The blog was well -written, informative, and
    thought provoking.
    BE BLESSED!

  • Estic Rollings

    You are a phenomenal young lady, and we are immensely proud of you and all of your endeavors.
    Thanks for sharing. The blog was well -written, informative, and
    thought provoking.
    BE BLESSED!


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