Black Lives Matter is all over our news space again. Here in the UK at protests over the weekend, a prominent statue of a slave trader in Bristol was pulled down and thrown into the harbour. Thousands have ignored social distancing and have come together to cry out for change. The tensions are overwhelming. It’s all a mess.
I thought I had it all figured out. Until I began talking to people. I had an incredible conversation with a very good friend who was raised in America, and has been on the wrong side of the law over there. He was calling for people to stop protesting something they just don’t understand, and challenged what I thought I knew about everything to do with the police brutality scandals. He is black, and hadn’t said anything I had expected him to, quite the opposite. I realised I knew nothing, I just thought I did from the limited information I had. I need to listen, and learn. A lot.
Some of my friends are outraged that people have broken our social distancing regulations to protest – what about the risk? Don’t they know BAME people are more at risk from Covid-19? Others of my friends are outraged that more people haven’t gone out to protest – what about the bigger picture? Don’t they know lives are at risk from racism too? I thought I knew where I stood, and now I have no idea.
Going back to the statue in Bristol. For over 40 years people have been campaigning to take it down. 40 years, this symbol of the slave trade and the richness of those profiting from it has stood challenged, yet the challenge ignored. Is it any wonder things have come to a head and people have taken matters into their own hands? One thing we as a human race are not wonderfully good at is patience. But then is it ever right to resort to violence in protest? Was this a peaceful protest act or a violent one? Both could be argued, and I’m just not sure.
However if I’ve learned one big thing about God in my lifetime, it is that Their timing is always the best, Their guidance is always to be trusted and Their counsel is true. Right now, I don’t know what to say, write, do. I pray, and I feel guided just to keep on praying, keep on listening, learning, keep on being. It is not my time yet. It is not my place to do, but it is my place to witness. To intercede. To acknowledge it is ok not to have all the answers because God does, so I just need to keep my faith in Them and all will be well.
So I see the pain of those affected by police brutality. I see the pain of those living in a society which inherently places the value of tradition over the value of their lives. I see the pain of those who want to stand up but feel they can’t, and the pain of those who do stand up and get criticised. So much pain, and I don’t want to add to it through ignorance. I just don’t know enough yet, and I’m not afraid to admit that. It is not my place to act but I will witness.
A friend of mine who lives in Bristol shared this morning they are already talking about what to replace the statue with, as the plinth stands empty. I say leave it. It’s uncomfortable, unsightly, a reminder of what was there but is no longer. Good! Let’s get more comfortable with talking about difficult things. Let’s get better at learning when to act and when to witness. Let’s consider together with all stakeholders how best to move forward. We may think we know what the response of others will be, but until we have that conversation, we know nothing at all.
Peace be with you.