Proactive Compassion and the Consistent Pursuit of Racial Justice
Emotions are tricky and beautiful things. They let us enjoy and experience life at deep and transformative levels. They move us to give and sacrifice and do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. They’re powerful.
I’ve been thinking about emotions and how they propel us deeper into the work of racial equity, healing and social justice when a big story or video hits the news. I’ve been thinking about how emotions draw us into moments of rich connection with people who are unlike us for the sake of moving towards diverse and relational maturity. We’re almost a year removed from many of the tragedies that compelled me to blog about racial justice last summer (the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to name only two) and I can’t help but wonder if our work for racial justice ends where our emotional attachment to the problem runs out. Do we only move the needle and press for healing when there are huge stories of tragedy filling our social media feeds? Do we keep making space for hard conversations when the marginalized people in our midst stop making noise about their situation? Does our conviction only exist when we’re emotionally and politically stirred to care?
I don’t ask this question to shame anyone. I’m not in the business of shaming, and I understand that we all have lives, families and good work to do. As a friend told me yesterday, “Bethaney, loving your husband well and enjoying your marriage is an act of revolution.” I agree with her. And I am always moving towards having more boundaries in my life to protect my time with my husband and with those I love. But I do ask this question to invite us all to consider what it looks like for us to pursue racial justice and equity not only in the emotional, sensationalized margins of our lives, but with consistency and tenacity in our day-to-day experiences.
Maybe it looks like joining in on the diversity and inclusion work in your corporate office. I assure you that there is a committee of people in your work place who could use extra hands and extra minds to leverage diversity within your company or organization. Maybe it looks like intentionally pursuing a less homogenous sounding board in the development of your team, your discipleship group or in whatever you’re creating. Maybe, in this season of life, it just looks like reading a new book from a perspective that you haven’t considered before, or like making sure that your kids are able to connect with children from a different ethnic background in their play times. It could be a lot of different things.
At the end of the day, pursuing racial healing and equity isn’t just in response to the news. Yes, there is news that compels us to care and mobilizes us for action, but my challenge to you is to be proactive in your compassion, not just reactive. This requires an orientation towards those outside of yourself and your friend group. This requires consistent intentionality. Bridges aren’t built in one day and they aren’t built alone.
For those of you who are already working for racial equity, reconciliation and justice in consistent and intentional ways, this isn’t a plea for you to do more. That's silly and we all need pacing and rest. It’s an encouragement to keep going. The work can be isolating and hard. It takes time to figure out the rhythms of revolution and resistance that work best for you. Just know that the work matters and that there is a community of support for you. Reach out anytime.
In the coming weeks, me and my team will be gearing up for another round of G.Race Dialogues, a community-led intensive workshop designed to build racial equity capacity in compassionate and influential groups and teams. This is one way you can stay engaged in the work. Visit www.gracedialogues.com to sign up for updates.
Much love friends. Talk to you soon.