BY MICHELLE WILLIAMS, GRACE ATTENDER
As a white Christian, how do you honor Black History Month? The memories I have of observing Black History Month as a white elementary student are flooding back to me as my own 8-year old son brings home his papers displaying the knowledge he’s compiling about the life and dream of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you remember learning about that dream? Do you think we’re living that dream today? I hope and pray that we’re moving closer, but there’s no doubt in my mind—we are not yet truly living that dream. In my mind, Dr. King’s dream would include more white people standing up to demand justice for our black brothers and sisters with the same insistence as if we were demanding it for ourselves. We are just not there, and it’s going to take more of us stepping out of our comfort zones and our own realms of understanding to get there.
That’s why I’m stepping out of my own comfort zone to suggest a self-directed, grown-up version of how white Christians can honor Black History Month. It’s a list of 7 activities that I’ve attempted to organize from “easiest” to “hardest,” which is for sure on purpose. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about spiritual growth, it’s this; when God stretches you, it will indeed feel a little uncomfortable sometimes. Don’t resist it—embrace it, knowing that God is making more room in you for the Holy Spirit.
7 Ways White Christians Can Honor Black History Month
1) Find New Names
Set out on a personal research project to discover the historical achievements of at least 20 black Americans you never heard of during your childhood education. (You’ll get a bit of a headstart if you read Sarah's article from last year!)
2) Makeover Your Daily Feed
Be intentional about adding black perspectives to your “daily feed.” Follow or join Black History groups on your social networks. Subscribe to podcasts or sermon feeds delivered by black pastors or people of faith. Subscribe to email lists that will regularly enhance your opportunity to hear diverse voices in the ongoing conversations regarding racial injustice. Some that I added to my personal feed last year are Pass the Mic, Truth’s Table, and HER with Amena Brown.
Pray for expanded wisdom and understanding. Study and meditate on scriptures such as Hebrews 6:1-12, Mark 4:21-25, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Isaiah 32:1-8, and Proverbs 3:5-7. Earnestly ask God to reveal new truths to you specifically regarding racial injustice, and to show you or teach you the next thing He wants you to learn.
4) Seek New Perspectives
Be sure to complete #3, and then watch a documentary, listen to a podcast, or read a book that was created by a black American in order to share the unique perspective of black Americans regarding racial injustice. Seek the truths and expanded wisdom and understanding you prayed that God would give you.
As I’ve done this myself, a big truth I’ve realized is that racism is not an attitude held by individuals, it’s a system protected by institutions. And we are all currently living in such a system, whether we acknowledge it or not—because the system is actually designed to make us believe that racism is an attitude, not a system! This understanding continues to evolve for me. Just last week in a daily meditation email from the Center for Action and Contemplation, I read, “Be aware that oppression, like the ego, shape-shifts and is hard to pin down. It will always find a new manifestation.” I believe that this is one reason it’s so difficult for many white Americans to see the ways in which the problems they thought were in our past are persisting yet to the present day. If we’re unwilling to listen to other perspectives, we’ll remain blind to the truth that this oppression continues to shape-shift in our midst.
5) Praise God’s Purposeful Diversity
Spend time talking with friends, family, and especially children about the purposefulness of God-designed ethnic diversity. Remember the truth we learned last year during Hope month: It is our unity in love which helps the kingdom grow, but it is our diversity of gifts which makes us strong. You can spark these conversations with kids naturally through diverse books, movies, and other media thoughtfully created for children.
Reflect on your own personal history. Are there ways in which your past behaviors or attitudes have fallen short of the Kingdom-centric notion of growth in unity and strength in diversity? Plan for your future—how will those behaviors and attitudes be transformed through God’s grace from here on out in your life?
I wouldn’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself—and I invite you to read about my deep dive here. Laying out my own brokenness in plain sight for others to examine has been scary, but I believe that God called me to demonstrate the humble posture necessary for us to actually move closer to Dr. King’s dream. It’s one way I’ve committed to taking up my cross so I can even attempt to keep pace with Jesus.
7) Become a Champion of Justice
Go forth as a Champion in your own community. Participate in a diverse discussion group such as our local group, The Listening Table. Seek out discussion panels and public symposiums on race relations. Ask questions and listen to the perspectives of black neighbors in your own community. Encourage other white friends in your circles to go through this process with you. Choose one way in which you can serve as a Champion in God’s Kingdom and work toward healing this broken place of injustice.
And so, my white Christian friends, let’s take the time to truly honor Black History Month this year. But I assure you—if this list takes you longer than a month, you’re doing it right!
To our black Christian friends, there are many of us who eagerly want to hear your perspectives, learn the truths you’ve already lived for so long, and come alongside you in opposition to systems of injustice. What documentaries, podcasts, books, sermons, and other resources would you share with your white neighbors who aspire to join in this important work?
And my final thought is that I wish I could sufficiently apologize for how long it’s taking white Americans to wake up to the real horrors of the despicable injustice against all other races. Your patience and commitment to the nonviolent resistance modeled by our Savior is a living demonstration of God’s grace for all of us. Thank you. Keep knocking—I have hope that more of God’s loving people are beginning to open their doors and hearts.