When I was in high school, some of my best friends were Black. My first kiss, my basketball teammates, the girl who beat me out for homecoming queen – all of them Black and dearly loved by me.
When I was in college, I flew across the world to care for and tend to an orphanage full of Black babies. I loved those children hard and deeply. And then I came home and resumed my life.
When I became a nurse, I labored with women of every color. I encouraged every color of mama that ‘yes, she could,’ taught every color of dad or partner how to swaddle, and cheered when babies of every color latched on for the first time. I loved my patients and their families hard. And then I clocked out and spent my days doing whatever if was that I did at the time.
Some may look at my life and say “good for you.” Shamefully, I probably prided myself in those remarks. But weeks into a serious look at my own prejudices, I admit that I too have believed for far too long that I’m doing a good job. That loving someone is enough. That because I love, I don’t have to do anything more.
You too? I think I may not be alone in this. That perhaps this sentiment, that we are doing a good job at showing up for the Black community, that love is enough, stretches out far and wide through the White community. And today, one look around will lead us to quickly realize that while we aren’t wrong to believe in the power and necessity of love, we are wrong in believing that is all that was needed.
I’m going to bet that you, like me, had heard it time and time again, long before the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd, of Eric Garner or Tamir Rice, of Trayvon Martin or Breonna Taylor – that the solution to all of our division starts with love. That the white knuckled fingers of racism that still grip this nation so tightly can be broken with love. That the fix for the pervasive desire to devalue one in order to value another is love.
We hear it from the pulpits. We hear it on the television. We see it on social media. It shows up on the news. Love wins. Choose love. Love first.
They’re not wrong, the people who champion love as the fix to the heartbreak and tragedy we’re seeing play out across our nation. Did you hear me? They are not wrong.
Love is an answer, but it is not the only answer. Love is a starting point, but it is not the ending point.
I know this deeply and intimately today, because I too have believed the truth that love alone is enough. And I too have spent these last week’s acknowledging the hard truth that I spent too many years only responding to the pain and the heartache of the Black community with love – and it is not enough.
Black women are 3x more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than White women. Love is vital to these black women and their families, but so much more must be done to fix this.
Black men in the US receive criminal sentences that are 19% longer than those of White men convicted of the same crimes. Love is vital to these black men and their families, but so much more must be done to fix this.
Black Americans are more likely than White Americans to be arrested, convicted, and receive longer sentences. Love is vital to these black Americans and their families, but so much more must be done to fix this.
The rate at which Black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for White Americans. Love is vital to these black Americans and their families, but so much more must be done to fix this.
Black Americans live daily with the implications of ‘weathering,’ an erosion that occurs on their bodies related to the constant stress that racism and its inherent nuances cause. Love is vital to these black Americans and their families, but so much more must be done to fix this.
Do you see? We must, first and always, start with love. It is necessary, it is vital, it is irreplaceable. But we cannot stop there. Love, agape love, the kind of love so many both inside and outside of faith communities strive to model, compels action. It demands action. It does not rest in the safe place of love being enough, but instead gives sacrificially, wholly, and to the utmost.
Too many of us have been resting in love. We’ve taken that vital first step and then stopped. We’ve allowed ourselves to love and be silent. To watch mamas lose their sons time and time again. To consume tragic news but be unmoved by it. To see men and women be gunned down, for reasons all unclear except that they were Black. To watch a healthcare gap get wider and wider. We owe the Black community an apology.
Perhaps not because we’ve done nothing, but because we haven’t done nearly enough.
We cannot stop at love. Too many of us have stopped there, and now we need only to look around to realize that it isn’t enough. Not even close. We must push past that first step, we must allow love to compel us towards and into the Black community. We must give from our pockets, our time, our privilege. We must champion the Black community, we must raise our children to understand our differences, we must speak up and out, we must grieve when they grieve, we must care about what they care about.
We’ve sat in this starting place for far too long. We must move through love and into action. We must.
It isn’t much –> but here is how I am moving forward right now. Reading or waiting for all the books on this list. Found from Jessica Honegger.