Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Man, this is so hard to do. It’s even harder to write
about, but I’m going to try.
People are not evil. But sometimes they choose it.
There’s a part of the sermon on the mount in scripture (Lk 6:27-36) where Jesus urges the crowd to “love your enemies” and he gives crazy instructions to do so:
- Do good to those who hate you
- Bless those who curse you
- Pray for those who mistreat you
- If someone slaps you, give them the other cheek
Crazy right?! That sounds like a love I am incapable of. Especially when it comes to issues of race.
And let’s be real guys. As an Afro-Latina woman, I am tired.
I’m tired of being stereotyped, mansplained, overlooked, ignored, disrespected, yelled at, discriminated against, fetishized, disempowered and humiliated all by people who don’t look like me.
Nobody ever wants to sit and figure out who their enemies are, it’s an awkward thing to do really. But given the context of my past, present, and predictable future, I’ve been made out to be ostracized and reminded daily that my kind doesn’t belong here. And that message layers up over time.
To folks who won’t sit in the tension:
-Your apathy is slapping me.
-Your ignorance is mistreating me.
-Your comfort is cursing me.
-Your avoidance is hating me.
Your choice of racism and denying my existence so that you don’t have to have hard conversations is literally killing me.
BUT Jesus beckons me to forgive you.
He beckons me to be your friend.
To give you a second chance.
To hold your hand through this messy thing called racism.
Me trying to love my enemies has looked like pain. It’s looked like teaching a crossing cultures class to 20 white folk, only to have 2 believe in the plight of racism and oppression.
Trying to love my enemies has looked like walking alongside white friends while they process their privilege only to be let down by their choice to avoid advocacy.
Like I said earlier, people are not evil. But sometimes they choose it. This makes my enemies harder to identify but it keeps me engaged in the hard work of reconciliation.
As of now, a few of my friends currently remain, and they are aware of my daily, microaggressions, racial inequalities and are doing the hard work with me to rebuild trust. When I see them choose to enter into my pain and suffering, and the struggle of people of color, I celebrate them, because I know they don’t have to.
In the intro to her book The Bread of Resistance Donna Barber writes this:
“Days are sometimes wrought with emotional cuts and bruises, and relationships are often strained or lost. Patience is tested. Courage is tried. Yet love must remain both method and goal.”
This is my ongoing struggle with loving my enemies.
As I was explaining to a friend the other day, if God’s plan is to reconcile us all to himself, can’t he just do the hard work of bringing people of color and white folk back together again? If we all have something to bring to the table, can’t HE be the one to deal with the messiness of racism and all that it comes with?
For some of us, this tension doesn’t just include best friends, but also co-workers, family members, even parents. The kind of people we do life with every day.
To my fellow folks of color dealing with this tension in their own context here is what I do:
1. Take time to pray- for your enemy's healing and yourself.Your feelings and experiences are valid.
2. Seek a professional counselor - It’s easy to numb racists experiences because they happen so frequently. But our thoughts, values, and mental health matters. It’s okay to have Jesus and a counselor too.
3. Challenge your white friends - For your safety and for the safety of others. ;)
4. Cling to Jesus - Though His teachings are hard, they’re worth following.
With those feelings in mind, I still acknowledge my understanding from scripture as this:
That our God is a God of Justice, who will wipe away every tear one day. He is a God of Healing who longs to see the world restored back to himself and made whole again. And in the story of the Gospel, His son’s is the only one I know where the Hero dies for the Villain.
So, maybe, that’s the recipe for reconciliation.
In the midst of this unjust, racist society that leaves me, as a woman of color, feeling tainted and discouraged, maybe this is why I should continue to love my enemies.