This week, as protests against police brutality continue across the United States, I've been reflecting on my own complicity in systems of oppression.
I first became familiar with terms like "white privilege" and "colour-blind racism" in university. As an avid hip-hop fan, projects analyzing artists and songs in that genre led me to academic writing that shifted my understanding of race.
Around the same time, I was confronted for the first time by the murder of an unarmed black man when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo. Although this was not the first instance of this type of violence – the legacy of violence against black people is as old as the United States itself – it was the first incident that broke through to me. It awakened me to a reality that I had never experienced and was barely aware of.
Since then, I've tried diligently to educate myself on the topic of racism. I've read works of fiction and non-fiction by Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
For me, the desire to learn about racism and my own privilege as a white man is rooted in my faith. As a Christian, I believe that every single person – regardless of race, religion, nationality, sexual identity, age, political affiliation and past behaviour – is created in the image of God and is loved by Jesus Christ. Because of that, every single person has inherent value and dignity.
I'm ashamed to say, though, that while I have held those beliefs for years, I haven't always had the courage to articulate them. Although I believe black lives matter, I haven't been brave enough to say it out loud.
I'm terribly conflict-averse, and often times, my desire to not rock the boat has trumped my desire to speak out in the face of injustice. I'm ashamed to say that this inclination is often motivated by cowardice.
This week, I've been reminded of a Bible verse found in James 2:17 that says faith that is not accompanied by works is dead. The basic idea is that our actions reflect what we truly believe. If I say that I believe something, but that belief has no bearing on the way I act, then my belief doesn't amount to much.
Silence in the face of injustice is complicity in injustice. My choice to remain silent, therefore, has made me complicit.
The events of the last few weeks have been eye-opening for me. It is time for me to start acting out what I believe.