Today, I’m raising my voice for black lives—here is why I haven’t before and why I do now.
Let’s start with personality.
Some students think I’m an enneagram 8, the Challenger.
I’m not. I’m a 1, the Reformer (I prefer “Reformer” to “Perfectionist” because I like to deny my ugly truth).
Since I’m a strong, bold, teacher, my students think I love a challenge, so I must be an 8, the Challenger. I don’t. I hate conflict. Just because I don’t flee conflict doesn’t mean I like it.
I’m comfortable using my voice for justice for women. Becoming comfortable with my voice has been a journey, though, and I’m still conciliatory in my words and actions. You see, I have an inner critic named Gertrude who’s always telling me I’m wrong. If a person I care about agrees with Gertrude, I ruminate on what I said or wrote while I should sleep. So, I may remain silent on issues to avoid the disagreeing voices.
IN MY JOB
I was a controversial hire at Nyack College so I chose to put my head down and do a good job.
But I always knew whether people thought I should teach Bible to men. They were vocal; they praised Nyack for hiring me. Others were silent and disapproving. And then, there were the vocal opposers. I don’t like that my profession can be controversial and cause conflict.
Nyack is the most ethnically diverse Christian college in the nation, and one of the most diverse ones overall. I supposed that my love for my job working with and teaching people who look differently from me was sufficient to show my support for diversity. But my silence in the face of injustice towards people of color makes me appear just like those who responded to my hiring with silence. So, now I choose to use my voice. my white privilege to speak against injustice.
#RepresentationMatters. After seeing me teach Bible, female students became Bible majors. They didn’t know that women could teach Bible because they never saw it.
In my classes, I actively assign books by people of color and women for two reasons. First, our theology is better when we listen to diverse voices. Second, it shows my students that there are academic opportunities for people who look like them. InterVarsity Press helps highlight these books with their #ReadWomen and #DiversityMatters pages. I must use my access to an audience to empower black voices.
I’m ashamed to confess I’ve been teaching an intro to theology without including the topic of justice. So I intend to do more for this fall. My Christian Thought class will read about the theology of justice.
IN MY WRITING
I described a hallway of historical women of faith for a conference. The feedback from friends of color showed me that my familiarity with Christian history is Western European. I’m grateful that bringing women of color into the piece expanded my knowledge by shedding light on my blind spots.
I recently previewed a book on an important theological topic authored by a white man. All the endorsers for the book were also white men. If those who like our work look just like us, what does that mean? I will seek feedback and endorsements from diverse people of color because their perspective matters.
IN MY HOME
My two sons bear the surname Abdallah, and their first names are not English words. For some, “Abdallah” may mean terrorist. I worry that my boys will be profiled because of that. But I don’t worry about their lives. I don’t worry that those who are supposed to protect them might turn on them because of their skin color. I must use my voice to lift up mothers’ voices that are worried for their sons’ lives because of the color of their skin.
When I look at my students, I look at them as individuals who are different from one another. I think my five-year-old does the same in his racially diverse classroom. The school district sent out a book list and I hope this site on raising race conscious kids will help me. I am commited to helping my boys understand injustice and the need for justice.
I recognize my privilege.
I write this blog because I want to acknowledge the many injustices faced by the black community. I write it for my students; I write it for my friends; I write it for my family. I also write it for myself so that I will follow through on my intentions.
May God move us toward a compassionate, equitable and safe society!