It is a weary thing, this racial conciliation monster. If you do not take care, you will find conversations on race, justice, and the like will leave you winded with little energy for the fights that count the most.
How many times will you answer the same question or argue in comment sections? Are you still giving a defense for your righteous outcries against injustice? To pace yourself for the bigger and lasting matters, become more selective about how and who you engage. This has been an essential part of my self-care this past year.
Pick Your Battles
The first things I tailored were the topics I discussed and the questions I answered. There are certain things I no longer talk about. How many times should I explain that many black women experience both invisibility and hyper-visibility at the same time? Is it fair to have to continually break down my whole existential makeup for the sake of education? Touching on these subjects can be an emotional labor and only the speaker is doing the heavy lifting.
A friend and Brooklynite shared a brilliant practice of his with me. He gives out a working list of resources instead of arduous rundowns on being black in America. His list includes documentaries, articles, books, and more. Providing material not only points to sources and experts, but it also sifts between the people who care enough to dig deeper versus those with apathetic, insincere curiosity.
If they truly sympathize and want to learn, let them do the work. Let them share in the heavy lifting. Then when (or if) they return, the conversations may be much more fruitful and edifying.
Pick Your People
I want to preface this by stating I know great men and women who can eloquently debate anyone on matters of race and injustice in the hopes of common understanding. As for me and my household…issa nah. I am unable to go back and forth with certain people. If you want to play devil’s advocate or argue for argument’s sake, I am not the one.
I have come to realize there are some people determined to misunderstand you. You can tell them that the sky is blue, and they’ll ask you what shade. You can tell them that racism is a sin and they’ll have to hold a special meeting within their denomination just so they can concur. Some evangelicals will punch you in the stomach and then ask you to explain your pain. If they don’t agree with your experience, you’ll be dismissed.
Learn to differentiate between the genuine ones seeking knowledge and the willful combatant. In the 2017th year of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no reason for you to still be debating that black people are often treated differently than white people by law enforcement. Especially since there are whole Department of Justice reports on that very issue.
Don’t give your time, breath, and thumbs to just anybody. Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile says something similar in this thread. We see in Luke 20:1-8 that even Jesus knew when he had to reclaim his time from folks with malicious motives. From his example in Matthew 16:1-4, we know there are times when you just got to depart from some spaces.
The past few years, The Witness (formerly Reformed African American Network) has done a lot of pleading with impenetrable slabs of rock. I realized then we were calling for people to be “reconciled” to one another when many haven’t even been reconciled to God.
There are various reasons why Scriptural arguments asserting the Imago Dei in black people do not sway some folks. One reason is because there are people who do not care what God says but still call themselves Christians. The current political climate is a stark and sad example of this.
Pick Your Time
I emotionally checked out around the time of the inauguration. I let the writers and artists and professors run the race while I took an extended water break on the sidelines. This past summer, I realized just how selfish I was being.
Me and some black friends drove around St. Louis during the NAACP driving warning for the city. As the car’s battery died in our ambition to listen to Fred Hammond while eating fro-yo in the parking lot, vulturous police officers circled our group of young, black professionals…4 times! Our only crime is we dared to be black and alive; some people believe you can’t be both. The group of white people nearby were left ignored. How can I remain dormant in such pressing times?
Who will advocate for my friends? Who will help support the sistahs in evangelical spaces who battle bouts of inferiority? Who will help highlight black seminarians in Mississippi who are giving all they got?
Allies, including a kind Korean-American pastor who just gets it, refresh and remind me that all hands on deck are needed in this cause. The day I selfishly check out may be the day they need me the most.
But it is up to me to know the difference. Some days, I absolutely need to pass the baton. Some days, I need to be in the background handing out water instead of being on the bullhorn. Both acts are needed. Both are valuable.
Discern which you will be on any given day, for the sake of your emotional and spiritual capacity and to the aid of your brothers and sisters. Continue having the hard conversations if you’re called to that. Just remember to retreat and care for yourself more than you battle and defend yourself.