Some argue that posting ideology to social media is pointless; people are too entrenched in their own thinking for it to make a difference. And that’s probably true for the most part. However, I believe that I am a product of the power of one’s voice on social media platforms.
I remember when the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction back in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown in my own backyard (Ferguson, about 30 min. from where I grew up). It was controversial and hotly debated (witnesses claiming Brown had his hands up in an act of defenselessness while other evidence suggested he was trying to disarm the officer that shot him, putting the officer’s life at risk), and despite acquittal of the officer by the justice system, a damning DOJ report highlighted the rampant racial bias existent in Ferguson’s policing system. To be honest, at that point, I had difficulty getting on board. In my head I was arguing that this was an anomaly; racism’s not that bad. Plus, the details in Michael Brown’s death were muddled.
But you know what I began to see? Lots of strong stances on the matter being posted to social media. Many of them were defending my status quo. But many of them were challenging that narrative. Thankfully, I have some vocal friends, both white and of color (I hope you know who you are; you are appreciated), who painted a different picture, one of racial injustice and a lack of equity both historically and in the present moment. And you know what? Their voices mattered. They worked (on me at least). Not immediately, not right away (lest you accuse me of being too easily swayed), but incrementally, over time, I started weighing the competing voices. What I was challenged with most (including by white folk) was not to listen solely to the rhetoric of white opinion but to instead listen more attentively to those of color who have actually lived these experiences. I began to discover that many of my white brothers and sisters in Christ (including me!) had been dismissive or inattentive to voices of my colored brothers and sisters in Christ.
For me, I had to come to the place of admitting, “You know, I don’t understand these issues. And for a long time I’m not sure I’d have said that I agree. But you are my brother and my sister, my fellow Christian, so if you say these things are happening (and that they’re happening to you and/or people you know), I trust you. I believe you. I’m going to stand with you.” Now, I’m not saying that I can’t or don’t listen to voices outside of the church (I most definitely do), but I was shocked upon examining my own life to discover that I had been choosing to not believe the testimony of the very people I call brothers and sisters of faith. As if it’s not enough that brothers and sisters of color experience injustice, I was part of the culture that was erasing their very experiences.
So now I make sure to listen especially close to Christians of color on these matters, not because white people can’t have their own views (we should!) but because I want to hear from those who have lived these experiences. I try to listen to those of color who are in my own community as well as public Christian figures. I like to follow key voices like author Jemar Tisby, music artist Lecrae, theologian Justo L. Gonzalez, psychologist Dr. Christina Edmonson, theologian Ekemini Uwan, pastor Thabiti Anyabwile (and, as an aside, immerse myself more in the full body of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s works). I know I could list countless others who have been using their voices as platforms to raise awareness about the fallen nature of our world (Why does this surprise us?) and how that fallenness extends to racial inequality. So, once again, let me end this long post with a word of gratitude to those who have used their voices to make a difference. I don’t believe it’s in vain.