The first rule I had to make on my site months ago (like 9-10 months ago) was because people were calling COVID-19 the China virus. It was wrong then, it’s wrong now. Words matter and so does leadership. It was (and is) blameshifting and racism from top leaders all the way to comments people put on the internet from behind the proverbial computer screen. The rule stated I would delete, ban, and report (sometimes to authorities) any racist comments or messages, unconscious or blatant. Unfortunately, I’ve had to do that quite a bit. I’ve also watched these racist comments go from the extremes to more mainstream thoughts and verbiage, particularly in faith circles. And, I’ve heard stories about hate speech against our Asian American friends when it comes to the pandemic. Then last week happened with the murders. And the racist rhetoric started all over again.
So, this weekend I did what I always do when I need to lament. Lament in the true sense of not merely feeling sad but seeking to understand, weep with those who weep, and listen. I dug in my garden. I needed to dig without my gardening gloves and get dirt under my nails and on my clothes. I needed to sweat and prune and dig.
The bad winter storm we had in Texas a few weeks ago did a number on my flower beds. Some of them I simply cut back because they still had life in the roots (my dad taught me how to check for that). Some of them though needed to be pulled completely. I hesitated in pulling some of them up because usually I can get most things to grow back (learned that from my dad too). But then I decided new life needs to come. And the only way to do that was uproot. Not try to force life where there are no roots. To come to terms with what needs to be uprooted. So I dug them out. And I cried. And I prayed. And I lamented. And did the dirty work of uprooting.
Friends, especially in the white evangelical spaces, we need to uproot what has not had life for a long time when it comes to our neighbors. All our neighbors. The “good old days” that many are yearning for only benefit a privileged few and are costly to others. 2020 highlighted in widescreen form those spaces in ways many of you never saw before. The plants that you are hoping to come back to life are really just dead roots at this point.
I know I’ve already said this before- I want to be more about what I am for than what I am against. What I am learning is to be FOR something usually means you are also against something, typically against what has been normalized but not right. In the context of last week, and really in the past year with calling COVID-19 the China flu, being for our neighbors means we have to be against the racism. All of it. Unconscious, blatant, jokes with your buddies, complicit silence, and leadership verbiage. Being for peace without standing against these forms of non-peace is cheap and fake. It may be a privileged and feel-good peace for a few, but not an equal peace for all.
Real peace opens up good ole days for everyone’s future, not simply a privileged few pasts.
Uprooting is hard work and might require you to change friends and communities. It will definitely require humble soul searching and empathetic listening. But it is necessary and good. And prepares the way for a garden that flourishes for all. This weekend, I uprooted the old plants and replaced with new fresh ones. And prayed for real peace, not cheap peace, and my part toward that work.
My Asian American friends on this site, you are seen. I am so sorry for how your community is grieving. Standing with you and for you.