NEUTRALITY by Keisha Hill
This week's blog is written by my dear friend, Keisha Hill. The first step in moving forward and being the best for our students is to get honest with ourselves. Keisha's beautifully crafted words demonstrate this for us. However, she takes it a step further because she was willing to be vulnerable and share it with all of you. As Christian educators we must seek to understand and listen to all voices, especially voices of those who are different than us. May Keisha's words inspire you to do your own self-reflection and challenge you to be part of this new and very much needed conversation.
I’ve long erred on the side of playing it safe. It has probably moved me further in life than “taking sides.” Many people long for the fight, the back-and-forth, the arguments; some folks just love to debate! I, however, have enjoyed being Switzerland for far too long.
Many people think of Switzerland as neutral territory. It’s actually a beautiful, mountainous Central European country, where numerous lakes, villages, and high peaks of the Alps are a magnificent sight to behold. Furthermore, almost everyone has heard of Swiss watches and chocolates, which are world renowned. Doesn’t that sound like a place you’d like to visit?
In the past, when foreigners thought of America, they were hypnotized by “the land of the free and home of the brave!” That sounds like a place where I’d like to live, too! Well, actually, I DO live here, and what one sees on the surface is not always the same as what’s underneath. It reminds me of a glacier. You see the large, white top jutting out of the water, but underneath is an extremely large mass—larger than one would expect given solely what the eyes can view. This is how I view America.
As a 40-something African-American woman, the wife of a black man, and mother of three black boys and one daughter, I am witnessing the erosion of that glacier. That glacier has covered up the underbelly of America’s racism, inequities, and systemic issues that have recently hijacked our news, social media, and conversations. The simmering pot of unheard voices, the fullness of hurt, judicial prejudices, and lengthy incarcerations—this pot has boiled over. In the past, I am confident that I would have remained rather silent on the protests, riots, and looting. I would have kept my opinion within my immediate family and inner circle of friends. I would have wanted to share but not have known the right words. Switzerland. Neutrality. Whether driven by fear, judgement, or just lack of knowledge, I would not have shown my inward frustration in an outward manner to my white friends.
Why? White fragility. Challenging the norms. Calling out the wrong. Uprooting systems. Expecting pushback. How might I be viewed? Would my intelligence and assertions that there are issues upset the delicate balance now in place with my Caucasian counterparts? Would they be offended by my word choice and suggestion that I am not happy here in America? ‘Merica. Good ole’ ‘Merica? Did I want to put myself in that position (i.e., to be considered one of them and not one of us)?
Self-reflection is a powerful opportunity to realize who we truly are and who we want to be. As a reader, I am constantly finding new books that will empower me to be my best self. Toward that end, I also engage in frequent devotionals and prayer. It keeps me sane. In light of multiple tragedies involving killings of unarmed black men over the past few years, I now realize that I was born for such a time as this. I recognize that God created me to be light and love. He desires me to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I often joke to my husband that I wish He (God) didn’t have so much faith in me!
In my quest for self-improvement, I stumbled upon an amazing read by Brene’ Brown. In her book, Daring Greatly, she challenges us to have the courage to be vulnerable so that it may transform the way we not only live but also how we parent, how we lead, and how we love. In a chapter entitled “Disruptive Engagement,” she describes my former self to a perfect “T.” She says, “There are times when you can ask questions or challenge ideas, but if you’ve got a teacher that doesn’t like that or the kids in the class make fun of people who do that, it’s bad. I think most of us learn that it’s just best to keep your head down, your mouth shut and your grades high.”
Our leaders are that “teacher,” and their ability to continue the narrative is prevalent. It was such an “awakening” for me when that simmering pot spilled onto the stove and then transitioned on the floor—a full-blown mess! So how do we clean it up? That’s the million-dollar question.
I profess to being open-minded, sharing ideas, and listening to others, but now, in this moment in time, I have chosen to take a stand. I have chosen to be louder than the naysayers and proactively dismantle the current system. I have become comfortable being uncomfortable. I don’t even do this for myself; I consider my children and my children’s children. It is my duty—my RIGHT—to stand strong for injustice when I see it and to amplify my voice without apology. This is who I have become. UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK.
I am but ONE generation away from not drinking from the same water fountain as my white counterparts. I am but ONE generation away from having to sit solely in the balcony during a play or movie. I am but ONE generation away from not using the same bathroom as white women. Yes, in 2020, we are but ONE generation away from a civil rights movement that has permitted us some of the same rights, but we are still miles away from equality.
As we all reel from the chaos of demo-CRAZY (also known as democracy), I urge you to take a step back. Block out all the noise and truly identify the facts from fiction. What narrative, what legacy, what truth will you stand behind? Will you fall back on what’s familiar and comfortable, even if it’s wrong? Will you say nothing (i.e., stay neutral) because that’s easier? Will you dig deep, do your own research, and ask questions? What does your self-reflective process look like? How will you move forward? Will you stand on top of the eroding glacier, only to find yourself sinking?
I am not Switzerland any longer. I will not be silent. Neutrality promotes no change. I am honored to be a bridge for the chasm in our country. I dare to be great.
Thank you, Keisha, for your heartfelt words. May we all heed the words of Peter.
So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. I Peter 1:13
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” I Peter 1:17
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. I Peter 1:22
We are called to action not neutrality. We are called to love not hate. Like it or not, we will all be held accountable (Romans 14:12). May God find us faithful.