Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly {Thoughts on Privilege and Power}

It’s two days after a harrowing attack in our city and we’re trying to come to terms with the shock and the grief.  The city is strong, its response has been measured and calm.  There were bystanders staunching wounds with towels and compressing chests in the hopes of catching a glimpse of vital signs present.

The first responders ran toward the danger and an officer put away his gun and made an arrest without bloodshed or injury – Toronto responded with courage.

Government officials refused to speculate about motive and chose instead to let an investigation unfold, an investigation based on evidence and eye-witness accounts. The motive is still unclear and it doesn’t change the bottom line – someone perpetrated an act of violence against the innocent on our streets.

While our response was heroic and measured it didn’t stop the pundits, particularly those south of the border, they’re having a hey-day trying to link the violence to their rhetoric of hate for those of the Muslim faith.

And the day after the attack the ramifications, the impact of hate-filled rhetoric becomes glaringly obvious and quite frankly, I’m so damn tired of it. 

“Do I look like a terrorist?” 

The question startled me out of my work yesterday and my response was knee-jerk.  In a desire to comfort, to affirm I exclaimed back “Why would you even think that?”

As the question left my mouth I was faced with the glaring reflection of my own privilege and it was an ugly reflection to be sure.

I’ve known him for just a short while, yet in that time he has taught me so much about who I want to become.  He reminds me that darkness exists but never without the absence of hope.  He has taught me that life can be hard and leave you feeling wrung out but yet there is always room for positivity and optimism.

You may not believe me he continues, “but I’ve been pulled over for broken tail-lights that never were more than I care to admit.”

And once again my privilege clogs my throat and I’m silent in my response.  My complicity follows me home and my mind spins with what I wished I had said.

I believe you friend…

I believe you, because I’ve never been stopped by police because of the colour of my skin, or the turban on my head or the burka covering my face.

I believe you, because I’ve never been stared at or had someone clutch their purse or bag a little closer when I’ve entered an elevator or boarded a subway car.

I believe you, because my partner and I can hold hands and hug and kiss in public and not be questioned or criticized for our sexual identity.

I believe you, because I’ve never been shot at or dragged to the ground or asked to leave an establishment because my skin is black

I believe you, because I’ll never be on a no-fly list or questioned at length by customs officers because of the last name written in my passport.

I believe you, because I’ve never had to fight for clean water or decent housing for my children.

I believe you, because I don’t have to beg law enforcement to search for my missing daughter, mother, sister, friend.

I believe you, because I’ve never experienced the judge and jury of the media storm that ties my race, religion and ethnicity to every act of violence that happens in my city, the country, the world.

This list is too short, and that too speaks to my privilege.  But please know this from the bottom of my heart…

… I believe you… 

And it is enough. The hatred, supposition and bigotry is enough.

My own complicity is enough.

Not only do I believe you friend, but I also commit to you that on this day and for every day that follows I will do everything in my power to live a life that  acts justly, loves mercy and walks humbly alongside God AND you, my fellow Image Bearer. 

 


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