“It’s hard but it’s possible.” — How to Break Down Systemic Racism

LaDonna Slade returns to the 4word blog to share from her heart about how we as a society and as fellow Christians can begin to break down the grip of systemic racism.

When I was asked to share my thoughts about the current racial events in our nation, these are the words that flooded to my mind:

“It’s hard to see when the sun is in your eyes. It’s hard to hear when the wind is in your ears. It’s hard to touch when the distance between your reach is six feet. It’s hard to breathe when someone has their knee on your neck. We’ve got to change the way we see, change the way we hear, and change the way we live together, so we can all breathe.”

Growing up in the 1970s, I often heard the adults (especially the men) in my community complain about “The System.” They would say things like, “We’ve got to fight ‘the system,’” or “We’ve got to bring down ‘the system.’” I didn’t fully understand what they meant at the time. It just seemed like people in my community were fighting this invisible entity called “The System.”  However, what I did understand was that it had something to do with “Black Power” and that each time action was taken against that “System” (known today as Systematic Racism), repercussions would impact my community in a fearful way much like what is happening today.  

Throughout my life, I would learn to adapt to the subtle dictates of this “System” and how its invisible boundaries and rules would impact how I lived my life. Think of it like this: when your parents taught you how to cross the street, they would say, “Be careful when you cross the street. Remember to look both ways before you cross, so you don’t get hit by a car and die.” 

As I got older, the rules extended beyond simply crossing the street. My parents would say, “Be careful when you go to that city, that state, that store, that neighborhood, gas station, mall, office building, driving route, concert, etc. because of the color of your skin your life could depend on it.”  Now, these warnings don’t always apply to your physical life; they could also apply to your livelihood.

Imagine life with that type of generational survival mandate, causing adaptation to become an inherited way of life. What’s admirable as well as disheartening is that this adaptation way of living has become so seamless and expected in the African American culture. Have you ever fought for something for so long that you had to adapt your life around that fight? When you are involved in a social injustice fight, you still have to live your day-to-day through that social injustice. Unfortunately, the fight doesn’t go away in a day.  

This may sound strange, but I believe there is a bit of shock in our African American community. Not solely because of the wrongful and senseless death of another black man but the actualized result of it. The fact that an entire world in essence is saying, “I. See. You.” They are saying, “I see you, not just as an entertainer or an athlete, but the underlying truth of who you are and how a system of injustice has been perpetuated for generations against you simply because of the color of your skin.” This type of acknowledgement and action has been hoped for and prayed for but perhaps not fully prepared for. So, I’ve seen the desperate and puzzled look in all of our faces when sincerely asked, “How can I help?” and the response is, “I don’t know.” I believe grace is needed on both sides of this conversation. Everyone is racing to gain their footing in this new economy. 

Today, we are experiencing the global exposure of that “System.” A system where righteousness and justice have become bywords. Unfortunately, this system has also become a subtle mode-of-operation in the churches today. As a woman of Christian faith, I stand tall with a community of like-minded people in the knowledge that the blood of Jesus has secured “righteousness” and “justice” for us through our life in Christ. However, as that same woman of Christian faith yet of African descent in that same community of like-minded people, I can be seen to some as less than all that Jesus died for on the cross simply because of the color of my skin. It is disheartening and it stings.  

I prayed and asked God, “Why is this so hard right now?” I mean, we’ve all experienced times when a fellow believer in Christ (be it a church leader, a brother or sister at church) makes us feel like we don’t belong. Yet we push beyond the external to get to the spiritual as the Bible tells us. So what makes it so hard right now?

I can’t answer that for everyone because just as we say that our relationship with Christ is personal, so is this time. It requires each of us to examine our own hearts and lay it before the Lord. Asking Him to show us the hard truths, even the subtle things that we have unknowingly adapted to accommodate the mode-of-operation of our fellow saints. Doing so with the expectation that righteousness and justice will be sitting on the ready to help your heart make the necessary adjustments.

We are witnessing the expressions of hurt, anger, confusion, pent up frustration, and aggression at levels some have never seen before in this century. I too pray that God will just make it go away sooner than later. However, if we study the acts and ways of God through our relationship with Jesus, we know there are reasons why God allows certain things to happen. I believe there are spiritual truths combined with practical application that will provide the relief we are looking for God to bring. 

We all are seeking how to walk through this “valley of the shadow of death” and come out on the other side better than we were before with righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.  

There are some prevalent voices in Christian leadership today that have resonated with me. They are helping me find footing during this time. I’m not saying all the leaders are perfect and have it all summed up. However, the Word says, “where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counsel there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).  

Here are some words of wisdom from Dr. Tony Evans, Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church of Dallas, TX. He shared five areas of spiritual interaction that can help us begin to break down the system that has influenced what is happening in the culture, today: 

  1. Learn (Personal) – As an individual, you must be malleable in the hands of the Almighty God. Recognize your own need to learn about these issues of systemic injustices, racism and inequity. Read books on the subject, watch documentaries and talk with others who are knowledgeable in these areas. Proverbs 18:15 – The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.  
  2. Transfer – Commit to transferring the values of love and peace to your children. Model for them and teach them to “judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin”, (Martin Luther King Jr quote). Social change starts around the dinner table.  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Proverbs 22:6)
  3. Serve – Connect with a family from a different background than yours. Share with them.  Eat with them. Get to know them. But most importantly, serve someone else with them.  The best way to reconcile is through the shared service of others. (Ephesians 2:14)
  4. Lead – Step up as a leader in your church and lead your church to become a voice of healing and justice. Push your church to speak with one voice to promote unity among all people and to speak out together against forces and actions of evil. (Romans 12:15-18; James 1:27)
  5. Speak – Call on civil leaders at every level to speak words of healing and not of divisiveness.  Commend those who speak peace and unity and condemn messages of strife and disunity.  Call upon civil leaders to make sure out systems are operating with true justice and righteousness. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

I don’t have all of the answers. I’m a lover of Jesus of African descent amongst like-minded people of faith in a world where things are not as heavenly as I would always like them to be. God requires us walk in truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word. These are not simple accessory words but full-body armor to fight in spirit and in truth with righteousness and justice as our flank so that we all may come into the knowledge of the truth of God.

LaDonna Slade has over 20 years management consulting experience in the technology, training and change management industries. She also has experience in the entrepreneurial space, through her consulting firm, Velvet Leaf (www.velvetleafglobal.com). She is a Strategic Advisor, Speaker and Coach. She works with solopreneurs, small businesses and non-profits to organize their businesses to be more productive and profitable.

She also produces pop-up empowerment events to creatively help women understand how to take that next step towards their dreams and goals. (www.tractioninheels.com)