The past few days have been eye-opening for all Americans. Hearts are broken, spirits are low, and fear and frustration is at an all-time high. Where do we go from here? We asked our 4word women for their words, and today we are proud to share Nicole Dickens‘ impassioned words with you.
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
We, the Church, are called to a higher standard. We are called to a higher standard because of the Standard Bearer to whom we all have to give an account. That higher standard is unconditional in the sense that it’s to be displayed in all our ways: everywhere we exist, have influence, live and breathe. It’s not selective; when we feel like it; when we know better; when we choose it. The standard is the standard—period. Falling short of that standard for any reason requires repentance. As Christians, we know this, too. Yet repentance seems to be the hardest thing for us to do, even though there’s a tremendous reward on the other side of it.
I could bore you, frighten you, sicken you with details of my own stories of discrimination and injustice, opportunities stolen, relationships lost, and edifices destroyed, but I won’t do that today. Largely because many of the people involved, from both within and outside the church, are still walking around and I need to let Jesus get a word in edgewise. This is grace practically applied. Grace that African Americans have shown for about 400 years to these shores. It’s our legacy and gift to America.
I know what it feels like to be over-policed while trying to just gather in the same public spaces for which my taxes pay, of being overlooked by people when I stand towering over most of humanity (I’m pretty tall), or hushed by people because the truth I wanted to convey was too inconvenient to be heard. I’ve been accused of evil while shopping, accused of evil while parking, accused of evil while being silent, and accused of evil while being absent. Even my breathing seems to offend.
This, however, is probably the most inconvenient truth: YOU KNOW HOW THIS FEELS because the only thing I’ve described here is what it really feels like to be rejected. This rejection is probably not constant for you, laced in every sphere of society and ever present before your waking eyes (and sometimes even in your sleep). The rejection you have experienced may not be the kind that causes you to tense when the police show up instead of relax, or have to have conversations with your kids about how to deescalate things when they are encountered by law enforcement, because you know, in fact, that they WILL be encountered by law enforcement at some point in their lives.
This kind of rejection in the form of racism actually robbed me and so many black youth of our innocence as our parents had to teach us at a very early age how to protect ourselves because they valued our lives over the luxury of our innocence. Those are the kinds of choices we have had to make.
For you, rejection may not be so perpetual that you’re constantly on guard the moment you walk out of your door because you just don’t know what shape it’s going to take today. Will you be stalked or even stopped in the grocery store by security, ignored by passersby when you need help? Will you have to be your own advocate at the doctor’s office to ensure you actually get equal care when you’re not well? Will you have to “school” someone who was outright rude to your niece because the perpetrator’s underlying belief is that she really doesn’t matter anyway? You don’t know if today is the day that your friend denies you in your hour of need to protect her own neck, preserve her own comfort zone and ease because to call out the racism that was just exposed would cost her too much. You may not have to guard yourself in places that should be a sanctuary for you, places that should be SAFE for you to lay your burdens down. You DO know, however, how it feels to be rejected—just not necessarily over an entire lifetime in almost every sphere in which you move.
This beast called racism, which is just another fancy word for “rejection without cause,” is an institution wedged down deep in the heart of America. It’s been the crux of our nation’s double-mindedness since 1776, real tares in the midst of wheat. We now have a system that’s bent from the root upward and it will take massive change to weed it out, change that will have to be voted out, bought out, and allowed to die out. I accept this.
You also know what it feels like to be left out and left behind. Acting from a place of empathy is how you become a part of the solution instead of the problem. Know that you have already been equipped to enact justice on the earth. All authority has already been given to us because Jesus’ Plan A has always been the Church.
You are the Church. I am the Church. Together, WE are the Church. So, let’s BE the Church and enact righteousness in the earth. How? By fixing broken things, by restoring what was lost and stolen, and by taking up the ministry of reconciliation as a collective act of repentance.
Don’t expect it to be easy, because Jesus promised us it wouldn’t be. It will be messy, and it will cost you something because the Kingdom costs you everything. What you have is just filthy rags and broken cisterns anyway. What you will end up with, however, is far superior and incorruptible. He promised!
So, let’s clean up this mess together.
Nicole M. Dickens has Fortune 100 and startup management experience in strategic planning and analysis, new product introductions, business/organizational development and financial management. She has developed high functioning teams in both spin-off and merger environments, and successfully executed the implementation of business process and controls. She also consults in developing nations to help SMBs grow as a means of dealing with poverty and unemployment within these nations. She has teamed up with other colleagues to develop various products and services around helping people live authentic, impactful lives in the marketplace that is consistent with their belief systems. She has also held various positions on the boards of nonprofits, including Board Chair. Nicole received an MBA from the Ross School at the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Commerce from the McIntire School at the University of Virginia. She is currently the founder of Zoetica, Inc., a company seeking to help entrepreneurs bring new ideas to life and is on the managing team of Passion Talks, International.