This is the first of a series of blog posts on healing racism. I am not sure how many posts there will be, but after a couple of weeks of God putting this task in my heart, I will trust and start writing what the Holy Spirit brings to my mind and heart.
As I start to write this first post, I am very aware that as a white male I am most likely the last person that should be writing these posts. The color of my skin and my economic stability give me the comfort of knowing that I can walk anyplace I want to without causing discomfort or concern for people, and most likely cause me to be part of the ongoing problem of racism.
The last two weeks have been very hard on us here in Minnesota and for me personally it has caused a great deal of turmoil and concern for our wonderful state. I have needed a week to decompress and come back to a peaceful center, but truthfully it is a center that has moved. In praying about the situation it has been made clear to me that I need to shut up and LISTEN. Like any human, I have my opinions and as an engineer, I am quick to offer solutions that I am sure will “fix the problem”.
During my career at 3M, I lead the team that wrote software for large format printing for sides of buses, trucks, and buildings. When the team was tasked with redesigning the software interface of our software we set about spending many months meeting, mocking up, designing, and coding what we were sure would be the perfect solution for the graphic designers that used our software. We were certain that what we were creating would be a great help in making their jobs easier and more efficient. Once we had an operational mockup, a visit to a major customer here in the Twins Cities was set up to show their graphic designers our new software concept. We demonstrated our new and “wonderful” software for them. After the demonstration was over, one of the designers politely said “what is that crap?”. She then offered to show us how she did her job. While she showed us how she worked she offered comments on what her pain points were and what we might be able to do in our software to help her. Being able to listen to somebody that had experience with the problems and issues we needed to address helped us to redesign the software to make it work well for our customers.
As we look to the future on how to move forward in ending racism I believe the same thing is true. We need to listen to those that have been victims of racism and have them tell us what would be the best path forward so that we can help create solutions that will work and last.
Last week I was emotionally struck by the example Governor Tim Walz set. When there was a peaceful protest on the street in front of the Governor’s mansion with people telling their stories about police brutality he simply walked out the front door and went to the back of the crowd to listen to what the speakers were saying. No big production, no security clearing a path, and no press circus. He simply wanted to listen to the stories that people had to tell. The next day he visited the site of George Floyd’s death at 38th and Chicago. Again there was no announcement to the press or security clearing people away. He simply wanted to be at the site, pay respects, and to talk one on one to the people that were there to hear their stories.
I believe that as people of God we are called to listen to the stories of those that are oppressed and to honor those stories as sacred. Jesus in the Gospels engages people one on one many times and talks to them and listens to them. It is in listening that we hear the voice of God and that the path forward to the Kingdom of God on earth becomes clear.
Peace, blessings, and prayers