My journey as an anti-racist began in 2014.
I spent all of my teenage years growing up in Ferguson, Missouri, a little suburb north of St. Louis, before I moved away to Kansas City for college. A few years later, in 2013, my wife and I moved to a little town in Oklahoma where my wife served as the youth pastor at a local church.
When Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson in August 2014, my home town was propelled into the national spotlight. The insignificant streets I’d driven down a few short years ago now permeated primetime news coverage with images of protests, riots, and burned-out storefronts.
Since I knew the area well, I was not altogether surprised that Ferguson erupted with racial tension. This tension had been building within that community for years, and even in high school, I’d known my Black friends had a much different relationship with local authorities than I did. But I was surprised at how I found myself responding to the stories that arose from the moment.
Twitter was still a small platform then, but it soon became the central information hub for folks on the ground during the Ferguson protests, and I followed their posts intently. Through Twitter and the birth of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, I began to hear stories of racial discrimination that could’ve come straight out of my history books about the Jim Crow South — acts of prejudice that I thought had been abolished in the 1960s. Yet they were still happening, and had been happening right under my nose while I’d remained (mostly) oblivious. The tension I’d sensed in high school was only a fraction of the truth.
My wife and I didn’t know how to respond. We were heartbroken for our home town; we were confused because the world we thought we’d known had been shattered; we were weeping for the Black communities who were being made to feel as if their lives didn’t matter; and we were distraught to discover that many of the same racial prejudices we lamented in society were also present in our own hearts and minds.
We began reading, and we continued listening to the voices of color in our lives. We found the little sphere of influence we had available to us — my wife’s conservative, white, small-town youth group — and had difficult, awkward conversations with them about race in our society.
I’ve learned a lot, and I continue learning. I try to remain teachable and compassionate, sensitive to God’s movement of justice being led by Black pastors, activists, and community leaders.
And I try to encourage others who want to join me on this anti-racist journey. Sometimes this means creating intentional spaces for difficult, respectful online conversations. At other times, it means investing my time and resources into the lives of young people in my community.
Together we hunger and thirst after righteousness. We mourn injustice. And through humility we listen and learn.
Therein is God.