There was a day when we would cross stitch sweet sayings or scriptures and frame them or make them into pillows. (I’ve also done wheat weaving in case you need further evidence of my age and regional placement.) Now we might paint on pallets or create a quip in an app to post our favorites.
Perhaps you kept up with the “nevertheless, she persisted” happenings in the Senate a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a brief synopsis if you’d like one:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (white Democratic woman) attempted to read a letter into record of the Senate on Feb. 7 that Coretta Scott King, the widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote 30 years ago opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. (Sessions was being considered for our United States Attorney General appointment.) Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked Rule 19 to block Sen. Warren from further reading the letter because it spoke poorly against a fellow senator. She had to be quiet during the rest of the session. Later Sen McConnell said, "Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." (Sessions is now the Attorney General.)
The "nevertheless, she persisted" statement, coupled with the fact that two of Warren's male counterparts read from the letter uninterrupted earlier in the process, instantly struck a chord with many. “Hey now! Why was she silenced when those guys weren't?!” Hashtags flew, t-shirts were made, etsy creations were listed and tattoos were inked. I’m betting some pallets were painted upon.
A wise friend and Professor of History in Illinois, Jenny Barker-Devine, posted this reflection on the Rule 19 explanation: “We focus on the ‘nevertheless she persisted,’ part of Mitch McConnell's comments, but I keep going back to ‘She was given an explanation.’ That's the heart of it. Most of us don't persist, but we remember vividly the moments of explanation.”
This, my friends, is what has been working the edges of my mind for a couple of weeks. In only a few instances do I vividly remember moments of explanation. I'm betting that I've been given more than a few because I'm a rather liberal type of gal and have been since my earliest memories; but, I was also a rule follower and have respected people in authority. I probably haven’t questioned when I’ve been given The Explanation! I bet I just accepted and moved on. Not good.
Here’s the worst realization: I’ve probably given The Explanation! For the same reasons that I’ve accepted The Explanation without question, I’ve probably given it because I’ve valued order... even when cultural norms and biases were unjust. I’ve probably felt like I’ve had the authority and right to do so. Lord, have mercy… Jesus had a lot to say about stuff like this and still I’ve been slothing along with blinders in place. shoosh
Perhaps you can relate?
We can know in our heads that human nature, the way our minds work, slant us to want the comfortable, expected, ordered in life, but that doesn’t make it okay.
What would happen if we human thinkers let ourselves be uncomfortable more often, I wonder? Would we be able to recognize when we are being given or are giving The Explanation? Would we be able to pause and think about what really is more attuned with God’s way than our own comfortable ways?
On Thursday I was able to work alongside Jaliyah Brown, a senior at Kansas State University in Apparel Marketing. One of Jaliyah’s interest is marketing through social media and she took time to patiently school me in Instagram and Snapchat. As I was hunched over my phone looking at her Instagram account I noticed “black girl magic” with some little yellow diamond thingies in her description. I had been asking all kinds of 40 year old ignorant social media questions for over an hour, so this felt no different. I looked up at her and asked, “What is black girl magic? I mean, why is it black? Is it an actual thing?” I swear that I was just that awkward. In my head what I was asking was if it was a titled movement among black women. (I’m white, in case that hasn’t been made obvious.) Jaliyah giggled. I understood that it wasn't a formal movement and bent back over my screen to continue asking questions about social media. (“Why is the snapchat logo a white Shrek head, anyway? Oh, it’s a ghost?”)
During my drive home I thought back over the day and realized only then that I might have sounded like I didn’t know why Jaliyah had noted the color of her skin. Later we texted a bit and though I was still very awkward, she graciously responded that she understood what I had meant and was just glad I asked. She wisely noted that some people just put their own assumptions on things they aren’t familiar with and that isn’t good… and that she is always open to answer questions. What a wonderful response.
It’s a little thing, this exchange, but I swear that these are the awkward moments that help me recognize my blind spots. I pray these moments help me see The Explanations more often for what they are. Perhaps you share in this prayer.
It would be awesome to be conditioned to think more about how and why we think the way we do. The world would be more just; there would be less poverty.
This is why we have such a lengthy post from a Fair Trade company, by the way. For instance, I don’t think we would buy half of the big box store clothes we buy if we would think about the conditions in the sweatshops that the people endured making the clothing. We would buy fairly traded clothing and take care of it so it would stay beautiful for a long time. The planet would be better off too for that matter. With thoughtfulness, we make better decisions all the way around.
Here’s to always becoming more informed, thinking, being less comfortable and aligning ourselves with what is just for the good of everyone and everything. May it be so.
...and now I need to try to remember how Jaliyah taught me to post this to twitter...