When the Next Racial Tragedy Happens, What Can You Do?

When the Next Racial Tragedy Happens, What Can You Do?
Posted by Isaac Adams

The following is based on an excerpt from Isaac Adams’s book, “Talking About Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations.” The full book is available on Amazon

“There must be something I can do.” Have you ever felt this way when racial tragedy strikes? Or maybe you feel like you’ve already missed your opportunity to do something.

Sadly, I'm confident we'll continue to have plenty of opportunities because racial tragedies aren't going away. The next viral video of a racial tragedy won't be the first of its kind. And unfortunately, until the Lord returns, I fear it won't be the last. 

As Christians, we know something is wrong in this fallen order. But we also know that racial strife has an expiration date. Until then, what can you do? It's a good question. 

Here are 26 action steps you can take when the next racial tragedy happens. (You'll notice prayer is mentioned... a lot! Hear Isaac Adams lead a prayer himself on our recent podcast episode.) 

  1.  Pray by yourself and with others. Pray for structural change. Pray for individual change. Pray to have the same moral clarity today that you have on past evils like slavery. Pray for the oppressed. Pray for the oppressor. Pray for your enemies, whomever you perceive them to be. However you pray, whatever you pray, just pray. Weep, lament, be angry, and do not sin. Put prayer on your lips. 

    “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12.  

  2. Discern whether it's wise for you to watch the tragedy. I make this point mostly with minorities in mind. My guess is that if you're reading this, especially in the wake of a racial tragedy, you've already seen a viral video or whatever its equivalent would be. But consider if watching future videos of tragedies is wise for you.

    You may feel like you need to watch or rewatch a video, but that's not necessarily true. Doing so may cause you unnecessary depression. Exercise your freedom in Christ. You may be emotionally or spiritually tapped. Not everyone is equally equipped to dive into each tragedy. Pray for wisdom and ask for counsel as to whether watching would be good for you. We don't want to ignore suffering, but neither do we want to immerse our hearts in it. (Proverbs 4:23) 

  3. Pray some more.
  4. Study what happened. If you do decide to look further into the tragedy, read the most credible sources you can on the matter. Don't tweet before you seek information. Take your time in doing this. There's no rush.

  5. Pray some more.
  6. Examine yourself and repent if necessary. One kind of prayer is especially helpful: confession. See if there is any false way, any hatred, any prejudice within you. Confess it to the Lord. Ask the Lord to forgive your hidden faults and your secret sins. (Psalm 19:12 and 98)

  7. Pray some more.
  8. Educate yourself on the topic of race. Before seeking what you can do, study what has been done. That is, do some homework on how we got to this present racial moment. 

  9. Pray some more.
  10. Be okay with not being able to fix everything. Too often we ask, “What can I do?” We're essentially asking, “How can I fix it?” Sometimes, however, the point isn't to fix something but to faithfully endure it. We must groan along with the rest of creation for groaning is inescapable until glory.

    One ugly fact of a fallen world is this: Not everything can be fixed. Nevertheless, we can rest in this truth. Our job is not to completely eradicate the world of racism; it is to faithfully follow the One who will. Vengeance and perfect justice belong to him. He will judge fully and finally. And there will be no miscarriage of justice with his gavel.

    Of course, I'm not saying that we shouldn't seek temporal justice now, however imperfect, but we can rest knowing that perfect justice will, not can or may, but will come.

  11. Pray some more. 
  12. Think about what you can do in your specific calling in life. Are you a pastor? What might this mean for how you speak to your church? Are you a homemaker? How might you teach your kids? All of us have different roles and networks. We will have to think about how to use them. Racism is a monster with many heads and there are many faithful ways to go after it. Not all of us have the same role, and that's okay.

  13. Pray some more.
  14. Regardless of how you feel about a tragedy, reach out to a brother or sister who may be grieving. This step could get messy. And why wouldn't it? After all, love is messy. That said, I think this step is important.

    First, I want to pause and clarify the larger point behind this step. The point isn't to contact someone for the sake of contacting them. I say this, especially for white brothers and sisters who may be wondering when a racial tragedy strikes, “Should I contact that one random friend I haven't spoken to in years?” Maybe? But probably not.

    The point isn't to check a box, then move on in life. Rather, the point is to foster an environment, especially in our churches, where tenderness and sympathy on racial matters is normalized, expected, and valued. Checking in with folks you know and love is a wonderful way to build up that environment. Remember: When one part of the body suffers, all suffer. (1 Corinthians 12:26)

    When you reach out, don't demand a response. Don't ask the person what you can do or ask them to explain what's going on. That means not leading with a general question like, “Hey, how are you doing with this?” Such a question may put pressure on the person to describe the indescribable.

    Note: You'll notice that this suggestion isn't the first action step on this list. That's intentional. It's not because I'm trying to add another rule to a conversation that has so much lore and so little grace. It's not because I expect imperfect people to speak perfectly. It's because taking some of the previous actions will help you to reach out in a more informed, loving way.

  15. Pray some more. 
  16. When a minority tells you about their experience, believe them. That is, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't put them on trial and make them justify their pain, which does nothing but double it. Believe them.

  17. Pray some more.
  18. Keep listening. It's easy to be like Job's friends during tragedies. One way to keep from being like them is to close your mouth. You want to sin less, speak less, and simply listen to that person speaking to you. (Proverbs 10:19)

    The pressure will be on you to say something. Don't give in. Just because you tweet something doesn't mean you care. Just because you don't tweet something doesn't mean you don't. Live before God as your audience. No one else.

  19. Pray some more. 
  20. Support those already doing something instead of reinventing the wheel. See who is already doing something helpful. How can you get behind their efforts? Can you support them financially? Can you support them in prayer? This point helps us to see that we're not in this battle against racism alone. We need not only ask, “What can I do?” but also, “What can we do?” 

  21. Pray some more. 
  22. Get involved locally. One effect of social media is that it makes us want to be omnipresent. But are there flesh and blood people surrounding you whom you can get to know? Whom you can serve regularly? Is there a neighborhood you're tempted to walk or drive by that you could somehow love? Is there a church in that neighborhood you can encourage or support? Is there a local high school or crisis pregnancy center you can help? Let us not be those who are known digitally, but not locally.

  23. Pray some more.
  24. Remember, rest in and keep sharing the gospel. Christians, you have something so many people don't: hope in Christ. We want this world to be as good as it can be. But we know that even if it was, there is still a better world coming. One that lasts forever. One ruled by a king who died to save his people. Share that hope.

  25. Pray some more.
  26. Commit to repeating some combination of these steps. When there is a high-profile racial tragedy in the news, we don't want to be merely reactive to problems, but to proactively cut them off. Brothers and sisters, the next racial tragedy need not catch you flatfooted.

Want to hear more from Isaac Adams? Check out our recent conversation with him on our podcast!

Posted by Isaac Adams

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