The quickest way to a person’s heart is often through their ears.
This is a good lesson for a columnist like myself, who is rarely short on words, in the wake of a tragedy like the Eric Garner decision. I started searching for the right words since it was announced that the police offer who choked Garner to death would not be indicted. “Just wait a few days,” I told myself Wednesday night, “and the words will eventually come.” Well it’s Friday, and my dictionary’s pages are still blank.
In one sense, I don’t have to speak in such a moment because Garner has already said enough. His final pleas fell on the deaf ears of those who claimed to be his protectors: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
But perhaps this isn’t the time for me–and other white Christians–to speak. Maybe we should listen instead. To people of color. To our brothers and sisters. To those who’ve been trying to tell us that there is a problem in this country. To those who know what it feels like to be Eric Garner. To those who know what it means to be black. That’s why I reached out to a few friends whose voices need to be listened to–John Perkins, Derwin Grey, Trillia Newbell, Lisa Sharon Harper, Efrem Smith, Trip Lee, Leroy Barber, Charles Blake, Amena Brown, and Leonce Crump.
To borrow from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), “it’s high time we start listening to our African American brothers and sisters in this country when they tell us they are experiencing a problem.”
Their voices ring out today. May we have ears to hear, even as we repent for so many years of tone-deafness.