Wednesday, September 27, 2017

the pain of dismissal

Imagine you have a daughter who is the light of your life.

And then comes the day you drop her off at a college two time zones away; you sit in her empty room and feel as though a part of you has been torn off as you stare at fading pop star posters, pictures of high school friends pinned to corkboard and a dresser with a few remaining clothes that were “so last year.”

At 4:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning during her second semester, you get a phone call that shatters your world. In between heaving sobs, your daughter sputters that someone slipped something in her drink at a fraternity party and while in a near stupor, several inebriated frat boys raped her.

The following months are a blur for you.

The university does an internal investigation that finds little leads beyond “he said, she said” and offers in-school counseling, eventually dropping the matter all together. Now moving beyond the fellow student-staring shame, your daughter grows angry at not just the young men who raped her, but a system that bears little semblance to the justice she thought the world should afford. And when she discovers multiple other women who were abused and ignored, she began a grassroots student movement via a website called College Girls Are Important Too.

There is, of course, a counter resistance when the president of the University, who has a son on campus as well, felt the group was creating a divisive spirit and drawing too much attention to an infrequent issue that was finding its way on national news programs. In a press release, he stated the university strongly believes that all college students are important…and suddenly frat houses all over campus began displaying posters that decried in bold red letters: All College Students Are Important.

How dismissed do you think your daughter would feel? How misunderstood, ignored and marginalized in her pain? Of course all students are important, but that wasn’t the point she was making. She needed the university, school officials and the student body to understand there was a critical issue unrecognized and the people in power seemed unfazed and apparently not interested in addressing it at a practical level. She wasn’t placing herself “above” anyone else; she simply wanted a wrong acknowledged. Instead of any simple effort of empathy from the school, she was met with a dismissive counter-slogan that refused to even consider her pain.

And how would you feel as her parent?

That, my friends, is how it would be experienced by the young people who first launched the Black Lives Matter movement. In looking for simple acknowledgement and justice from long, simmering systemic racism with roots in three-hundred years of slavery and a hundred years of Jim Crow laws that shattered family systems, emasculated black men, marginalized black women, and created a shadow system of everyday, subtle discrimination, a plea for recognition was simply dismissed with “All Lives Matter.” And when people with power refuse to empathize or at least listen instead of offering defensive dismissals, we miss out on potentially redemptive and reconciliatory moments. Instead, we retreat to our own resentments.

How does that possibly reflect the One who let go of all power to become the servant of all?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ~Philippians 2:5-7

[I don’t normally blog here, but instead at…though posts there are typically geared toward church leadership.]