Three years of seminary was the grand beeping alarm clock to my own racial privilege. Conversation after conversation with friends who eventually became pastors and prophets in Ferguson stirred me from the deep sleep of privilege in which I had mostly abided for three decades of my life.
I’m awake… I’m awake… Of course, I think I’ll never going to fall asleep ever again…
As the days and months continued post-seminary, my eyelids became droopy. Fatigue overcame my mind and my heart. Eventually, my eyes close, and I found myself mostly unsuccessful resisting an idealized dreamland while my sisters and brothers of color are calling out to God for their lives and their well-being.
Like Peter, James and John keeping watch as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, I continue to nod off to sleep. There are days in which I feel like I am spiritually dozing and need the nudging of the Christ to become alert to the reality of so many in our communities.
This nudging comes in the form of news articles posted, first person accounts of injustices posted on Twitter as they are happening, being called out for a sentence or two of “whitesplaining” or hearing a cherished friend’s story of fear and discrimination. #Staywoke in social media is the alarm clock that’s intended to stir me from my sleep, whether I am in a deep slumber or nodding off for a short nap, slipping out of privilege-consciousness for a moment or two.
As a person of racial privilege, I have the freedom to be able to close my eyes for a time-out while my friends of color can’t rest for a moment. They are crying out for their well-being as they are treated unfairly in the workplace, in systems of education and by the powers-that-be. They are wailing as their children are found slain in daylight due to unjust systems.
As people who are white, we have the obligation to stay awake as Jesus has urged us to do – watching and waiting alongside of Jesus and neighbor, knowing that the time is coming for another round of oppression.
In the spirit of reconciliation during this upcoming Holy Week – especially as we reflect on the Mark 14 narrative of Peter, James and John trying to keep awake – I ask God and neighbor for forgiveness as I close my eyes to the injustices in our world. I pray that God will give me the energy, focus, passion, understanding and courage to #staywoke alongside my friends who aren’t gifted the option to rest. And I yearn for a time when those of us who know privilege will keep alert even after the daylight of justice comes.