Why the outrage now? And what can we do next?

By now, you’ve heard Trump’s latest scandal. His words led me to make the image below and post it – along with my personal story of sexual assault – on Facebook. And then I took a Xanax, because his words plus my own PTSD created a physiological anxiety that couldn’t be quelled without pharmaceutical help.

That post been shared thousands of times now, and I’ve had to ban nearly 100 people from my author page for horribly disrespectful comments, most in defense of Trump. Let me repeat that: After I shared a painfully vulnerable history, a variety of Trump supporters chose to argue against my experience and, in a couple dozen of those comments, personally insult me.

I’m not shocked, though I wish I were. But I am confused, not by the comments but by the newly found outrage about Trump’s most recently released misogyny. Where was this before now?

Trump has said other terrible things about women, both in recent news breaks and older stories. In fact, a rape case against Trump – with a 13 year old victim – goes to court in December. So why the new outrage now? Why are the numbers rising of Republicans and Christians denouncing him?

I’m thankful for the Christians who had already said no way to Trump. I signed this statement. I said no to him from the beginning. I stand by that. I still do. (And I think it’s noteworthy that the signatories on that statement are more diverse on many counts, including gender and race, than those often seen in evangelical leadership, but I’ll get to more on that in a moment.)

This week Beth Moore spoke out. I thanked her. Russell Moore continued to speak out. I thanked him again, having done so in person previously. Others are joining them, while some – like Franklin Graham and James Dobson and Eric Metaxas – have sunk in their heels. (I’ll gladly update this post if any of those back down; Metaxas has deleted his initial tweet dismissing the latest scandalous words from the candidate he’s endorsed, so I'm hopeful.)

And then Wayne Grudem, who endorsed Trump as the moral choice for president, took back those words. He admitted,

Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right. I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump.

I am thankful Grudem has withdrawn his support. I’m even more thankful that he admitted he should have done more research before his prior endorsement. He could have retreated from his previous stance with less humility than that.

But? Many sound responses to Grudem’s piece existed well before this week. (The seven I’m linking here are just a few.) Grudem had the opportunity to right his wrong. And he didn’t. Not until now. Why? I’m glad we’re finally collectively saying, “That’s enough,” but why wait so long, after evangelical support for Trump has already tarnished our reputation?

Why is this our breaking point?

Here’s the main difference I see: now the people targeted by Trump's words have my fair skin. These Christian leaders look like me or my husband. In other words, they’re white. They keep talking about their wives or sisters or daughters, who are also white. Now that white women are being debased with his verbal abuse, we relate. We care. We empathize.

In other words, this time we consider the victims of his hate speech and his sexual assaults to be our neighbors, because they look like us. (And, yes, sexual assaults. That is, after all, what his words described.)

Those who he’s previously insulted and verbally defiled – Mexicans and other Latinos. People of color. Those with disabilities. Muslims. Refugees. – don’t look like us or our daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers. And so? Because we’ve defined them as the other, we don’t relate. We don’t care, not in such a personal way. We don’t empathize. We simply change the channel or say, “but abortion…” as if these other lives don’t matter to us too.

In other words, those other times we didn’t consider the victims of his hate speech and his verbal assaults to be our neighbors, because they aren’t like us.

“Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asked Christ in an exchange recorded in Luke 10.

Jesus didn’t answer that his neighbor is his mother or wife or daughter or sister. No, Jesus offers a story of an injured man on the side of the road, a brutalized victim belonging to a group considered to be different and other and less than and dirty. The priest wouldn’t touch him because doing so would have made him unclean and would have required a return to the temple to cleanse himself. He couldn’t be bothered. Likewise, the Levite passed by.

Then the Samaritan showed up – surprising the audience listening to Jesus (as Samaritans were generally despised by Jews and vice versa) – and became the unlikely hero. He showed compassion, backed it up with action and money, and set a model for us all. And Jesus said to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise.”

I’m glad we’re finally noticing Trump’s hateful words. But I wish we had cared enough for those who aren’t white women to notice it before. I wish we hadn’t disavowed black people, those with disabilities, Muslims, refugees, and so many more as our neighbors by withholding our outrage until now.

In other words, I wish we had all acted a little more like the Good Samaritan and a lot more like Christ.

Take heart, though. There’s still time. We have failed to love God with our whole hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves, but let this be the moment when the Spirit convicts us to confess and repent from our sins.

Let today be the day that we all start listening to the pain of our neighbors.

(All of them, and not just the ones who look like me.)

Let today be the day when we pledge our allegiance to the kingdom of God rather than to any political party.

Let today be the day we heed Christ’s words.

Let today be the day we go and do likewise.



one of those days

All of us have had one of those days: a day we know, for sure, will be recounted again and again. The story of the day will live on as the calendar pages turn and the years change and new generations rise up. Now we might call such a day “epic;” who knows what lingo we might choose in the future.

Last fall offered one such day. Jocelyn has always been heavily involved in the boys and girls chasing each other scene at recess. In kindergarten, she chased them. By first grade, they were mostly chasing her, as they recognized her speed had surpassed theirs. They laughed and ran and played. Then they did it all over the next day.

Well, last fall Jocelyn had a new pink coat. It was furry and soft and came with a matching beret-like hat. She loved that jacket. And the boys, seeing that, snatched the pink softness at recess, and they ran. And she chased. And it was fun.

Until it wasn’t.

Now my girl didn’t just inherit my propensity to hang with the boys. She also inherited my moxie. She decided that day to end the game. She wanted to wear the coat again. She wanted it back. NOW. So the chasing became goal-driven instead of game-making.

The boys? As it often goes in third grade, the boys didn’t clue in to what their girl friend wanted. They didn’t know the game was over. They kept playing.

And then, as they ran, they ended up in a part of the schoolyard beyond the reach of teachers’ eyes. Jocelyn, done with the game, was trapped. The group of boys, still playing along, were clueless. One of them taunted, “We’ve got you cornered! What are you going to do now?”

And so, she punched him.

I heard secondhand that his mouth was bloody. A teacher said his tooth was loose, adding that it might have been a permanent one. Rumor has it that she landed a few kicks and blows among the other boys too.

I love my children dearly, but I neglect my answering machine. I’m a holdout who still has a home phone, and the teacher called that number to talk to us about what happened. Of course, I didn’t listen, not at first. No, I found out about the incident after school when another mom texted me to say, “I’m friends with ____, [bloodied-mouth boy’s] mom, and she asked me to tell you that she is mortified about what happened on the playground and so sorry for what her son did to Jocelyn.”

Naturally, I called Jocelyn over to ask if anything noteworthy happened at school that day. She shrugged. “Maybe during recess?” I offered.

“Oh,” she said. “That. Well, I probably should have made a different choice, but some boys cornered me and no teachers were around and so I hit and kicked them some. I talked to Ms Benson about what other choices I can make if it ever happens again.”

Well, as you might imagine, it hasn’t happened again. The boys in her grade know Jocelyn is not one to be messed with. The boys in other grades have heard too. They know she’s a warrior girl.

Before I move on to the next story, I want you to think about Jocelyn. How would you have felt if you were me? Proud, maybe? (I certainly was.) Comforted that your brave daughter is able and willing to stand up for herself? (YES.) Thankful that she knows other choices can be made. (Of course.) And maybe even unwilling to dole out a negative consequence because she clearly knew right from wrong. (That’s how we handled it.)


Now let’s flip some calendar pages to earlier this week.

We saw the aftermath of a Groundhog’s Day scenario. Another video showed the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of those meant to protect and serve, this time in Tulsa. A video from another city – St. Louis – caught other officers conspiring to falsify charges against a protester. And then a man in my own state was killed by officers who came to serve an arrest warrant for someone else, and none of the stories match in his death, though the authorities are refusing to release the footage of the incident to the public or the deceased man’s family.

If this was one isolated week, that might not be a huge deal. But we all know that’s not the case.

And so, protests – even violent protests – broke out. I’m not saying two wrongs make a right, but I’m saying that heaps of wrongs that haven’t been made right create anger. I’m saying we, as a society, have backed our black neighbors and friends into a corner and told them to stay in their place there.

What are you going to do now? we taunt.

Walk home in your neighborhood wearing a hoodie? You die.

Enter a convenience store? You die.

Pick up an air rifle in WalMart while talking on the phone to your wife? You die.

Walk with a toy gun as a child, maybe 12 or 13 years young? You die on video, or maybe you die in an alley with the police cameras mysteriously not operating.

Legally carry a concealed weapon? You die.

Carry a closed knife? You die.

Walk down the street with your hands in your pockets? You die.

Enter a stairwell with your girlfriend? You die.

Sleep on the couch in your living room? You die.

Sleep in a park downtown? You die.

Sell cigarellos on the streets of New York City? You die.

Sell CDs at a gas station? You die.

Run away without threatening anyone? You die.

Seek help after a car accident? You die.

Start your car after a traffic stop? You die.

Fail to signal a lane change? You get arrested unlawfully and then you die.

Get arrested and transported by police? You die.

Run from an officer who can’t tell the difference between his gun and his taser? You die.

Talk too loudly with your friends? You die.

These aren’t mere stories. They each have a name. In order of the list above, they are Trayvon Martin. Levar Jones. John Crawford. Tamir Rice. Tyre King. Philando Castile. Laquan McDonald. Ezell Ford. Akai Gurley. Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Dontre Hamilton. Eric Garner. Alton Sterling. Walter Scott. Jonathan Ferrell. Samuel DuBose. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Eric Harris. Rekia Boyd. (And there are more I didn't list.)

So you’re cornered with examples of systemic racism and police brutality on all sides.

So, what are you going to do now? we taunt.

We see Jocelyn, cornered in the schoolyard, by a group larger than her both in numbers and body size, with no one in authority offering help. And we say “atta girl” when she punches.

But we see our black brothers and sisters, cornered by institutional racism, by a group holding greater privilege (perhaps a group to which you belong, like I do), with those in authority doing the killing and the covering up, while good cops who would never do that sort of thing allow it to continue by never speaking out against those who do. (And those who do speak out, God bless them, are few.) And we shake our heads and insult them when they protest peacefully by taking a knee during the national anthem.

So then why are we surprised when they throw a punch in response, in desperation, in a desire to be seen and heard and validated, a hope that one day the wrongful death of a black man at the hands of a white officer will be met with the same care and justice as the wrongful death of an officer is? No one is saying that black lives matter more than police officers’ do. But our culture and courts are showing that police officers’ lives matter more than black lives.


Why are you making this about race?

I hear this question often. The answer is simple: because. it. is.

Bias studies, like this one, indicate that police are more likely to shoot unarmed blacks than unarmed whites.

In real life, research has shown that for the same crimes, blacks are treated unfairly by our justice system. In NYC, for example, blacks (and Hispanics) are more likely to be detained, convicted, and incarcerated for the same crime of misdemeanor marijuana possession than their white neighbors. In urban areas (Seattle, Chicago, and Baltimore, in this particular study), even after controlling for actual neighborhood crime levels, a higher percentage of young Black men in a community was associated with greater perceptions of crime.

In areas in which we’ve had recent racially charged incidents, the Department of Justice investigations have found disturbing trends in the policing. In Baltimore, they cited a pattern of unlawful use of enforcement against black citizens, including disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests, as well as the use of excessive force and frequent retaliation against black individuals for constitutionally-protected public expression, as compared to whites. In Ferguson, the report showed a greater likelihood to issue citations, use person-to-person force, use police dog-to-person force, and issue arrest warrants for blacks than whites – as well as a lesser likelihood to dismiss charges against blacks than whites – without any indication that people of different races actually committed crimes at different rates in that area.

And if your knee-jerk response is “what about police lives?” I understand your perspective. After all, I’m the daughter of a retired law enforcement officer who devoted his career to criminal justice after serving in Vietnam. I care deeply about police officers, and I grieve their deaths and injuries too. That said, this movement isn’t merely about death; it’s about justice. When a police officer dies, we’re all confident justice will be done, as the offender will be sought and arrested and charged and found guilty and sentenced for the crime. When someone is wrongly killed by an officer, however, that officer will be placed on leave for a while and might lose the job but accountability for those actions isn’t likely. So, yes, police lives matter, and that’s shown in our justice system. Meanwhile, according to the same system, black lives don’t matter or matter less. Furthermore, fewer police officers died in shootings in 2015 than the previous year, even as that year and prior years saw racial unrest come to the surface with greater awareness, largely due to social media and the filming of police brutality incidents. (Now, some statistics show that they might be higher in 2016, but seeing a drop in one racially charged year and a rise in another shows that the race-related strife isn’t the only factor here.)

And what about the resounding pushback about black-on-black crime? Well, FBI homicide statistics show that the majority of homicides committed from 1980-2008 were by white murderers against white victims. Those same stats show that white offenders are more likely to kill children or senior citizens and more likely to commit sex-related, gang-related, and workplace-related homicides than blacks. Furthermore, white offenders were more likely to commit mass murders as well. This wasn’t just true during those years; the most recent year of data available from the FBI shows this pattern too. I could offer other examples as well. The reality is that we live in segregated communities in this country, and we’re more likely to victimize or be victimized by someone in close geographic proximity to us. So until we’re willing to admit that white-on-white crime is a problem and acknowledge that the black community has been taking action against black-on-black crime, the words “but black-on-black crime” feel like dirty distractions drenched in racism.

I’ve only skimmed the surface with the citations above, but – as the mother of black, white, and Asian children – I’ve deep dived into it all. This and this are great resources for reading further on this issue, as well as the books The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, and Just Mercy.

Simply put, one of my sons is more likely to have positive encounters with the police than the other, unless something changes.



So what can we do?

1. Be a changemaker.

Just like Jocelyn wouldn’t have been cornered by those boys if those in authority had made different choices (like positioning teachers on duty so no blind spots existed), senseless killings and overpolicing in the black community can be changed by different choices too. Use your online presence to speak out against injustice or to amplify the voices of people of color. Listen well – online and in person – to those whose lived experiences are different from yours without saying “but…” or telling them to hold back their emotion until more facts are available. Contact your local police department to ask what anti-bias training officers currently receive. (The good news in the research is that some kinds of anti-bias trainings have been proven effective.) Once you know that, write your local lawmakers to share what you’ve learned and, maybe even using the statistics I shared above, ask for consideration and funding to better equip officers. Do or say something. Now is not the time for silence out of fear or apathy.

2. If you choose not to be a changemaker, don’t judge those who punch when cornered.

If you won’t do anything more than shake your head at violence toward black communities by some in law enforcement, then you don’t get to shake your head when their anger spills over. I don’t like kids fighting at school, but I was proud that Jocelyn punched that boy. I don’t like violence, but I can’t say I don’t understand why some people feel like that’s the only way to get white neighbors to care. After all, people lost their minds because a black football player didn’t kneel, so if we won’t pay attention to peaceful protests, we can’t act surprised when the peaceful part gets left behind.

3. When you’re part of a system that benefits from another group’s cornering, recognize that.

I was moved by the mother of the boy Jocelyn punched, when she – knowing my daughter’s punch made her son bleed – apologized. She didn’t corner Jocelyn, but as his mom, she’s part of the family system that did. All white people and all officers don’t engage in police brutality against black people, but we do live in a system that privileges white skin (which I unpack more in this post) while others aren’t as #blessed. No civil rights movement achieves success unless those who already hold the rights and privileges stand with those who don’t. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963,

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

While we’re at it, when you cherry pick which of Dr. King’s words you share, remember he was killed for being too revolutionary. He wasn’t welcomed. And about violence, he said in 1968,

But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?... It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

In other words, don’t invoke his name against riots unless you’re willing to wrestle with all of his words. As far as other names, the ones I listed above, I could have researched facts about each. I considered offering the sorts of vignettes we do to humanize people, to make them multidimensional, to show that their lives had value before a bullet cut it short. But here’s the thing: THEY ARE ALREADY HUMAN. We shouldn’t have to say Aiyana loved Disney princesses or Terence was about to start community college or Tyre was only 4’11” and not even 100 pounds to say that their lives matter. Furthermore, no criminal records or past drug use or divorce could make their lives matter less.

(Why is it that we share swimming stats for convicted rapists while we malign the memory of unarmed black men killed by police? This is not okay. No one should have to earn their right to be treated as human, but I worry that one of my sons will more than the other.)

Our country has been having a lot of those days: days we know, for sure, will be recounted again and again. The story of the day will live on as the calendar pages turn and the years change and new generations rise up. Now we mark these days with hashtags, daring to say their names and recognize their humanity so that we might know better and do better in the future.

At the end of these days, I pray that my children can be proud of where I stood and with whom I stood at this moment in history. 

Outrage, apathy, or - perhaps - a third option?

Brock Turner went viral a few months ago, when he was sentenced a mere six months for the violent rape he committed at a Stanford party. Then he dropped off our social media feeds. Now, as he was released Friday after a mere 3 months, we're outraged anew.

A year ago, we collectively grieved over the image of Aylan Kurdi, a dead refugee boy washed up on a shore after drowning. Then we got quiet again. A couple weeks ago, our feeds lit up again, this time with Omran Daqneesh sitting bloodied and stunned in an ambulance, wiping his dirty hands on the seat just like my boys do. Our outrage and profound sorrow over Aylan had faded but returned rekindled for Omran.

And then, even as news spread that Omran's brother had died, we stepped away from our outrage again.

I get it. I do. We can't live perpetually in outrage. We can't nourish our souls with a buffet of only agony, anger, and anguish. When we feel helpless in the face of our world's trauma, we have to look away sometimes or we'll be consumed. 

But I don't think our only options are to fall headfirst into hopelessness or turn our backs on suffering. There has to be a third way. I'm sure of it. 

If we throw up walls of outrage, they'll crumble in time. Outrage alone can't stand. Outrage isn't self-supporting. Outrage can't be kindled long term. But what if we embraced the outrage as a right and just response to outrageous events but didn't stop there?

What if we build foundations under the outrage to turn it into something useful and sustainable? What if we transformed at least some of that anger into action or education? What if we showed great love by listening compassionately to our neighbors? 

I know why we don't. Outrage is comfortable. Outrage is socially acceptable. Outrage comes in waves that we know will return to the sea of public anger. Outrage feels like a controlled response to a world spinning out of control.

But outrage isn't vulnerable. We don't move past outrage because we don't want to be honest with the next steps. We let our emotional fires dull to a simmer, ignoring them until the next story comes along to fan the flames into a roar once again. The previous inferno is forgotten, as we've moved on to the next one. 

Some fires are frivilous, and some are needed. I'm all for letting the petty pyres burn out on their own. But any flames worth fanning deserve to be seen all the way through, beyond the outrage and into something more. I was encouraged when my Facebook feed filled with people calling for justice when Brock Turner only got six months - three months with good behavior - for rape. For. Rape. I reminded us of the power of our words when people said her life was ruined. (It isn't.) I thanked friends for their outrage, writing for the first time publicly about my sexual assault history. 

And then I watched as we moved on to the next trending story, and the silence around rape dropped off. I shared another story and then another and then another of white rapists getting nothing more than a slap on the wrists, of our "justice" system showing more concern for their futures than for their actions. Sadly, Brock Turner's paltry sentence isn't uncommon. Brock's name is known and evoked our outrage, but we mostly ignored David Becker and John Enochs and James Wilkerson. All three are also young white rapists who got light sentences for their crimes, often with judges expressing more concern for their futures than the futures of the girls they violated. This. Trend. Is. Not. Okay. And our magnification of one case and ignorance of others isn't okay either.

I get it, though. Outrage is exhausting. So I'm not asking you to stay outraged. We can't do that. Or if we could, it wouldn't be healthy or sustainable.

I'm writing this to declare that there's a third way. It's not all outrage or apathy. It's not either ranting or silence. It's not the choice between floods of feelings or numbness. 

The third way is the way of listening with empathy. The end result will be action for some of us on a particular issue. For others, the end result will be knowledge. We won't all feel compelled to do something about every cause, and that's okay. But we are called to care for and love our neighbor, so listening well is the bare minimum for that. 

(Want an example of what that might look like?  Read this story. Listen and listen well to voices like Elizabeth Smart's as she points out the problems with religious purity culture, and sit with that before you push back about how sexual sin matters. Of course it does. But Elizabeth isn't arguing for us to abandon all sexual mores but rather sharing how our language and approach can do harm.) 

And action? We can't all be actors for every injustice. (I've tried. That's a sure path to burn out.) God designed us each uniquely. The beauty therein is that my passion and your passion don't have to be the same, but together we can create a rich tapestry of interwoven actions that collectively glorifying God and edify others.

(For example, some friends as well as other folks I deeply respect created The Compassion Collective as a response to Aylan and Omran and so many other vulnerable children. They chose the third way. Their efforts are a beautiful display of action, and I'm joining in a small way with my financial contributions.)

You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.
— Maya Angelou

Listen well, friends. And, yes, be angry. But don't stay there. Instead, decide that you will learn and maybe even act so that the world might be made different by what is born out of our outrage. 

the three Simones in my news feed this morning

One Simone we’ve been talking about for weeks. One Simone just caught our national attention last night. And one Simone might be not be on your radar yet.

All three are amazing black women. All three have powerful stories. All three warrant our attention.

Let’s start with Simone Biles. She is a joy to watch, and I’m glad she’s become a household name, with her team gold and all-around medal just the start to the medals I expect she’ll bring home.

She’s creating amazing conversations too. Discussions of her adoption, including some uneducated remarks, have forced our language about adoptees and family into the news. As for her legacy, I love this quote from her: "I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I'm the first Simone Biles." 

Source:  CNN

Source: CNN

But Simone Biles isn’t the only American Simone making a splash (pun intended) at the Olympics this year. By now, I expect you’ve seen the footage of Simone Manuel winning gold in the 100 freestyle in Rio. If you haven’t, please find it and watch. On the NBC broadcast, the commentators referred to her as the “other American” swimmer, as they focused back on the favorites for the race. It isn’t until the final 25 meters that they took note of Simone. And then? The look on her face when she realizes she’s won gives me goosebumps.  

Source:  USA Today

Source: USA Today

Simone’s blackness isn’t just a side note here. It isn’t like saying the first blue-haired swimmer won gold as part of a relay a few nights ago. (Bless your heart, Ryan.) Race matters here. In 1964, shown in the picture below, a white motel owner poured acid in his pool in an effort to scare black swimmers out of it. Before that, black actors Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr., in separate incidents in the 1950s, found hotel pools drained, simply because they had used them, with Dandridge merely sticking her toe in the water according to some stories. After Brown v. the Board of Education ruled that segregation in schools are unconstitutional, a federal judge decided that pools could stay separate because they "were more sensitive than schools."  

Given that context, I found Simone Manuel’s words to be powerful.

This medal is not just for me. It is for some of the African-Americans who have come before me, like Maritza, Cullen. This medal is for the people who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find love and drive to get to this point... Coming into this race tonight I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders, which is something I carry with me...

I’m super-glad I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time I’d like there to be a day when there will be more of us and it’s not ‘Simone – the black swimmer’. The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or break records. That’s not true. I work just as hard as everybody else and I love the sport.

That brings me to the third Simone in my newsfeed this morning, Simone Butler-Thomas. She lives here in Raleigh. Her son, Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, died this past weekend at the hands of a man who her family’s lawyer has called “Zimmerman 2.0.” You might have missed it because, sadly, an innocent black man dying has become an all too frequent story.

Source:  ABC News

Source: ABC News

In Thomas's death, an officer didn’t pull the trigger. Thomas was walking home from a party. A neighbor shot from his garage, telling a 911 operator “We're going to secure our neighborhood. If I were you I would send PD.” Thomas died at the scene. Unlike many incidents in recent news, though, Thomas’s killer is in jail right now, largely I suspect because he was shot by a civilian rather than an officer.

(Let’s all remember that the movement against police brutality isn’t simply about the deaths of black people at the hands of officers but rather the lack of justice in the aftermath. When officers are killed, the act is wrong too - of course - but their killers will be charged with their crimes, found guilty, and sentenced to punishment, something which is usually not the case for black men and women when their lives are taken in incidents of police aggression. And just as I'm not criticizing all parents when I call for action against abusive ones or blasting all teachers when I demand accountability for bad ones, I - as a parent and a former teacher and the daughter of a retired police officer - am not attacking all police officers when I point out the violence by some.)

After her victory, Simone Manuel took a moment to address these hard realities.

It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.

She wasn’t “playing the race card” – a phrase which is regularly used in attempts to silence minority voices – but rather pointing out a reality that white America is finally seeing with the spread of social media and camera phones. Police more readily use force on black Americans [1] - at a rate of 3.5 times more than whites and 2.5 more than the general population according to one study[2] and at a rate of more than twice as likely as whites according to the DOJ [3]. A detailed study from UC-Davis last year showed, from 2011-2014, that unarmed black Americans were 3.49 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white Americans [4].

Well, maybe black people are being more violent to warrant such a response, some suggest. But, no. A Washington Post data analysis found that "when factoring in threat level, black Americans who are fatally shot by police are, in fact, less likely to be posing an imminent lethal threat to officers at the moment they are killed than white Americans fatally shot by police." [5]. Again and again, investigations into specific areas - like Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, Greensboro, and San Francisco - uncover blatant racism and gross bias in policing practices. (Here's a post that examines some of these studies as well as others.)

Simply put, according to this research, my black son is more likely than my white son to be stopped, searched, met with force, arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced harshly in the same circumstances. This reality isn't okay. 


Don't get me wrong: As I see our nation celebrate Simone Biles and Simon Manuel, I cheer too. Their athletic feats and historic victories are inspiring. I’m amazed, too, by their poise and care in using their voices for others. Americans of all races and religions and backgrounds are rooting for these two Simones.

As I see Simone Butler-Thomas weep, though, I don’t see the same diversity in those who are mourning with her. When she says, “I'm going to bury my child. He was a good kid and I don’t have him no more and there’s nothing I can do,” are we hearing her? When she cries "I just want justice for my son," are we joining her in that? I’m not hearing my white friends talk about this Simone and her grief for her dead son. Why are we comfortable empathizing with Simone Biles and Simone Manuel but not Simone Butler-Thomas?  

If we want to celebrate blackness in sports but turn our backs to the disparities blacks face in ordinary life, then we’re not saying they matter. We aren't. Our humanity isn’t based in our contributions, but when we wear their jerseys and celebrate their accomplishments but refuse to share in their grief, we’re saying we value their performance but not their personhood. Our language betrays us, as we claim our black brothers and sisters in victories – “we won!” as if I helped by holding my breath in suspense as I watched from my couch – but separate ourselves in sorrow – “they need to wait until all the facts are available” or, again, "they are playing the race card."

Simone Biles matters. Simone Manuel matters. They do.

But Simone Butler-Thomas matters too, and so does her son Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas.

Black lives matter. They do.

And I’ll keep saying it until they do to all of us, as much when they’re walking home from a neighborhood party as when they’re representing our country on an Olympic podium. 

why I consider both Trump and the Alt-Right to be morally dangerous

Update: I wrote this in June 2016. Now, in November, President-Elect Trump has named one of their leaders, Steve Bannon, as his chief strategist and said Bannon will work as a partner to his chief of staff. Trump supporters and voters who said you'd speak up for my family if my concerns proved right, did you mean it? Now's your chance. Let him know that Bannon isn't an acceptable choice for your non-white friends.

A week and a half ago, Christianity Today featured my thoughts on inclusive ministry for families affected by disability and childhood trauma. I was both thankful and humbled to lend my voice in that outlet.

I'm proud of this piece. I'm grateful to Dan Darling and the folks at Christianity Today for running it. I'm honored to have had so many opportunities to speak up for vulnerable kids and families and encourage the church to love us well.

And then, I discovered the Alt-Right. 

Please be warned, the tweets below are both graphic and horrific. 

But I think we need to see them for what they are, so I'm sharing them along with my thoughts on the issue.

(I know this post might make our family a target again, but I figure I'm probably doing something right if I'm drawing the ire of white supremacists. Thankfully, some of these users have been banned from Twitter for hate, which is why they show up as quotes rather than embedded texts now, but I've provided screen shots as well.)

I know they're sickening (and I censored out a few by not including them here). Also, happy birthday to me, as they were posted the night I turned 34. (Ugh.) But who are these people and the 100+ folks who liked or retweeted their remarks? To answer that, here's a snippet from the always accurate Wikipedia:

It’s no coincidence that alt-righters who don’t like libertarians or more traditional conservatives often refer to them as “cuckservatives.” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis explains the term, “A cuckold, of course, is a legitimate word for the husband of an adulterous wife… (but) the people who throw this term around are most likely referencing a type of pornography whereby a (usually, white) man is ‘humiliated’ (or ironically thrilled) by being forced to watch his wife having sex with another (usually, black) man…

“So what does this have to do with conservatism or politics?” asks Lewis. “By supporting immigration reform, criminal justice reform, etc., a white conservative is therefore surrendering his honor and masculinity…

“A cuckservative is, therefore, a race traitor,” Lewis notes.

I didn't know what they meant by cucked when I first saw the tweets. Someone dear to me texted, "I don't know what that word means and I'm not going to look it up." I tried not to. I tried to just ignore it all. (Obviously, I didn't succeed in those efforts.)

I'm writing this because I believe these tweets are symptoms of a larger issue. I think we have to speak up against hate. I won't sugarcoat it. The Alt-Right is defined by hate. Not patriotism. Not principle. Not nationalism.


This is a hate group, no question. And they've been mobilized by Trump, by their own assertions.

As silence doesn't suit me, the day after the Christianity Today piece and Twitter hate, I shared this on Facebook:

I couldn’t put the words together last night, and I’m probably going to fumble this too, but I’m no longer shaking in anger so I think I can do this...

I’ve seen people try to downplay racism. I’ve seen people try to downplay rape culture. I’ve seen people try to downplay Trump’s hate speech about race and gender and immigration and disability and so much more.

Usually I try to ignore it. Fighting online battles isn’t beneficial. (And, please, continue to follow my advice about not engaging the Twitter trolls attacking our family, because they won’t go away if they get a rise out of us.)

But sometimes it’s time to say something. When a few dozen cowardly white supremacists who strongly espouse both their love for Hitler and Trump make cruel memes out of our family pictures for fun and write vile comments about how my black immigrant son is going to rape me and my white daughter because that’s what those people do (in addition to calling my husband a cuckold and us both traitors to both our country and our race), I can’t stay silent. I’m not going to engage with them, because they are not worth my time. But? I feel like I need to say that if you’re supporting Trump, I see this as the natural consequence of his violent hate-mongering speech about anyone different. No, he didn’t write those comments, but we’re seeing these groups emboldened by his candidacy. To me, supporting Trump isn’t a political issue; it’s a moral one.

Please, spare me comments about Hillary or any other candidate and their poorly behaved supporters. I know jerks behind computer screens exist in all shades. But? When my family becomes a target from hard right conservative racists over a piece in Christianity Today, I have to say it’s going to be hard for me to stomach anyone’s comments here about how mean those on the left are toward Christians. Nope. Not today.

/end rant

I don't consider this a political blog post. To me, this is a moral issue, as much as diversity in dolls or outrage about sexual assault are. Dinglefest isn't going to become a blog about politics, but I won't be quiet on this topic. I think it's important to shed light on what our political climate is creating.

I deliberated long and hard before sharing the troubling tweets above. I might go back and remove them at some point, because I don't want to amplify their voices. But? I think we need to be willing to see the ugliness, because I think it's our refusal to look upon hate speech like this that makes us say "I'm shocked!" about Orlando and Charleston while so many of our friends in the LGBT and black communities weren't in the same ways. After all, they've been watching the hate storms brew, while our white and/or heterosexual eyes have looked the other way, simply because our privilege allows that.

So what can we do? 

Listen. Identify those who are marginalized and start listening. Your eyes might just be opened to the hate you've been glossing over without even knowing it.

Love. Create your own love storms, right where you are. (And, please, drop the conditions. Not "I love you, but..." or "I love you if..." or "I love you, even though..." Just communicate "I love you." Period. Full stop. No stipulations.)

Do. Take action - with your voice and your votes and your time and your money - to act against hate and show value to all people.

Finally, I feel compelled to say I do value both Trump and the AltRight. While I don't like their speech, they have a right to express it. As angry and hurt as I was reading their tweets, I know each Twitter handle represents an actual person created by God to do greater things than spread hate online. So please don't interpret this post as a hateful response to hate. No. This is a call for us to look and see the hate storm, but love the people. When everything went down a week and a half ago, a friend asked what she could do. I still stand by my response: "Just be kind. While these are faceless trolls, they are also real people behind a screen. And I can only think that they need a whole lot more kindness in their lives if they're saying what they're saying, even anonymously. So be kind."

I think kindness can be dangerous to this brand of hate. So let's listen, love, and do, all while showing grace to everyone, even those who don't seem to deserve it.