Have you ever known you were supposed to speak up, but you stayed silent? I have a friend who works in a counseling office where she is the only white person – well, until recently, when they brought on another white woman. One day, not long after this other person had come onboard, she used a racial slur during a staff meeting. It was clear from how she behaved she didn’t realize the word was inappropriate.
After the meeting, my friend had one of those post-meeting meetings with another of her co-workers. She asked, “Were you uncomfortable when she said that?” to which her co-worker responded, “Oh most definitely. That was way over the line.”
Since they counsel a diverse community, both my friend and her co-worker knew someone needed to say something to their new employee.
I want to pause there because I imagine that you’re feeling pretty awkward right now (I know when I first heard the story I did!). There are maybe 5% of people who, like me, aren’t bothered by conflict. The vast majority of us squirm at the idea of having to speak up, especially in a situation like this, where the cause seems to be ignorance more than malice. It’s one thing when someone’s shouting slurs and brandishing tiki torches. It’s quite another when it’s someone who doesn’t seem to know better, who you have to work with every day.
And especially at this time of year, with holiday parties and family gatherings, we seem to be thrust into those grey areas more often than usual. What do you say to that racist family member? Or how do you negotiate that coworker who doesn’t seem ever to have heard of boundaries? What is our responsibility toward the little injustices? And do we ever speak up about those bigger injustices we see?
Believe it or not, Advent has something to teach us about living in that space.
As we dive into the Advent story, we’ll find the answer to that question begins by finding ourselves in God’s story. We learn when to raise our voices when we know who God has created us to be!