Author: Nicole Speer
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~Proverbs 3:5
One of my labors of love during these pandemic months has been working with the Education Committee of the Boulder County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to create a more equitable and just education system in Boulder County schools. As I have become more involved in this work, I have become increasingly discouraged by the slow pace of progress toward justice in our community’s education system.
Last week I found myself talking with God about our community’s racist education system and my frustration that nothing I was doing was making a difference. I was discouraged that many of the people in charge of our education system do not share my urgency to address the harm caused to Black and Latine students. Where I wanted progress, I was seeing only stagnation.
Shortly after lamenting to God about my ineffectiveness, I ended up in a Zoom meeting with Alicia, a brilliant and driven mother and new member of the education committee who had stepped up to lead a new group focused specifically on advancing equity and justice in her school district, which had not been previously represented in the committee’s work.
During our meeting Alicia told me a story that had inspired her work over the past month. She had heard a white woman speak at a school board meeting in June about how frustrating it was to try to instill values of justice and equity in her white children, when the district’s racist discipline system reinforced the message that her white children were more valued and more valuable than their Black and Latine peers. Hearing this woman speak about the need for white children to learn equity and justice in the schools deeply resonated with Alicia and she has carried this woman’s words with her to help fuel her own work for change.
I was at first amazed and then admonished. All these weeks I had despaired over my feeling that no one was listening to my cries about injustice. But it turns out that Alicia was listening.
I was the woman in Alicia’s story.
My chance meeting with Alicia reminded me that we cannot see or know our individual roles in God’s complex plan for bringing about a more compassionate and just world. While this lack of insight is frustrating at times for those of us who want to see our impact, God gave us clear instructions that when we work for justice with love and compassion, we can be confident we are advancing God’s work.
Right now, as many of us white folks are opening our eyes to the massive scope of racial injustice in our country, our justice-oriented work may feel ineffective. My and Alicia’s encounter with each other showed me this is a moment for trust. Our job isn’t to see our actions making a difference. Our job is to act. And when we act as anti-racists and use our privilege to support those working for racial equity, we can be confident we are doing the work God needs us to do.