151: Unity Ft. Barry Moore: Exploring Conversations On Race In America; This Cultural Moment, Not Choosing Sides, And Living In Freedom Instead Of Bondage
We are currently facing one of the significant moments in America, one that will continue to live on in history. The Black Lives Matter Movement has finally grown and is getting the recognition that has long been overdue. Furthering the conversation on unity, race, equality, and justice, Thane Marcus Ringler invites Barry Moore, the Director of Church Partnerships at Children’s Hunger Fund and the man behind To Work & Keep. In this episode, they talk about living in a multi-racial family, what’s different about this moment in time, not choosing a side, building the muscle of empathy, bondage versus freedom, the importance of leadership, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Follow along in this encouraging conversation to learn about the pressing issues during this pivotal moment in history, rethinking what you can do for the cause.
Listen to the podcast here:
Unity Ft. Barry Moore: Exploring Conversations On Race In America; This Cultural Moment, Not Choosing Sides, And Living In Freedom Instead Of Bondage
This is the second installment on a series around unity, race, equality and justice, in this moment we’re facing in America. The conversation features Barry Moore. He was featured on The Up and Comers Show early on. I think it was Episode 41 a few years ago. You can go back to that if you want to learn a little bit more from him. Barry Moore is the Director of Church Partnerships at a great organization called Children’s Hunger Fund, where they deliver hope to suffering children by equipping local churches for gospel-centered mercy-ministry. He and his wife, Whitney, have accepted the call of God to help plant a church in the heart of downtown Ventura, California. You can learn more about that at his website, ToWorkAndKeep.com.
Barry is originally from the San Bernardino, California area. He received his BA in Biblical Languages from The Master’s University and is pursuing a certification from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He has been married for years to his beautiful wife, Whitney. They have a baby girl named Tahlia. He enjoys photography, building, creating, tinkering, and all things handmade. He loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Anything that gets them closer to the ocean is a good thing. He loves Christ church, and with that comes a deep desire to see men and women live lives that are radically transformed by the power of the gospel. This transformation is needed to work and keep the garden that God has given us to his honor and glory. That’s what it’s all about. You can find out more of his work and his thoughts at ToWorkAndKeep.com.
In this conversation, we talked through living in a multiracial family. We talked through what’s different about this moment in time. We talked through not choosing a side, building the muscle of empathy and bondage versus freedom, the importance of leadership, Black Lives Matter, and much more. It was an encouraging conversation. I came away learning a lot from Barry and I appreciated his knowledge, his heart, and his voice. I hope that you can learn as well. I hope you sit back, relax, and enjoy this unity conversation with Barry Moore.
Barry Moore, welcome back to show.
Thank you. It’s good to be back with you.
It’s my pleasure. We were just reminiscing. It’s been a while. I want to start by asking, how are you? I think that’s an important question.
I am doing well. It’s been interesting. That conversation in the last handful of months, beyond even some of the things we’re going to talk about going back to March when COVID hit everywhere. My wife and I have been living in this tension. God has been blessing us in this season. We haven’t felt the pinch that many people have been feeling. That’s been a weird train to navigate because you don’t want to say the wrong thing to hurting people. You also want to rejoice in whatever God is doing. We’ve been towing that line having to acknowledge that God is working in our lives. He is blessing us in many ways. He is caring for our physical needs in ways that we haven’t been expecting. At the same time, there’s brokenness. Overall, I’ve been doing well. Our family is well. I had a kid since I was on the show. I’m a few months into marriage when I was on that first episode. We had a little baby girl in January.Telling others what you're against doesn't tell them who you are. Click To Tweet
All the cliché things that people say about having kids is true. You don’t sleep and all those types of things, which is funny too because you hear all those cliché things. You grow up hearing clichés and you’re like, “Maybe I’ll feel that way. Maybe I won’t feel that way.” It’s been true. Even so, you began to fall in love with this person who wasn’t here months ago. Your attitude, demeanor, and view on life does take a little bit of a pivot. I won’t say like for some people, maybe it might be a little dramatic. It wasn’t devastating or anything like that, at least in our experience. It definitely was pivoting where we could no longer live, act, move, and be the same way that we were before she entered the world. She’s an absolute cutie and she’s going to have some attitude problems when she gets older. We’ll have to see how we navigate those things. I’m doing well. My wife is sad. Since COVID hit March and she had a baby in January, she hasn’t left our house in months.
Speaking of being a parent, I see a little book called Good Night God. That’s amazing. Is that a good one? Is that a keeper?
I haven’t read that one. This is her room that I’m in. It was my COVID office during the time when I was working from home. Her little space, which we transitioned to getting her to sleep in here. It is a whole other endeavor. Good Night God, we look forward to reading that to her one day.
We may need to do a whole other episode on parenting and child raising because that is a monumental endeavor, but worth its weight in gold. We’re doing a series on race, justice, unity. We’re entering and engaging in a conversation here. We had a conversation leading up to this to talk about framing it and how to approach it. As you’ve shared, you wrote a post on your blog, which is pretty epic called To Work and Keep. The post was What Can My White Friends Do?. It was helpful. I would recommend people reading through that in addition to this. You’ve mentioned even in the conversation nine-plus years of engaging in this conversation as someone who is a man of color and is involved in a lot of predominantly white communities. You’ve been a spokesman or liaison on this issue for many years. What have you gleaned from that time? What is different about this moment or what have you noticed about this moment in time?
I’m only 30, and nine years is 1/3 of my life. Those years have been professional. The other third of my life, I was dealing with it as a child, just living in the world and dealing with some of those things. The first third of my life, I was carefree as a kid. I can remember to my early teenage years navigating various conversations and things around the race topic. Coming from a mixed family, my mom is as white as they come. She’s all the way Irish. My dad’s from the backcountry of Tennessee. Having that dynamic growing up and my dad’s side of the family versus my mom’s side of the family. My grandma and grandpa on my mom’s side wasn’t like the family on my dad’s side. It’s a long time of navigating this conversation, and then the last almost a decade, doing it more in a professional capacity has been a roller coaster of emotions.
I’m dealing with some of my black friends who are entering into the conversation for the first time. From maybe “professional standpoint,” they’re making statements and that kind of thing. I see their passion like my passion years ago. It’s a little bit hot and angry. I understand it, I get it. I see myself nine years later. A phrase that I hold on to is, “Value added movement.” I think about old dudes. They don’t have a lot of energy most of the time. They’re going to move with moves that count. They’re going to throw punches that count. I’ve tried to glean from that and utilize it specifically in this conversation. Even the question in relation to this conversation of how I am doing, the answer is I’m doing well because I’ve had the privilege and time to process these things. I’ve had the ability to think through where I stand and what my convictions are. I’ve had a lifetime of processing many of these things. For some people, this is the first time that they’re being confronted with in a tangible way.
I’ve had a lifetime and then another specific season of professional conversation around this. I’m able to process it quicker. You get muscle movement in development, and your muscles get faster the more you work them out. I’m able to sleep well at night because I know who’s in control of all things and because I’ve had time to process my emotions. In terms of where we are, this one does hit a little bit differently. Even if one didn’t understand why I would say turn on the television, this is a different time culturally and the way that the world is responding. Thinking back to the first conversation that I had on The Up and Comers Show, it was around these things. It was related to this topic. That was a few years ago. The conversation hasn’t changed.
The feelings and emotions for the most part haven’t changed. The reach is very different in this season. Even though people in this one, specifically with George Floyd, that was this new catalyst. I think catalyst is an important word. He wasn’t a martyr. He was a catalyst for something. There’s the opposition that was there with a lot of the other ones. Even though people try to bring up, “He was a criminal. He was a substance abuser.” We have all these things come up. It wasn’t the same as even the things that we’re trying to discredit some of those in the past because we literally had to view injustice. It’s not in a quick video where there are a few bullets that were fired. It was a long and grueling video to see, to put an exclamation point on and lament that, specifically the black community, I would say even activists over the course of history have been singing.
This one hit a little bit different and the image that was burned in a lot of people’s minds was one that you can’t get rid of. In a sense, how do you justify that type of action? Everybody has said it. No one’s contesting what the officer did is not defensible because it wasn’t defensible. It started getting people to be like, “Maybe let me think about the other one. Let me think through all the other things that have happened.” To the point where you got Germany, France, Spain, and countries coming to rally around this idea that is not new. I know we’ll touch on that. This chant of Black Lives Matter might be new in the sense of the technology and hashtags that we use, but the concept and the heart behind the idea is not a new development. It is a cry that has been shouted for many decades, generations.
Overall, we could say social media plays into why it’s different. Everybody has access to information. That’s the difference between Katrina in 2005 and the earthquake in Japan in 2011. Even in that short span of time, it was on my feed. It was on people’s feed. We knew what was going on when that tsunami hit versus Katrina, we didn’t hear a whole lot because technology wasn’t the same in 2005, just the way that phones were used, and social media was posted to. We didn’t have the same type of real-time information from people. We can definitely say that’s why it’s different being in 2020 and the way technology is. I would say even the beast of social media and what it is for its negative realities. In this case, it united the globe in an idea, an ethos, and ethic even that has been highlighted over a long period of time. Social media brought a voice together. I think that plays into it too.
You highlighted some beautiful things there that speak to what we’re seeing and experiencing. I want to come back to a couple of things you mentioned before we touch on Black Lives Matter. The first was being raised and living in a multiracial family and living in those tensions growing up. Even living in a multiracial marriage. As a kid growing up, and even as an adult, that is probably a tension or an experience that I can’t relate to because I haven’t had that. How would you put words to that experience? How do you see that as shaping who you are?
It shapes me in a lot of ways. I say it from this perspective often. I know what white people eat and I know how to cook it. I know what black people eat and I know how to cook it. Part of that is the receipts that I have. It’s the experiences that I have. I know how to talk to a white grandmother versus how to talk to a black grandmother. I know how to navigate those conversations. I think my siblings had a unique experience that some mixed children don’t have, which is we never had an identity crisis. I would say, I never have a true identity crisis. We all had moments of, “Who do I want to be?” It was never, “Who am I?” We all were very comfortable with the fact that we were mixed children, that we were both black and white. It wasn’t something that we felt we had to choose.
Part of that is the privilege of where we grew up. There was an array of diversity. Where we grew up, our culture didn’t make us choose which side we were going to be on. There were a lot of mixed children in the schools that I went to. That was a privilege and our parents never made us choose. Even though my mom and dad got divorced when I was eight years old, my parents did a good job of honoring each other. My mom never made us feel like our dad was less than. Our dad never made us feel like our mom was less than. That was beneficial to the way that we view ourselves. That also influences me because I have learned how to be on both sides of the conversation. I have a lot of empathy and patience with people that is unique to my experience. I default towards wanting to understand, to empathize, and to get down to a solution.Supremacy is caring more about being right than about meeting others as a human. Click To Tweet
I do credit that to my upbringing and having the ability to know what white people eat and what black people eat and being able to relate and enjoy both of them. Being able to have that experience and privilege is shaping who I am. Even the texture and the timber of how I move. In general, I’m a calm person. A lot of that does have to do with the way that I had to navigate conversations. At the same time, I have wrestled with I’ve never been half whiteberry. I’ve always been half blackberry because there’s no such thing as a whiteberry in the fruit world and there is such a thing as a blackberry in the fruit world. That has been something that’s always been noticeable that black people relate to me as black, and white people relate to me as black. Not many people relate to me as white. That’s been an experience growing up.
If my parents didn’t do such a good job of making all of us not feel weird, I might feel some type of way about that. I am fully hugged and accepted in the black community. They’re not always sure what to do with me in the white community. That varies, some people embrace me with open arms. I had a friend that asked me one time, “Why do black people have a problem when white people talk ‘black’ to them?” My answer was, “Because they don’t need you to do it. They understand you just as you are. The opposite is not true.” My mother-in-law express that reality of like, “When you’re talking to Steve,” who we both know Steve but a friend of mine, she’ll say, “I can’t track what you guys are saying.” Me and Steve have no problem tracking with each other. That’s because we’re talking a little more colloquially towards one another.
I won’t talk to my mother-in-law like that because she won’t understand me. I want her to understand me so I talk in a way that she’s going to understand me. On that conversation to my friend, it was like, “I don’t need you to talk to me like that because I understand you.” Understanding comes from, in some ways, growing up in a white culture. Having white grandparents that not only did they grow up in a different era of time. You had to speak to them in a different way. The respect that someone that grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s would have instilled in them, but they also were white. I wasn’t going to talk to them like I would with my black friends back home. That’s a unique experience growing up in a biracial home.
It highlights one of the benefits of this moment. One of the cries for action that we can make is education and seeking to understand. What you mentioned on several fronts there is when you are raised in a white culture, which America predominantly is a white culture. When you’re raising that, everyone understands that regardless of what color you are because that’s what’s predominant, what’s talked about or educated, the system, whatever it is. The opposite isn’t true. Thus, there’s an imbalance in the understanding of each other. One of the best ways we can help in that individually is by educating. One easy way we can all take action is read some books. This is something I’m excited to do too. I’ve got a list of books. I’m excited to work through them and understand more. Be able to understand the culture, so that we can understand someone who’s talking to us and they don’t have to adjust to us. The other thing that you highlight is the empathy building from your upbringing is such a benefit that you’ve had from facing that tension early on. It’s a muscle that we can all exercise and erring on empathy and on trying to understand. Especially to my white brothers and sisters, how can we err on empathy and build that muscle more?
I was thinking about this on my drive way home, this idea of privilege. As a Christian, l understand privilege very well. I’m privileged to know Jesus and I view it through that reality. I was thinking about, what is black privilege? It speaks to something you said there. Black privilege is being able to have both sides of the story because black people had to live in the white structure that was created here in America. They had to learn how to talk white language, how to speak, and understand white culture. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said, “You can’t graduate high school without learning white history, but you can get a PhD and never have to learn anything about black history.” That reality is jarring. That’s very true. You could become a PhD in anything and never have to learn about any other culture or perspective other than a Eurocentric culture and perspective. That’s a baffling reality.
I was playing with this idea in my mind, but you see some of the angry responses from many in the white culture towards even the idea of white privilege. That phrase makes white people cringe because of whatever it could mean to the person who’s saying it. Inversely, the idea of black privilege, of being able to know both sides of the conversation and calling white people to start paying attention to the other side of the conversation is making white people upset. It is an ironic thought to me where it’s like, “You’re upset at privilege because we’re calling you to acknowledge that we as black people in America have had to learn a wider body of knowledge of American life than you have. We are privileged in that sense because we know more than you. You’re upset because we’re asking you to understand more, to empathize more.” In that similar vein of the reality of white privilege as the phrase goes, it could be any other word there. The white individuals who get upset at the idea of them having privilege and black people are upset that they have privilege. It’s like, “We’re not mad, just acknowledge it. Admit it that you have this privilege.” That’s a tangent to the whole point.
One of the thing that you brought up in that whole segment was the idea that one of the unique parts of your experience is that the culture you’re a part of and your family that you’re a part of didn’t make you choose which side you needed to be on. That was such a powerful point because many people haven’t had that experience, unfortunately. Also, similarly in our cultural climate, you see this inability to not choose a side. Everyone feels almost forced to pick a side or find a camp that they’re with. That’s robbing people of owning their story and finding their place in it.
The idea of robbing somebody’s story is the problem. It is true for some in the black community as well. You can rob a white person of their story because you’ve pegged them as something that you might generally know to be true, but you haven’t given that person an opportunity to tell you their story. You’ve assumed it. That’s a powerful reality. I remember when Donald Trump first got voted in, a girl we both went to school with posted something that made me pause. It’s because I knew her and I had a good relationship with her. I knew she was an empathetic person. I knew she cared about people. She shared this story about her dad who is a horse vet in Northern California. It made me understand. I’m way more similar to her dad than dissimilar in this moment. What he wants to do at the end of the day is put food on his table for his family. He felt that voting this way was going to enable him to do that.
In that moment, whether I disagreed with the ideology that was presented at the time. I knew her and I knew her heart. I even knew a bit about her dad. I knew he wasn’t a monster. He is a family man and wants to provide for his family. That relationship and that knowledge of her and the friendship that we have was able to make me pull back and be, “Let me pause some of my aggression or feelings that might be welling up inside of me and appreciate my friend.” I still don’t have to agree but I can appreciate my friend and where she’s coming from, where she’s representing her family, and where they stand. At the same time, know that by and large, they don’t have a malicious agenda to ruin the world. That came out of friendship and relationship.
As I was thinking about this, I want to hear your thoughts on this too, not just the recognition, but being anti-racist is the cry and rally of a lot of this acting in opposition to. One of the ways that I’m trying to think about that is in this issue, in this context being anti-politics. What I think is going on, at least what I’m seeing from my perspective, is that so often the conversation is muddled by politics, agendas, postures, and stances that we think are important. We think that if we say this first step here, then that means the tenth step there. I’m not even going to take that first step, even though it may be a good step.
I’m almost in the place of saying, “How can I be anti-politics?” I’m not anti-government, the government’s important and needed. It’s not full of all scoundrels and all the worst people. The system is pretty broken. There are corrupt people in it, just as much as there are good people on it. I can’t make too many assumptions because I don’t have personal relationships with them. What I do know is that this isn’t a political issue, this is a human issue. How can I remove politics from this and focus on the essence of the human issue at play?
I’m glad you said it, because I didn’t want to sound like I was correcting you or anything like that. I do think the way to be anti-racist and the way to be anti-political is to be pro-image of God. It’s to be pro-human. Finding dignity and ascribing, not contrived dignity and value but actual dignity and value that human beings have because they’re created in the image of God. The way to be anti-racist fundamentally at the core of it is to be pro human or pro-image of God. Both are the same thing. That reality is crucial in this conversation, whether it’s being anti-racist or being anti-political. You’re doing that because your motivation is being for humans. I even was going to say that because I’ve been so big on this idea of bondage and talking to my friends.
Bondage is always focused on something that is negative towards you. I always try to pivot towards, “Let’s not dwell on what we’re against. What are we for?” If you’re against a bunch of stuff, you’re not for something. I want to know what somebody is for because that tells me more about who they are. Telling me what you’re against doesn’t tell me who you are because you’re clearly telling me those things don’t influence you. I want to know what influences you, what are you for, what makes you drive and move forward? I do see bondage and people being in bondage because they’re so stuck on what they’re against. They don’t know what else to do but to continue to be against something. Instead of living in freedom and being for, what are you for? If you’re for it, be free and be for it. Don’t be in bondage towards something that you’re against.
I love that because that hits on each person’s responsibility to not live in fear but to live out of love. Bondage versus freedom is how you can correlate those two. The other thing that you brought up is so much of the emotion of this moment and our own misunderstandings or assumptions tends to lead towards this engaging in debates and not conversations. By being in freedom, by operating on a freedom and by not being in bondage, we can stop having so many debates, which has winners and losers. It has this competition. It has this identity at stake feeling to it. We can shift back to the freedom of saying, “I want to hear you. I want to understand you. How can I learn from you? How can we have a conversation so we can both walk away better understanding each other and hopefully, better understanding our role in life?”America is not the same for everybody because everybody's experience in America is not the same. Click To Tweet
That is at the root of a lot of this. I won’t even say white supremacy, but it is an attitude of supremacy, “I want to be right. What I stand for is the truth.” That attitude works for some people. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t keep it going. What you’re saying is, “I care more about being right than I do about meeting you as a human, meeting you as a person.”
Talk to me a little bit from your experience of what are the chief obstacles to engaging this conversation, to making progress and furthering unity and equality as a nation, specifically to white brothers and sisters.
There’s a brother named Mark Charles who is a Native American brother of the Navajo tribe. He talks through this concept of lacking a shared history. Being a Native American, history is very important for them. He’s a bit of an authority in that reality of understanding what it means to have a shared history and being a people that have a shared history. That’s at the root of it. America is not the same to every person that’s here. You can say that about a black American. You can say that about a white American. You can say that about an immigrant who has migrated here. You can say that to someone who migrated here and became a citizen. America is not the same to everybody because everybody’s experience in America is not the same.
In the context of this conversation, that is the root of the problem. I would say the privilege that black people have as they have the whole history, and the unfortunate reality for a lot of white brothers and sisters is they don’t have the full history. They did not have the privilege of growing up in a diverse area. They didn’t have the privilege of having those relationships and experiences that would shape them and make them more full of a person to be able to recount experiences and conversations that would shape them to be more of a holistic person. At the root of it, what white brothers and sisters need to do is educate themselves.
One of the things that I say in my blog post on the education reality is that everybody in America has been educated poorly when it comes to black bodies. That’s black people and white people, and everybody who takes American history in America. The first time you learn about black bodies is in a negative context. I would even say to the point that we learned about the pharaohs in Egypt, but we don’t talk about that in an African concept. We talk about Egypt as if it’s this weird continent all by itself, where these great people were there, but that’s an African continent. Those are dark-skinned people that would have been living in that land. Whether they were black or they were bronze, they weren’t white skin.
One of the miseducation of America is not celebrating the beauty and the advancement of black bodies. You then drive into that conversation and you ask, “Why is that?” Whenever the expansion in the westward conquering began to happen, there was no one to tell those stories. The historians that were going on these boats and picking up these stories were telling it from a Eurocentric perspective. They weren’t going there to venerate. They were going there to destroy, conquer, or take whatever they could have. You lament the reality of a loss education that many black students experience. They don’t learn about black history until they go to college and they enroll in a black humanities course or whatever.
Part of that is this education. It’s not just black history. I love that Mark Charles also talks about native American history. Every city and every town that people live in should learn what native American tribe used to be there. What their life was like, what their land was like, and realize that every time you go to the grocery store, you are benefiting from a wicked reality. That doesn’t happen. You go to the grocery store because ignorance is bliss if you don’t have to deal with that stuff. If you don’t have to reckon with the pain that people experience on the soil that you walk in day-in and day-out.
Listening is a part of it because you can’t learn if you’re not going to be a listener. It’s the education piece because you don’t know what you don’t know. If I were to take a tangent and encourage my black brothers and sisters to find the courage in you to be patient with white people who want to listen and be willing to educate them because they don’t have access to the stories. They don’t have access to it like a black person would. At the same time, they do because a lot of black people had to read a book. I learned about their culture, their heritage, and the many inventions that black people have made to contribute to America. I was reading about the only black-owned car manufacturer in the late 1800s, early 1900s. It’s things like that where that piece of black American history is lost in the story of Henry Ford and of all the other things that might have progressed over time.
I do think for white brothers and sisters, it is taking the posture of a learner and pursuing to be educated about American history. The black contribution to American history has been sterilized and marginalized, but it’s a huge part of American history. Literally, America wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the slave labor of black people. There would be no super power America without the free labor that was being utilized in the time of slavery. Just that reality that there is no America without black people is a first reality to accept. From there, learn the positive things about black culture. That’s the other hard part for the black community.
If you turn on the news and you read all the history books and all you saw were stories of Thane Ringler murdered or Thane Ringler in bondage, you would almost get to the point and be like, “Mom, dad, have you read these books about this dude named Thane and these people named Thane? Why did you name me Thane?” That analogy happens for a lot of black people where you see it over and over again, where your skin color and the people who look like you are not displayed or portrayed as beautiful, smart, and advancing. You begin to internalize some of that and not know who to look to.
It broke my heart when I was watching this documentary that was talking about these two young black girls who got into trouble when they were young. They ended up in a juvenile correctional facility. The interviewer asked her, “What did you want to see yourself doing?” Her answer was, “I wanted to be a prostitute because they were the ones who were living a successful life.” That’s wild. That’s what she aspired to because that was the image that she saw for herself. You then go back to what she’s learning in school. Wasn’t she learning about Rosa Parks? Do you mean the woman who was mistreated because she was black and didn’t want to get off the bus? There were more black women in history who did such and such. Who are they? They’re not in the history books that she’s learning. It becomes this reality of she doesn’t have anyone to look up to. She’s not going to be necessarily a superstar or as someone who’s making money in the mainstream. That is a different conversation of why that’s terrible.
That’s where a lot of white brothers and sisters need to begin. It’s to educate. You don’t know what you don’t know. There’s a lot that American black and white do not know about black history, black culture, black American, and exceptionalism. We celebrated the anniversary of Black Wall Street. I didn’t learn about Black Wall Street until I was an adult and having to learn and understand what was going on there. Maybe there was a little blimp in high school. The best thing that white brothers and sisters can do is take the posture of a learner, but not learning their story, not learning their history. This is white American history too. If you’re an American, this is your history and becoming educated on your history.
That goes down to what happened with redlining in the real estate market. Why did the association of realtors have to write laws in the ‘50s that spoke against the segregated housing that they were espousing? Why did black families move into these areas where there was work and then those factories began to move into the suburbs? Now there’s no work in what became predominantly black areas because the black people didn’t have cars. They couldn’t travel to the place where work was and so on and so forth. Those are all aspects of American history that are facts. Those things happened in American history.
What white brothers and sisters have to do is begin to reckon with that and ask themselves, “How does that fit into my story? How does me educating myself with those things fit into who I am and where I insert into the story in my lifetime?” In that conversation, “I never owned slaves. You never were a slave.” It’s like, “That’s fine. No one’s necessarily saying that you did.” Realizing that slave owning is a part of your history as an American is lamentable. White Americans will view that differently than black Americans because the sides were different. Acknowledging that slavery is a dark stain on our nation’s past is worth owning.You can't learn if you're not going to be a listener. Click To Tweet
What struck me about what you said is let say it’s a football game. When you win a championship, the winner comes away and they’re riding it out. They celebrate it and they spend the month celebrating. They then get back to work, “Let’s go and get it again.” They’re motivated. The team that’s on the losing side are like, “We’re going to get revenge. We’re going to get payback.” It’s carried forward into a much deeper burn, a motivation to come out on top. What you brought up is that when you’ve been on the opposing side of oppressor or you’re the oppressor in this situation, you don’t feel the emotion that the oppressed has over those years. It hasn’t built up and it doesn’t lend itself to the same experience or understanding at all, even if you can intellectually understand it.
That’s a great point of feeling to wrestle with. What does it feel like to be the one who is winning versus the one who is losing all the time and how the emotion is different?
What you spoke to is the systemic nature of this and how many layers are involved in the systemic part of our shared history in this. What we talked about even before is what the implications of that are, what’s required of us is then leadership. I remember listening to a podcast where the guy being interviewed said, “Can you name me the top three leaders in our time that aren’t in Corporate America?” He’s saying like, “I don’t know if I can pull up three names of renowned leaders of our day and age that are leaders we aspire to, that aren’t in a corporate executive role that would be more noticeable.” It speaks to this almost vacuum of leadership that starts with leading yourself well. It also bleeds into spiritual leadership. How do we lead our brother and sisters well in this race of running towards Jesus? What is needed for leadership in this realm?
From the Christian perspective at some level, it is an education and acknowledging of Christians culpability. The Christendom, the Christian worldview, it’s culpability and bringing us to where we are. That’s something that the American Evangelical Church has not grappled with well. There is no slavery without Christianity. That’s a hard pill to swallow. It was these European monarchs in the name of Christianity who were going on and conquering these lands and going to disciple the heathen. You can read accounts of priests who are on the boats going to Africa and into the Americas and wrestling with the theology of some of these things, “These people look like men, but are they men?” You go down and you look into the papal bulls that were written by the Pope’s of what they were talking about the heathen.
The heathen was an unregenerate person who had less dignity. They weren’t seen and valued as human. That’s what a heathen was. Going to conquer the heathen world was to go and conquer those who would not submit to Christ and the crown. That was what they were going out to accomplish, to call people heathens, to repent of their sin, and turn to Christ in the crown for salvation. That is a part of Christian history that has to be owned, reckoned with, and wrestled through before the church can ever have a leading voice in this. You think back to even 50 years ago with Martin Luther King, who wasn’t necessarily a CEO. He was a social leader across the board. He was a social voice that was speaking out towards these kinds of things. He had that context, that understanding, and that conviction. Malcolm X had that conviction and that mindset. He just had a different approach than Martin Luther King did.
That conviction, that knowledge, and that understanding was there. For specifically the evangelical world, before the Christian church can have a voice, it has to acknowledge its past. It has to acknowledge its place and culpability in history. I’m a big advocate of you’re not going to change the world in an instant. It’s going to take conversation after conversation, person after person, relationship after relationship. You changed the world over time with many people. From that, advocating for leadership has to be consistent and it has to be others-oriented. If I were to speak to a non-Christian who was asking this similar kind of question, you can’t drive your own personal agenda. It has to be others-oriented. I would say the same thing to a Christian who’s wanting to grapple with these things. You can’t push your agenda. You have to become a learner.
What are the people dealing with? What is your community wrestling through? How do you be a voice for the voiceless in what they are wrestling with? Do it with righteousness and do it with equity. That’s what I would encourage people to do. Coming back to that, you don’t have an agenda. You don’t have a five-year plan. You don’t have an ideology that you’re trying to push, but you are listening to the people that you’re serving to be able to rightly stand as a voice before them. That’s what Martin Luther King did. That’s what Malcolm X did. They were amplifying the cry of people. That’s what made them strong leaders that they listened to those they were representing and going before. That was rooted in them being able to have the understanding of where we’ve come from, where we are, where people want to go, and then being a voice for that. Leadership is much more an avenue of advocacy before it is an avenue of promoting an agenda.
An avenue of advocacy. This has been so helpful already. Speaking of that, if we tried to remove agendas. I want to know your perspective and how you’ve been thinking about the rally cry of Black Lives Matter. It becomes the Malcolm X, the Martin Luther King rally cry of this uprising and this justice movement in some sense. Tell me how you thought about the concept or the phrase or even the idea of Black Lives Matter.
This one is a little bit complicated. It’s complicated because people are uneducated. It’s rooted in some of the things we’ve already talked about. How I see it, Black Lives Matter was not created a few years ago. There was a little pound sign that was put in front of that phrase and it became something on social media. That’s the total influence of social media and the monster that it is. You can’t control it. You put a hashtag on something and it goes. The reality of Black Lives Matter is the words. The words are what most people are hanging their hat on because a lot of people are becoming sensitized to the fact that, “People have been saying that for a long time. That’s what Harriet Tubman in the Underground Railroad was talking about. Black lives matter and we shouldn’t be enslaving them and we should be letting them have freedom.”
That’s what was being advocated for in Black Wall Street. That’s what was being advocated for in the Marriage Rights conversation that we celebrated. That’s what was being advocated for in the Voting Rights Act. That’s what was being advocated for during the crack epidemic in the ‘80s. That’s what was being advocated for when policing started getting brutalized in the ‘90s under Bill Clinton and all those things. This cry for Black Lives Matter has been a consistent cry of black people and many others for quite some time. The only thing that has changed is maybe we’ve said it succinctly in those three words, then we put a hashtag in front of it. It gets more complicated when somebody went out and bought a domain name and started pushing an organization. It’s difficult for people who are behind the ball.
People who are undereducated and don’t have an attachment to the history of this cry, which would not be most black people. They have an attachment to this cry of Black Lives Matter because it’s been a cry that has been shouted for decades and generations. Those people who are becoming agitated by the sentiment that is being spoken of. They’re like, “What is this Black Lives Matter? What does this mean?” Unfortunately, the only thing they’re going to google is Black Lives Matter, and you’re going to be taken to this website. They associate this historical cry with this dot-com domain. A lot of white people think a lot of black people are dumb. They don’t know that Black Lives Matter, the organization, is not for black people. Black people know that. My timeline is filled with black people who know that Black Lives Matter, the organization, is straight garbage and they do not support them. They do not advocate for them, but they will never stop saying black lives matter because they do.
It’s unfortunate that the organization that bought that dot-com is associated with that phrase. There’s no reason to not uphold the phrase. I was thinking about this conversation. For me, from an evangelical conversation, it would be more like the Mormon church using the word justification. They’ve hijacked it to mean something different. They have an agenda that they’re pushing that is not the evangelical agenda or definition. By all means, we better keep using the word justification. We’re not going to bend to them using it in a way that we don’t think holds to the biblical narrative. The same thing is true. Black people are not going to let go of black lives matter, the words, because they believe in those three words. The words are important. The words are necessary for the black consciousness. For many years, black people have not felt like they matter.
Now you have a phrase and a hashtag that makes them feel seen. They want to continue to be seen. My encouragement to people is when it comes to that phrase, posture yourself as a learner. If you see someone using that phrase, enter in the conversation and ask them what does that mean to them. How does that phrase empower you and let them tell their own story. You’re then going to know whether or not they’re promoting the dot-com or if they’re promoting the life-giving chant. There will be people you’ll come across that are supporting the dot-com and that’s why they’re saying it. There are a lot of white people that are supporting the dot-com. They don’t even know why they’re supporting them.
The reality of black lives matter, the words, is not always what some people think the effect is. When you think about words, you have actual words that get strung together, and then you have the intent of using those words. Then you have the effect of those words on the person who’s listening. We all operate from the assumption that everybody understands my definition of the words that I’m using. That’s not always true. It would do us well to define terms and understand people before I assume I know exactly what they’re talking about or where they’re coming from.
When it comes to the phrase, black lives matter, you’ve got people who are responding, “All lives matter. Blue lives matter.” You’re not even cognitively processing what you’re saying. You’re reacting to something that you don’t like, which is fine because we would come to an agreement at the end of the day that we both don’t like the organization, the dot-com. The business that has been started in the name of black lives matter that we don’t stand for. We both stand in solidarity in that regard. You absolutely better believe I care about black lives and they do matter. It’s a difficult conversation for a lot of people to have. It’s somewhat of a nuanced conversation and people’s inability to have it is rooted in their miseducation.
They haven’t been confronted with a narrative of many people saying black lives matter. Black lives matter inside the woman and outside the womb. Black people do care about the abortion rate. There are plenty of black people who are advocating for abortions in black communities. There are plenty of black people who are advocating for black on black crime in neighborhoods, on blocks, and in places like that. There are lots of them that care about the holistic black life. It’s unfortunate that we’re stuck with a dot-com that promotes ideology, that is anti more than it is for something. Black Lives Matter is a slogan, a phrase that has been upheld and felt by black people for generations. It’s definitely an unfortunate thing. I would encourage people to not assume they understand what somebody’s meaning when they say Black Lives Matter and engage the person at the person level and say, “Help me understand how does that phrase empower you.” I’m not prescribing that, “Barry said, let me use this phrase.”Acknowledging that slavery is a dark stain on our America's past is worth owning. Click To Tweet
The ethic of what I’m saying is hear that person out for what black lives matter means to them. If you’re dealing with the person that’s like, “I stand for everything that dot-com organization stands for,” you already know where you stand with that person. For most people and for most evangelical people, they’re not even thinking about the dot-com. They’re thinking about their neighbor, their friend, their brother, or their sister. They’re thinking about the people in their lives, their sons, and their daughters who are black. They do believe their life matters. They acknowledge some of the history at where black lives weren’t honored in that way, black bodies weren’t honored in that way. They could care less about the dot-com. They’re not going to the dot-com for information or as a source. They are convicted that black lives do matter.
That is a nuance realm. I appreciate you shedding some light and perspective on that. Barry, this has been a treat. I’ve learned so much. I’m excited to keep learning. It’s been a pleasure getting to know your perspective and the good word you brought here.
I’m glad to do it. My blog, the idea of leaning in is a two-way street. When I’m asked, “Can I lean into a conversation?” Yes, I want to talk, listen, understand, and educate myself and those things. I’m always happy to be a part of the solution.
Where do people find you, connect with you, reach out? What’s a good place to find you at?
I’m at ToWorkAndKeep.com. I try to write as often as I can. I have a podcast that’s going to be out. I’m beginning having some of these conversations, inviting people to share their stories, and how they are working in keeping the spheres that they have. Drop on by and say hello.
Thanks again. Until next time. It’s been sweet. We hope you all have an up and coming week because we’re out.
Following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from. Whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying. In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.
- Episode 41 – past episode
- Children’s Hunger Fund
- Barry Moore
- Good Night God
- What Can My White Friends Do? – blog post
- Black Lives Matter
About Barry Moore
Barry Moore is the Director of Church Partnerships at a great organization called Children’s Hunger Fund where they deliver hope to suffering children by equipping local churches for gospel-centered mercy-ministry. He and his wife Whitney have recently accepted the call of God to help plant a church in the heart of downtown Venture, CA. You can learn about more of that here.
Barry is originally from the San Bernardino, CA area. He received his B.A. in Biblical Languages from The Master’s University and is pursuing a certification from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He has been married for two years to his beautiful wife Whitney and they have a baby girl name Tahlia.
He enjoys photography, building, creating, tinkering and all things handmade. He loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Anything that gets him closer to the ocean is a good thing. He loves Christ’s church and with that comes a deep desire to see men and women live lives that are radically transformed by the power of the gospel. This transformation is needed to Work & Keep the garden God has given us to his honor and glory – and that’s what it’s all about.
You can find out more of his work at toworkandkeep.com
Check out our YouTube!
Send us an email – email@example.com