How I Talk About Race: My intention and impact resonate

Dr Lucretia Carter Barry statement
by Lucretia Berry June 22, 2021. Originally published for/at (in), May 17, 2021

Recently, I became exhausted and nauseated by the noise of Facebook and Instagram — so much so that I had to take a social media hiatus. Prior to my pause, I loved peeking through posts and images to get updates on my friends’ lives. I enjoyed broadening my understanding through people’s personal stories and gaining professional guidance. But in the last few months, the social-scape has been overrun with weeds of miscommunication, fear mongering, and deafening disrespect. Posts and comments trumpeting to be seen and heard have drowned out the listening to understand and connect. The collective blast has felt unbearable!

Over the years, I’ve learned that the sound I put forth into the world, whether through words written or songs sung, speaks volumes about my Source, my motivation, and my intention. Both my intention and my impact resonate.

In the story of the widow’s offering (Luke 21:1-4), Jesus turns His disciples’ attention to the people in the courtyard who pause at the treasury receptacles encircling the courtyard, to give an offering. Atop each receptacle was a shiny, metal trumpet-shaped receiver, which amplified the sound of coins when they were dropped in. Everyone would be able to hear the sound of each person’s offering.

The rich would lift their loads of shekels up high so that their offering thundered and echoed throughout the courtyard. The pageantry of noise would make heads turn, garner oohs and ahhs, and get the rich noticed. With their noisy offerings, the rich would be considered generous and admirable. Perhaps the priests would offer to inscribe their names on a pew or a parking space . . . just kidding.

And those who were not rich would huddle over the metal trumpet-shaped receiver and inconspicuously place their coins into it so as not to attract attention to themselves.

When the poor widow enters the courtyard and puts two, small copper coins in the receptacle, Jesus points her out to His disciples. I imagine that the widow’s offering barely made a clink, clink. Perhaps her tiny coins, in lackluster fashion, quickly slid down the metal receiver and quietly rested among the mound of coins in the offering box.

What I love is that Jesus sees her — a woman, widowed, impoverished. He hears her clink, clink. In the courtyard, among all of the blaring, noisy coin drops, clanging and clamoring on behalf of worshippers wanting to be worshipped for their riches, Jesus sees and hears her heart. Her clink, clink wins His attention and admiration, and the sound of her worshipful offering — the motivation behind it, her posture, and her effort — becomes the standard by which we should make noise.

Just as Jesus pointed out in the courtyard, the loudest, most boisterous acclamations in God’s name are not necessarily God-centered or Spirit-inspired.

Several years ago, when Holy Spirit invited me to a ministry of racial healing, I created a communication covenant for myself. I wanted to profess my intention and commit to contributing a sound like that of the widow — worshipful and worthy of Jesus’ attention. Because of our society’s lack of shared understanding around race and racism, I knew there would be times that in frustration, I might want to raise “my offering” high above my head to hurl it at people so they could see how worthy I am. But I knew that deafening disrespect would not, could not cultivate understanding and connection.

Inspired by Ephesians 4:29 and Proverbs 12:18, I penned these words when I began my organization, Brownicity:

When I talk about race/ism, I don’t want to contribute to the cacophony of popular race rhetoric that seems to be the norm. I don’t want to fan the flames of the molotov cocktails of personal, political, and religious perspectives void of historical context and full of emotional vomiting, systemically unaware news coverage, and motives void of nurturing understanding, healing, and harmony. I refuse to engage in a way that adds to the fear, anxiety, hopelessness, pain, and injustice that exhausts us all.

I consider my contribution to the healing process and ask myself, “Are my thoughts and actions helpful, hopeful, inspiring, and encouraging? Am I contributing to healing and change?” I do my homework. I do my research. I recognize race ideology as the giant enemy and people as victims of its deception, legacy, and intimidation. I will not sling rocks at people!

As I build my capacity to engage in courageous conversations and live in the chasm of racial division, I will be a creator of spaces where people can be transparent and vulnerable. Inspired and sustained by love, such spaces will cultivate healing and change that overflow into the lives of those around me. That’s what I am going for — because when race/ism is addressed in the context of love, it loses its power.

Lucretia Berry, 2015

You probably don’t have a communication covenant for the work you do, but perhaps, you can pause to consider how your sound shapes the social-scape. No matter your offering, may its sound capture the heart of Jesus. May your words, songs, and actions be worthy of Jesus’s admiration.

course: what lies between us
The Communication Covenant is excerpted from the study guide for the introductory level course, What LIES Between Us – Fostering First Steps Towards Racial Healing.