May 31, 2020
Dear Lake B Family & Friends,
At the close of this Pentecost Day, I can think of no better desire, hope, longing, prayer than for a fresh, powerful, anointing of the Spirit on the Church.
An anointing that fills us with fire and urgency.
An anointing that fills us with compassion.
An anointing that fills us with mercy, humility and courage.
I was grateful for the words of our guest today German Zarate from Colombia. “We are Christians so we work for Justice.” There was not one ounce of question. Our identity in Christ is that we work for and embody Justice.
Below, I have shared Theari Leng’s words from today’s service. Her words are timely for Pentecost and open up such great possibility for the Spirit of God to move. Theari models an example of how to think honestly and deeply about issues of justice – not in a distant way, but in a deeply personal way. This is how authentic solidarity begins.
Thank you Theari for your leadership.
With gratitude and humility,
(from May 31 Sunday Service)
Reflections from Theari Leng
I was invited by Pastor Lina and Tali to share on this Sunday about how I’ve been processing recent acts of violence and murder of Black folks in this nation. Initially, I was taken aback by the ask but remembered that these are two people that I deeply admire and love and they continue to give me space, which I am so grateful for.
I also had to remind myself that I hold the privilege of not having to engage and I was about to lean into that privilege. The way my identity as a Cambodian-American woman interacts with these systems of oppression, specifically systems that uphold anti-Blackness is that it allows me to be silent. It fools me into believing that I have no voice or space in the matters of violence
toward the Black folks. That’s a lie crafted by White Supremacy to create order for the longevity of institutionalized racism.
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd are names that have been repeating in my head lately. Not just hash tags, but people who have had their beautiful lives taken by the privilege, power, and protection that systemic racism and white supremacy armors their killers with. It’s
been overwhelming to read about these different stories, seeing many resources on how to be an anti-racist organizer, and of course shallow arguments that this isn’t about race. It feels as if I can’t really find the space to have my own thoughts or feelings—but I know that it makes me feel physically sick.
What I have found helpful in processing is when I choose to be intentional about reflecting on the justice and radical love that the Gospel teaches us, the Gospel that The Church is called to live out, fully alive—I see that there is no other choice than to continue to feel, to step into the work, and to listen to those hurting the most.
So if you’d bear with me, here are some things I’ve been reflecting on…
First, the constant reposting of images and videos of violence toward African Americans and Black folks on social media—specifically when non-Black folks of color or white folks repost them. I am conflicted by the fact that it is painful to watch and that is what it takes for more people to care and possibly take action of any sort. But also, the constant feeding of violent images and videos that may be triggering and (re)traumatizing for many, especially for Black folks make my chest ache; and even more so, the thought of Black and Brown children seeing these images.
Secondly, I reflect on the anti-Blackness that exists so deeply in the model minority myth and Asian communities. There have been many times I’ve heard Asian folks utter that All Lives Matter or that Asians are oppressed too—some of those times, those folks being my relatives. I know of the oppression and violence my family have faced and face today. But this does not take away from the fact that the dehumanization and criminalization of the Black community is what makes the model minority myth what it is. It makes Asian Americans more tolerable to the White Gaze as the façade of hatred and indifference blinds our communities. I saw a meme that’s been circulating of one of the four officers who killed George Floyd where the caption read, and I quote: “On behalf of the Asian community we do not claim this coward”—end quote. But we have to claim him. We have to claim the woven-in narrative that in order to be acceptable and “succeed” in the hegemonic culture of whiteness we must abandon the humanization, solidarity, and love for our Black siblings. I do not see any way there can be authentic and successful liberation by abandoning Asian American solidarity with Black Lives.
Third, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how the status quo that racism and capitalism lays out will trap you like a fly stepping onto sticky tape. The need to work, pay bills, care for mundane things like credit scores, food security, and keeping the lights on is exhausting. I’ve reflected on how much of the love for radical, transformative justice I’ve let go as I grow into this capitalistic system in order to survive and support my family. I’ve become a consumer of things that take my heart and mind away from what justice work I had aspired to do. But beating myself up about it instead of holding myself accountable will not get me anywhere. I will continue to recommit to disciplining myself to listen more closely to the voices of the hurting, dismantle the anti-Black narratives spewed by my own people, put myself in spaces of discomfort, and also harness the radical ways of community love that is rooted in my ancestry. I will push into the painful spaces to find power. But I will also care for myself in doing so and lean on my Lake B and White Center community to help reorient me and teach me as we continue this work.
And lastly, I want to end my reflection with the reminder that in this nation, it seems that memory is strongly tied to who gets to be humanized by the dominant, white culture. With racism being foundational to the systems we live and operate in, it systemically conditions us to forget that Black Lives Matter unless we are intentional about remembering and putting action toward it so it grows into muscle memory. It conditions us to push aside and forget about the safety, experiences, voices, and pain of our Black siblings. It conditions us to forget the importance of the joy, beauty, resilience, tenderness, and complexities of our Black siblings. Intentional reflection and action is what allows for continued remembrance that Black Lives Matter when challenging these systems that have been trying to convince us otherwise for 500+ years.
Theari, with several others, has provided leadership for the PIVOT Young Adult ministry at Lake B. She is a resident of White Center, community advocate and organizer, and works @ Seattle University as an Academic Advisor.