I Attended a Protest Today

Today, I attended a protest march and rally at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. I joined nearly 1000 people advocating for passage of AB 953, a bill that could help end racial profiling. I’m proud to have been a part of this protest. We marched. We sang. We prayed. We chanted. We staged die-ins. And we shut down the governor’s office, demanding justice for our black and brown brothers and sisters.

Here are a few things I am reflecting on about this experience, listed in no particular order of significance:

– Just over a year ago, I was working full-time as a college professor and spent most of my time in the classroom. If you had told me I would be part of a protest that shut down the governor’s office, I would have laughed at you. I had absolutely no grid for such things.

– I often wrestle with the relationship between racial justice and reconciliation and which one should be focused on more. Today I was reminded that we are being reconciled when we stand for righteousness and justice. Throughout the protest there was little talk of reconciliation. And yet, as we stood together for justice, there was no denying we were experiencing reconciliation in powerful and profound ways.

– I have met so many amazing people this year. It filled me with great hope to see so many of them at the protest. Also, I am blessed to be in community with some really amazing women of color. I’m realizing more and more how much they have sustained my faith this past year.

– I am an evangelical Christian. I was raised, educated and employed, for many years, within the context of evangelical Christianity. I couldn’t NOT be evangelical if I tried. And yet mainline churches, such as the Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ, have also embraced me as their own. Additionally, Black liberation theology has helped me see the world more clearly and drawn me deeper into the heart of God. Today, when I looked around there were a few evangelicals in attendance, but more so Christians from mainline traditions, African-American clergy rooted in liberation theology, and Latino Catholics (as well as other religious groups). I long for the day when more white evangelicals will reside in these sacred spaces, too.

– Today, we took up residence in the halls of the State Capitol, at times surrounded by law enforcement. I was with hundreds of protestors, many of whom were people of color. Contrast this with the fact that almost all of the people working at the Capitol were white, including every police officer I saw. White people were clearly overrepresented in these positions of power. This should trouble us. Especially in a city that prides itself in being the most diverse city in the United States.

– As a psychologist, I wish more people took seriously the research on implicit racial bias, something we’re all prone to. It’s extremely important that we recognize it can lead to deadly consequences when those with power (e.g., lawyers, doctors, politicians, police officers, judges, mental health counselors, etc.) do not take responsibility for their own unconscious racial bias. I also wish more white pastors were open to understanding the impact of implicit racial bias on their ministry.

– Today, I learned that California leads the nation in officer-involved shootings this year. Over 120 people have been killed by police since January 2015. This should give us pause. 

– We heard stories from people who lost loved ones at the hands of police. This deeply grieves me. Especially when we know these deaths are disproportionally happening in communities of color. This matters to me as a white woman committed to justice, but also as the daughter of a police officer. I know the dangers police officers face every day. I grew up valuing the role of good, competent policing in society. It keeps everyone safer. Unfortunately, we’re seeing too much of the opposite in this country and have for too long. My value for law enforcement drives me even more to fight unjust police practices.

– The march and rally today reminded me once again why I am so committed to following Jesus. Too often as Christians we want to move past the suffering and death of Christ (Good Friday) and focus on his resurrection (Easter). By connecting with the suffering of those most vulnerable and marginalized in our society, I am simply unable to look away from the ever-present reality of Good Friday. I believe Christians are called to be in that space. If we haven’t sat with the ache and grief of his death on Good Friday then the true power of the resurrection will be lost on us.

– Finally, I really miss my 20-something body. Heck, I miss my 30-something body. I’m going to be really sore tomorrow, just from standing and walking all day. Nothing like a protest march to remind you you’re not getting any younger.content.

Brandy Liebscher