The weapons on the MH-53 that I flew in Iraq (while a captain and pilot in the Air Force…I’m standing third from the right in the last photo in that video) were for defensive purposes only. We had three machine guns, all manned by enlisted aircrew (sweaties). Essentially, our missions were supposed to be secret, so in theory, no one (friend or enemy) knew that we were doing our thing. But, on the off chance that we misplanned the route or miscalculated the threats, we had some guns with which to attempt to stay alive whilst completing the mission.
The crews I was a part of never came under direct fire in any of my ten months of combat missions. Well, I take that back. There was one mission where our formation came under fire, probably just from one pissed-off Iraqi who didn’t realize what he was up against. In response, my tail gunner managed to fire off a few rounds before he ran out of azimuth (line of sight) but our sister-ship’s gunner was able to kill the man. Like most of these stories, the event was over before it began. (I remember filling out the flight record more clearly than I remember the event.) And the biggest “lesson learned” for me was yet another confirmation that multi-tasking is impossible.
You see, piloting an aircraft safely requires a deliberate cross-check of many, many things. How’s my altitude? How’s my heading? How’s my airspeed? Etc. In the beginning of pilot training, your cross-check is slow and everyone on board, including the student, can tell. This is because the aircraft is too high, too low, too fast, too slow, out of trim, or what have you. But over time, you speed up your cross-check and consequently begin to control the aircraft professionally. However, throughout the cross-check, you are never doing more than one thing at a time. Instead, you just learn to do each single thing very quickly. This impossibility of multi-tasking is why black lives matter.
White people: listen up. Regarding “Black Lives Matter”, you’re not getting it. And because you’re not getting it, police officers are dying. Luckily, as a Christian, because of my faith in the Triune god, I have the Holy Spirit on my side and believe I can help us. Through diligent conversation with friends at the seminary and friends at church (a black baptist church) I believe I understand the problem. It’s a translation problem. I will translate for you what blacks mean.
When a black person says or holds up a sign which reads, “Black Lives Matter,” you need to merely hear/read the word, “Ouch.” However, if you come across any non-blacks who are brave enough say or hold a sign that reads, “Black Lives Matter,” know that they mean just that–black lives matter. Do you see?
Blacks are saying, “Ouch, that hurts. Why are you doing that?” This is no different than when my formation was fired upon. When our formation felt an “ouch,” we all turned our focus to the most pressing problem until it was neutralized. When we were being fired upon, all I cared about was airspeed. We needed to get away as fast as we could. Likewise, right now, blacks are being killed. And they’re being killed by us–by whites. Unfortunately, unlike my formation being fired upon by an enemy outside our aircraft which could be killed, the enemy is inside us. Our racism is what needs to die.
So how do we kill our racism? Here’s a simple solution. We need to stop saying, “I don’t see color.” We need to stop saying that because, unless you’re blind, it’s a lie. Instead we need to say, “I see color and I think it’s beautiful.” But there’s a catch. If we tell the truth and admit that we do see color, and yet we have no meaningful interaction with the Black community, then this little assertion proves to be a lie too. Because it necessarily follows that we don’t think color is beautiful if we don’t have it in our lives.
To summarize: first, when a black person says, “Black Lives Matter”, hear or read “Ouch.” Second, stop lying. See color and learn to find it beautiful. If you’re Christian, this is part of your calling.
One last thing. White people: stop saying you have black friends. Even if we “really do (honestly!)”, that’s evidently not meaningful. We need a black family. We need black people in our lives who we eat with even when we’re mad at each other. We need black people in our life with whom we take long car rides. We need black people in our lives with whom we mourn the loss of a loved one. We need black people in our lives with whom we celebrate a wedding and a birth. Again, we need a black family.
Luckily for Christians, Jesus Christ–the Word made Flesh–provides us just such a family. It’s called the church. If you regularly attend a church, voice your desire to interact with black churches. But if you don’t regularly attend, or haven’t in some time, then visit some black churches and in humility of heart join the one you like the best.
Hopefully you now see how unconscionable it is to believe “Black Lives Matter” is a divisive, racist phrase. Blacks are saying, “Ouch,” and we’re replying, “Well, you’re causing it!” Just stop. Stop being willfully blind and start seeing.