Look closely at the images. Sit with them. Get an understanding of where we are as a nation. Consider this undercurrent of hate that is now emboldened and coming to the surface more frequently in recent times. Racism is more than this blatant display of hatred. To use a more religious/faith-based terminology, this “spirit” is real and wants to re-emerge in the public eye. Soak it all in, but don’t get stuck there.
My fear is that the horrific events in Charlottesville will simply distract us from deeper ongoing issues about race. After Charlottesville there will still be unfair hiring practices along racial lines where diversity may exist in the workplace among lower/entry level positions, homogeneity still reigns in upper level management (including in the Christian institutions). After Charlottesville there will still be racial profiling. After Charlottesville there will still be gentrification, the lovechild between racism and capitalism. After Charlottesville there will still be resources withheld from schools in neighborhoods predominately occupied by black and brown folks.
As I read many blogs, articles and posts on social media, not to mention watching the news, I am encouraged by some, but disappointed and angry at the various responses to the events that occurred in Charlottesville, VA. I hear our president reluctantly denounce white supremacist groups then turn around and attempt to soften his stance by highlighting equal responsibility for all who participated in the protest and counter-protests . He further gave validation to an ideology and groups of people who have long been destructive and evil at its core.
I’ve also read where people from all backgrounds express their disdain for these groups. I’ve read powerful blogs by writers calling for and publically declaring their commitment to unity or reconciliation across racial lines, including intentionality in how they will raise their kids. I’ve seen tears, heartfelt responses of a nation, for the most part, lamenting together in the wake of this tragedy. This is where I get a sense of hope that more and more people are willing to are ready to speak against the evil of racism and actually do things to show they desire true unity.
While this is all good, again, I hope we do not allow this past weekend to be a distraction to the undercurrent of systemic racism that exist and is resisted everyday. White supremacists with their violent attitude, rhetoric, and actions are the obvious manifestations of racism. They should be denounced. That should be the expectation. However, this is in no way close to being the only form of racism that people of color have to deal with on a regular basis. While this (protest in Virginia) is being denounced publically across the world, the more subtle, chronic, structural racism still moves undeterred, and from some perspectives, undetected while the dust is still settling from this most recent and tragic event.
We can’t stop and pat ourselves on the backs here. At some point we must look in the proverbial mirrors, individually and collectively, searching the cracks and crevices of our own hearts and be honest with where we are as a nation (especially churches and other Christian institutions). Half of my white brothers and sisters who see these extreme versions of racist attitudes and ideology play themselves out will say, “I’m not like them. I’m not at all racist or prejudiced or biased.” People will continue to restrict their definition of racism to this extreme, blatant expression of hate. But it is more nuanced than that. You don’t have to use the n-word to be a part of a racist system. You don’t have to flaunt Nazi paraphernalia or symbols and spew hateful words safely behind a keyboard online or conveniently at a rally surrounded by your comrades-in-arms to perpetuate this racialized culture that fosters injustice towards people of color.At some point we must look in the proverbial mirrors, individually and collectively, searching the cracks and… Click To Tweet
One can simply remain silent in the face of all the racial injustices (systemically and personally) that he/she may pretend does not exist to the extent that people of color may say it does. This silence may just as quickly earn them the label of [potential] racist in the eyes of some. Your silence, indifference, lack of compassion, and dismissal of the reality of racism does just as much damage. Just ask my friend whose brilliant, energetic, and kindhearted son (one of just a few black kids in the school) was labeled as having behavioral issues and ready to be placed in a class befitting that label. She had to remove him from that school and begin homeschooling him and he now makes straight A’s. Who in the school system will acknowledge this regular pattern directed towards children of color?
Ask my friend who, along with her son had to listen to an older white man rant on a public bus just a few weeks ago about not wanting “n***ers riding with him” (echoes of Rosa Parks’ experience?). Her four-year old son had to endure this. The sad part is, everyone sitting on the bus kept silent!
Lastly, let’s not be reactive anymore. Listen to the perspectives and experiences of people of color who fight everything from micro-aggressions to racial profiling to Swastikas painted on their homes. Learn what those experiences have meant in the past, the effects of those actions, and the legacy of those experiences today. Lament with me! Let me see that there is compassion for what is happening on a regular basis beyond “let’s wait for the facts.” Even if we wait for the facts and the victim was in the wrong, a mother has still lost her son or daughter, a wife her husband, a husband a wife, a child their mother or father. Those losses can’t be underestimated. Labor with me please. Labor in prayer as long as it will take. Labor with me through education about the histories and experiences of people of color. Labor with me even if it takes protests, petitions, hosting conversations and events, sharing with those who may not understand or care (even if it threatens the friendship), or build authentic relationships across racial lines.Labor with me...Labor in prayer as long as it will take. Click To Tweet
Yes, I’m hoping my white brothers and sisters, pastors who have been entrusted with a pulpit to preach from, politicians, teachers, and parents would not be silent. I hope we can all be willing to get messy and confront this until there is true change. I hear about “white fatigue” when it comes to this ongoing talk on race. I feel your pain! I’m tired too (For my blog “White Fatigue” click here.), but we have to engage in the deeper realities of a racialized society beyond the blatancy of white supremacists groups. If nothing else, for the sake of the next generation.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” Matthew 12:25.