How do we Change the Story of Racism in America?

I vividly remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. April 4th, 1968.  Not because I was horrified. Because it interrupted my t.v. program.

My younger brothers and I were watching T.V. in the small den at the back of our suburban house when our program was interrupted by the news. We were ticked! What in the world could be more important than Bozo’s Circus? As we goofed around, loudly moaned and complained about Walter Cronkite, my mother stepped in front of the T.V. With tears running down her face. She spoke to the three of us who were shaken to see our mom so impassioned, her voice raised in anger.

“STOP IT! RIGHT NOW! A great man who has been courageously fighting for everyone in America to be treated with dignity has been shot! This is a terrible day for our country and we need to pay attention!”

I haven’t posted any thoughts on the recent events in Charlottesville, or the angry, divisive rhetoric in our country because frankly, anything I write seems too little, and in my mind, too obvious…too easy. After all, who am I, as a white, privileged American, to think I have  anything helpful to say??

My thought process goes, “Writing something on social media is empty courage. What will it accomplish? It will only be read by those who agree with me. And I can’t possibly have any tiny understanding of the situation.”

Talk is cheap, right?

But then I am reminded by my friend Todd, of the MLK quote, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Privilege means we have the freedom NOT to think about this if we don’t want to. But if we turn away,  we participate in the sin of indifference. Privilege when it comes to race, is unearned access and the freedom to ignore what is uncomfortable. I don’t want that to be me.

“The stories we own…we get to write the ending. We as a country need to own the story of white supremacy.” Brené Brown

In order to own this story, we need to start somewhere. Here are a few of my ideas. Please add your own in the comments!

  • Build relationships

This can be a challenge because most of us live in our homogenous bubbles. For John and I it has meant reaching out and building a relationship with a local Imam, Asad Zaman. Recently, when a mosque here in the twin cities was bombed, it was John who our friend reached out to be the voice of a peacemaker to Christians at a subsequent rally.

The question I keep asking myself is “Where can I be involved in a community with people different than me?”

  • Read up – here are a few resources that have been helpful to me.

The Sin of Indifference  – an article by Ruth Hayley Barton

Small Great Things – a novel by Jodi Picoult about an African American nurse and a white supremacist father whose child dies in her care. This book helped me better understand white privilege.

Just Mercy – I’m halfway through this book that is accurately described as “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.”

  • Choose humility. Listen, and listen more to the oppressed. Listen longer than is comfortable.

 

  • Name it. Yes, there are situations that are a matter of perspective. There are times to agree to disagree, but when anyone, created in the image of God, is abused, is treated with anything less than the utmost respect, is the victim of injustice and hate, it must be named as evil. Unacceptable. Period.

“I want a white nationalist to feel uncomfortable in my church. I want him to feel like ”’Ooh, this is not a place where I can express white supremacy freely. Where I know it’s looked upon as sin and not looked upon as just a political difference.’” – LeCrae

  • Pray

Here’s a place to start.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

I know my understanding is woefully limited. I confess I have often avoided the uncomfortable conversations that are necessary for healing. I acknowledge I have benefitted from white privilege in many ways I’m sure I’m ignorant of. I ask forgiveness from my brothers and sisters of other races. I want to do better.

These are just a few of my thoughts. What would you add?

 

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4 Comments

  1. Like you, I loved Ruth Haley Barton’s post on indifference. I believe that the time has come when to be silent is to be complicit. I live in St. Anthony where one of our policemen shot Philando Castille. There were a number of awkward conversations with neighbors who blamed the black victim, the girlfriend and those who peacefully protested on our village streets. It was important to be very well informed of the facts and to disagree respectfully while also preserving friendships. It was sometimes easier to keep silent, but wouldn’t that make me part of the problem?

    • You are really living in the tension! Trying to listen well and be respectful, balancing grace and truth without remaining silent when you see injustice. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Volunteer in some way for those who are different from ourselves.
    I tutor in a South Metro ESL program; most of my students are Muslims…Somalis being the majority. This coming Fall the district has lost funding and so we volunteers are taking over some duties of paid teachers.
    I’ve heard refugee stories that break my heart, but the fact that they are sitting there next to me shows how strong and resilient they are. They know they must do their part for a better life…I love them and what I’m doing to help them.

    • Oh Pat, thanks so much for these good thoughts! Tutoring is such a great way to build relationships and serve at the same time. Press on!

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