‘But make no mistake. Privilege is real, and so is oppression. We live in the same country, in different worlds. The town of Ferguson is speaking up; this is the time to listen, and pray for justice.’
This is the time to listen, he says. Well then. Listen up.
Racial work is hard. I’m kind of upset at how White Evangelical Leaders can just swoop down and issue their authoritative opinion on race and get applauded.
‘We ought to speak to the structures of society about principles of morality and righteousness’ – yeah we do. How about starting with the SBC? It’s great that they issued an apology awhile ago on their racist history. But what have they done since then? Why aren’t they as well known for racial reconciliation as they were racial division? (Side note – look at the staff of the ERLC, of which Moore is president.)
And what is all this ‘as we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to speak up for one another’ stuff? NO. Becoming informed and then speaking up is not dependant on whether or not people are Christians. It’s about their basic humanity.
‘Ferguson reminds us that we have a long way to go in healing’ ? No, Ferguson just happens to be a window into the structures that we have built and sustained. White people wouldn’t need the window if they were actually outside, seeing the world the way it really is. (And, as Luke pointed out, white people, especially in article about race, shouldn’t use the term colonies.)
‘We don’t yet know everything about what’s happened, or is happening, in Ferguson,’ he says, but actually if you’d been on Twitter before today, you’d have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on. If you’d sat and watched the livestreams last night, you would have seen what the police were doing to peaceful people in their neighborhoods. ‘We don’t really know’ is such a cop-out of a phrase. It’s an easy way to avoid standing with the oppressed in the middle of discussing reconciliation, yet sounding as if that’s what you’re doing.
And also, hey, how about a little honesty? Acknowledge that your response is coming more as a reaction to the violations of the press and not because a black kid died. Stop pretending to care about racism when you don’t. At least be honest about it. Honest about how your skin color and wealth insulate you. Honest about your discomfort, your uneasiness, your guilt. And then pick up a damn book and start learning.
And the post at TGC, you can tell was written by a white person. At least I can, and I only say that because I’ve spent a year or so learning and listening to black people. Which has taught me that they never thought our wounds were healing. That the narrative ‘that the worst of our racial and ethnic prejudices are behind us’ was never their narrative. That the ideals put forth in the Declaration were never about true freedom and equality.
And most telling is this little bit: “Economic stagnation, family breakdown, and a drug culture are three strands of a noose with strangling force, suppressing people on the margins as the rest of society moves forward, blithely unaware of the realities faced by their fellow citizens across town.”
From what I’ve learned, that whole section is misleading, inaccurate. The term for that is really systemic racism, and instead of ‘economic stagnation’, it’s more like predatory lending, racist housing laws, gentrification, and low wages. You know, more complicated and messy, and involves looking at ourselves as oppressors instead of simply blaming people for not staying married or clean.
Actually dealing with oppression and privilege involves more than just watching the news and praying. I’m kind of stunned at how he basically admits to living a way of life in which Ferguson is completely foreign, and yet he doesn’t talk about how he should make that world more familiar? His answer is just to listen and pray?
No, the answers involve addressing your own privilege – name it and claim it and then do something about it. It means looking at the ways you oppress people and for God’s sake, do something about it. It means don’t just pray, but work to dismantle the systemic issues.
I am no racial reconciler. I am a racial learner, hopefully a racial teacher to my kids. And the learning is so hard, so depressing, and so overwhelming. And even that sentence is a statement of privilege, because being uncomfortable is an option.
So here’s what pisses me off. Blasé posts by white people that use generic sentences about race and history, as if real knowledge isn’t necessary. Tossing off the idea that we need to embody racial reconciliation without proof of having done that work yourself. Throw in a few sentences about church, Jesus, Jews and Gentiles, prayer and listening, and voilà, you have a winner of a White Evangelical Leader Racism Post.
I’m angry because understanding the depth and trauma of systemic racism will be a lifetime process.
Being a leader isn’t about writing a post. It’s about getting down and doing the hard work yourself. It’s about taking hours, days, years to let the stories seep into your skin. It’s about sharing the awkwardness and discomfort. It’s acknowledging that you will never really know what it’s like because you are white and always will be.
Tell us about how going to Wal-Mart on Sunday made you nearly burst into tears. How you almost wanted to walk around the store with the toy gun to prove the point. How you force yourself to look into the eyes of black people riding their bikes around town and smile – when all you want to do is hide your face because you’re so ashamed of your skin and the history that comes with it.
Tell us how you want to apologize to every black person you see, and that you know that even these feelings of guilt are inappropriate because it’s not about how you feel. It’s not about you at all.
Tell us your stories of living out your embodiment. Tell us how it’s taking weeks and weeks to read The New Jim Crow because it’s all so fucking horrible and true and you know it, and now you can never not know it and everything you read alienates you more and more from people you know who don’t want to know.
Sure, listening, prayer, and lament are important. But they come out of a soul-deep realization that the world is weighted unfairly and justice is handed out with partiality.
So when people toss out ‘racial reconciliation’ without the agony to back it up, they cheapen the hard work people are doing, and in the end, they themselves are one more structure of society that needs to be dismantled.
Listen to that.