The tendancy is to group people together. To use a broad brush. The tendancy is for most white Christians to brush things under the rug.
When I say ‘most white Christians’, I mean everyone I know in person, except for a handful.
When I say most white Christians, I mean how my FB feed is filled, filled with outrage over Duck Dynasty, Ken Ham support, Matt Walsh, Gungor anger, God’s Not Dead, ISIS, and Obama blame, and yet nearly silent on the issue of Ferguson, and if not silent, then winning at bingo.
I mean the tendency for all of us to hop on bandwagons, how it’s so easy for humans to be a mile wide and an inch deep, even though breaking down systemic barriers requires that we go deep.
When I say most white Christians, I mean how I spent 32 years in many different churches without ever hearing about racial inequalities or structural injustices. How when I began learning about and engaging with racial work on a couple of different fronts, I had virtually no support or anyone who was interested in talking about it.
I mean that if I’m not even allowed to disagree with or criticize Beth Moore, then I certainly don’t dare bring up the fact that I’ve learned about this thing called liberation theology.
When I say most white Christians, I mean the fact that Christena, Austin, Osheta, and others have been writing about race for a long time, and yet I rarely see people engaging it on a practical level, talking about what it’s like in real life. How hard and exhausting and eggshell walking it can be.
And I know. I read Austin’s post. And then chickened out on even talking to my husband about visiting the black Episcopal church on Sunday.
It’s so awkward and hard and lonely. I need people to process with. I need other people reading books on the history of racism and the prison system and black literature and theology and all of it. It’s emotionally draining, and I’m not even marching or being gassed. For the most part I just read books and swear a lot on Twitter and yet I still have to fight the tendency to retreat to my white bubble of comfort. We need to bear the burden of race together and push each other on to deeper and deeper depths.
The weight of inheritance is heavy, and when I say most white Christians, I mean the chance we have to change the story.
We need white people on the front lines of understanding the history and privilege we’ve inherited, and owning it, so we can work together to change the system.
It is hard, divisive, alienating work. All work to tear down systemic injustice is, I think. But somehow it seems like there are fewer people, even progressive Christian people, who want to engage the issue of race.
Maybe Ferguson is the catalyst for so many of us. I hope it is.
But early last week there was a discussion about White Christian Twitter having a delayed reaction to Ferguson.
And I have to wonder how many people are into Ferguson because it’s trendy, or because we don’t want to be labeled as uncaring or racist. I see tweets by black people joking about new white followers and how most of them won’t stick around, and I want to argue, but I know that they know, that they are probably right.
I can’t help but wonder how many #notallwhitechristians are going to stay invested in racial work.
Because I see tweets by black people I respect and I see their weariness. I see their concern that if they stay silent, white people will too. They shouldn’t have to bear the burden alone.
Because the thing about racism being systemic is that it’s actually everywhere.
My daughter asked for a crayon in church on Sunday. 4 days ago. In the middle of all my tweeting about race. She asked for a skin color crayon. And I said I didn’t have one. “No, skin color brown,” she says. Oh. Damn it.
We cannot tear down what we do not acknowledge is built. This is not just about Ferguson. It’s about where you live. It’s the cities and counties and senators, your corrupt and petty local government, the police force and state governors. It is these states, united by empire, that inform and uphold each other and we’re all caught somewhere in-between.
Systemic racism requires open eyes to bear witness. To say I see you, I hear you, I will remember this injustice. And we need to bear one another’s burdens in this.
Open eyes means seeing your friend get a DWB, watch him take off work and get paperwork around, only to show up at the courthouse and realize a dozen other people are also there to fight their DWB tickets issued by the same cop.
Open eyes is seeing a black woman tweet out the name of a recommended book on race relations and a white woman respond to ask for the author. And seeing the black woman apologize for not giving it. No! White people have Google too!
Bearing witness is seeing, repeatedly, POC’s frustrations with white Christians on the issue of race, and refusing to be defensive. Because the silence of most white people is heavy. And historically speaking, the weight is here to stay.
But it doesn’t have to be. We can be a witness. We can make it harder for people to say ‘I didn’t know’. We can open our eyes so that when the winners write the history and try to teach it to our kids, we can say, no, we watched with our own eyes the threats, arrests, and tear-gassing. We paid attention. We did our best. We did not abandon people.
When our part in history has been played, I hope we can look back and say we were some of those who chose to #StayWoke.