Racism has always baffled me.
My first crush in kindergarten was a little black boy who was cute as a button and wore a bowtie to school. My first best friend was a black girl named Jackie whose birthday was the day before mine, so we always got excited to bring cupcakes to school together. I admired their dark skin, their super cool braids and loved spending time with them. It all felt so normal to me.
When I got a little older, we started to learn about the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and racism in school. We read books about slavery, the underground railroad, racist hate groups and violence done against black people. I remember reading these books at home astonished. I wept as I read them because it just made no sense to me. Why would anyone hate someone simply because their skin was a different color? What a ridiculous reason to hate someone.
Subtle Biases and Selfish Delusions
But as I got into my late teens and early twenties, I started to soften my stance a bit. I still would have told you with deep conviction that I thought racism was evil and wrong.
However, I found myself saying things like, “Was that really a race thing? You were probably just going too fast.”
Or, “Racism really isn’t a problem anymore. These one-off incidents are horrible but few and far between.”
Or, “Why do we need to purposely try and diversify? Shouldn’t the best person for the job get the position, regardless of race? I don’t get it.”
All the while, I took a Harvard prejudice quiz online and the results said I was equally comfortable with both white and black people. So I thought my feelings were an example of my “balance” and “critical thinking.”
Wake Up and Smell the Racism
I honestly don’t remember what made me start to question my intrinsic biases and beliefs. It might have been watching the movie Crash in my twenties. I remember driving home that night unable to speak. I couldn’t sleep for hours I was so disturbed. Was racism really still a thing?
Whatever it was, I started to do some research. I started to read black authors and journalists. I started to listen to black voices in a deeper way. I purposely began to break out of the echo chamber I was in and stopped getting all my information from the same few sources.
And that’s when it hit me – yes, racism really is still a thing. In fact, it has never gone away. We were just better at hiding it for a while.
We Don’t Have to be Articulate, But We Do Have to Speak Up
I want you to understand, particularly my white friends – I don’t find this easy to talk about. Not because I’m not firm in my convictions and the research I’ve done about racism, but because I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
I don’t want to add to the hurt.
I don’t want to make an ignorant statement because I’m not black and I don’t know what’s it like to constantly be looking over my shoulder.
God, help my ignorance.
But I still do speak up because that is what we do. We speak up for those the world has chosen not to hear. We advocate for those who are treated without honor, without mercy, without justice and we fight until their reality changes. Period.
I will make mistakes. I will put my foot in my mouth sometimes. I will get things wrong.
I will also educate myself and I will listen, and elevate the voices of the experts on racism, those who are experiencing it daily, black and brown people.
But when I need to speak, I will speak – because black people should be able to go for a jog in their neighborhood without getting murdered. Black children should be able to play in their own backyard without being gunned down. Because black and brown human beings should be afforded the rights and privileges that white people have just by existing.
Racism, Prayers and Dead Faith
To my white friends, especially those who identify as people of faith –
Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.
I personally believe in prayer. I believe prayer can do miracles. But Jesus didn’t call the church to simply pray, He called the church to action.
James 2:14 – 20 in the Message says,
“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, ‘Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.’
Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?”
That last verse really gets me because we have a lot of corpses on our hands.
Call to Action
My friend Kanita Benson, Founder of She Saves a Nation said it better than I ever could on Facebook today:
“God is not moved by evangelicalism, religious rhetoric or activity, power or superiority; and He is well aware of religious hypocrisy.
JUSTICE. WILL. REIGN.
This is a call to repentance, STOP spiritualizing racism. STOP the injustice.”
Friends, prayer is powerful but we’ve also been called to practical action. If our families and friends were being slaughtered, we would speak up. Well our black and brown brothers and sisters are being slaughtered – how will we respond?
- Let’s educate ourselves – about institutionalized racism, the prison industrial complex, and listen to the stories of black and brown people who have been treated like less than human. Ask ourselves why we look for holes in the story on the news, or character flaws, or justifications, as if anything can justify these hate crimes.
- Let’s take action – write our state legislators, speak with our wallets, and get involved in our communities as an advocate.
Here’s a great list for where to start: What White People Can Do for Racial Justice
We can be on the right side of history. We can hold up the megaphone to people of color. We can live so loud the world can’t ignore us.