As I have taken time in the last couple weeks to lament the horrible racial injustices still plaguing our nation, to listen and learn from people of color, and to engage in conversations with family, friends, and acquaintances alike, I have just a few thoughts I want to share with my white brothers and sisters.
- This work of dismantling the effects of white supremacy in our homes and lives and communities must be LIFE. LONG. WORK. In the last few weeks, I have come back again and again to a quote from Daniel Hill’s book, White Awake: “Therefore, when white people decide to engage in meaningful cultural identity processes, we’re choosing to say no to the privilege of avoiding race-based stress…We will continue to be able to choose whether or not to stay engaged once we’re exposed to race-based stress. When our ‘racial comfort’ is challenged and our low stamina for engaging in racial stress is revealed, we need to find a way to stay in the game.” WE HAVE GOT TO INCREASE OUR STAMINA. This is not about sharing posts on social media for 2 weeks then going back to our “normal lives” and moving on. We have to find a way to stay engaged for the long haul. To be honest, I have felt weary in the last couple weeks. I have been weighed down by the emotional toll of reading and watching black and brown people suffer- AGAIN- under the weight of racist systems that are at the very foundations of our country. I feel like I am huffing and puffing a quarter mile into a marathon. I recognize my lack of stamina and the incredible amount of privilege behind that. Because our black brothers and sisters don’t have the option to stop or give up in the face of weariness. And so I am thinking about and planning ways to stay engaged and increase my stamina for this work. There is too much at stake to fall down and give up a mile in. I would encourage you to think about what it will take to increase your stamina for the long haul.
- We have GOT to increase our brain capacity for nuance. When you have a history as tarnished as ours, as complex and (in many ways) repressed as ours, virtually NOTHING is going to be black and white. Our brains don’t like gray. Our politics don’t like gray. Our relationships and communities and religions do not like gray. But trying to force the gray to be black and white will not lead to growth or understanding or justice or peace. I have learned so much from dear friends about getting curious and asking questions. As I engage in ongoing work to dismantle white supremacy in my life and community, I am learning that I need a spirit of curiosity in my tool belt. For example, a frequent refrain I hear in my community is, “We just aren’t affected by all this here. We are insulated from the rioting and black pain.” Interesting. It would be easy to use that as a cop out, to say “I just don’t have opportunity to engage in racial justice work here, or to build relationships with people of color, because there is so little diversity in my area.” But instead, let’s get curious and talk about WHY. Could it be that there is a reason for that? Could it be that we are perhaps MOST affected by what is going on BECAUSE we are insulated? Could it be that we are part of a history that has strategically created insulation in this area? My friends are teaching me that curiosity is a powerful tool for change. When you feel discomfort or a lack of understanding creeping up in response to what is going on in our nation, get curious! When you are trying to hold conversations with white people in your life who seem uncomfortable or defensive, get curious! Ask them questions! I am not skilled at this by any means, but I am learning and want to get better at this.
- I went to a conference last year where a man and woman shared a powerful song they had written out of the grief of losing friends of color from their faith communities to police violence. This song has been playing on a loop in my head over the last several weeks. The chorus says, “We’re asking you to remember that distance is a privilege you have to surrender. Distance is a privilege that was taken from us, and we hope it’s taken from you.” [The song is by Sunia Gibbs and Jonathan Brooks. Currently not available, but I will share it and urge you to buy it if/when it is!] As I reflect on the major shifts that have taken place in my heart and life as I am confronted by the racist structures I have benefitted from and participated in, the catalyst that has most powerfully influenced me is by far PROXIMITY. Proximity to pain. Proximity to the men and women who have been harmed by white supremacy. Proximity to injustice and those suffering under the weight of injustice. Distance is most certainly a privilege, and I am learning that I must continue to move closer, to PRESS IN, to listen, to expand my circle…to surrender the comfort and ease that come with distance. If you want ideas on HOW to get proximate, send me a message. I would love to have that conversation with you. For starters…
- Want a powerful, TRANSFORMATIVE, active way to dive in? I cannot recommend the Sankofa Journey highly enough. Three years ago, I climbed on a bus with a multiethnic group of men and women seeking to understand our history in this country and the way that history has created and supported and protected white supremacy. We took a 3 day journey down South, stopping at places like the Edmund Pettus bridge, and 16th Street Baptist Church, and the Equal Justice Initiative. We cried and wrestled and prayed together. I had the opportunity to listen to black men and women so graciously share their stories of pain and suffering. IT WAS LIFE CHANGING. And if you want to take a step toward growth and learning and putting your feet in the game and your money where your mouth is, I highly recommend putting in the time, money, and effort to be part of a Sankofa trip. Registration is currently open for the next trip this fall. I first heard about Sankofa from Austin Channing Brown years ago, and it has quite possibly been the most pivotal experience along this journey of dismantling white supremacy in my life. Again, shoot me a message if you would like to hear more about it.
White friends, family, and acquaintances- Let’s keep learning together. Let’s keep having hard conversations. Let’s keep showing up, even messing up…then asking for forgiveness and showing up again. There is too much at stake for us to give up or allow weariness to sideline us now.