IF you’re not comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, you may want to turn back now…
Note: I wrote this blog post a year ago. I was too scared to post it, for fear of people thinking I shouldn’t get “political” on my blog. I’m supposed to write about motherhood, faith, and infertility. But the thing is, we just saw yet another innocent person of color being gunned down – while JOGGING – with his murderers being arrested TWO months later.
(But I’m scared to sit behind my computer and press “publish” because of what people might think? wow.)
We don’t have time to keep staying silent. It is time to get uncomfortable and start talking about things that are unacceptable.
I’ve been in a constant cycle of unlearning and relearning.
My least/most favorite thing about studying sociology was that you are forced to use the “sociological imagination.” This means you have to look critically at the world and society as a whole and take yourself out of your personal situation in life in order to do so. You have to open your eyes to the nasty things you didn’t know about before, because of your place of privilege. This can be an
I have the ability to disassociate myself with big problems like mass incarceration and systemic
In my sociology courses, I was forced to open my eyes to the ugly parts of our society, that we as white people have (knowingly or unknowingly) helped maintain. Once you see those things, you can’t unsee them.
And then you have to start talking about it. I can’t morally sit here and claim to be a Christian who worships a God who formed everyone in His image, while also denying the things that very negatively affect so many of God’s children.
We have to continue unlearning and relearning.
Search #mlkday. You will be flooded with positive, uplifting quotes. You probably won’t see this excerpt from Letter’s from a Birmingham Jail. Read it and see if you feel as convicted as I do:
Martin Luther King Jr.
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s
Councileror the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good willis more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
I have been the definition of “white moderate.”
So, I did what I always do when I feel conviction. I started writing. Then I read what I had written, and immediately thought “there’s no way I’m publishing this. What will people think of me for putting this out there?”
Then it hit me – if I’ve been made aware of the true history of structural racism in our country, I’ve read the statistics, I’ve seen the evidence behind the criminal justice system and how it tilts to an unfair advantage for us white people, yet I don’t say anything – I’m still being the “white moderate,” hence using my white privilege to avoid and disassociate.
Talking about racism is completely uncomfortable. It’s awkward and I’m always worried I’m going to say the wrong thing. I’m sweating just thinking about actually posting this article. But these are conversations that we need to have with our white friends. We have to start calling each other out on racist jokes, remarks, and comments.
If you’re reading this and feel your blood pressure rising, and you’re forming your response in your head about how you’re going to tell me how wrong I am in the comment section, how “white privilege” is a made-up term … I kindly invite you to think about why you feel that way.
We have to do the research/labor, we have to learn about ways in which we are helping uphold a system that still holds people down.
We have to recognize that we are the problem.
If you start trying to unlearn what you’ve been taught, and read and do true research written by people of color you will start recognizing how our society (politically, economically, etc) was designed to benefit us while making things more difficult for people of color.
If you’ve made it this far, high five.
Here are 6 lists of what I’m reading, people I’m following, and what I’m listening to as I unlearn & relearn social justice, racism, and my role as a white Christian in America.
To Follow on Instagram
Look at the world through a new lens. I think our first step in doing our part to dismantle structural racism is to start with our own heart and the things we’ve internalized throughout our life. When you notice someone who looks different than you do, pay attention to the first feelings that you feel. Sit in that for a minute and think through why you feel that way. Ask yourself where those feelings came from. Then decide you want to change that internal dialogue. This requires a ton of self-reflection, and it can be uncomfortable to stare our own sin in the face. I make myself cringe when I do this.
Attorney Michelle Alexander discusses Jim Crow and how we’ve replaced it with mass incarceration. My Social Inequality professor had us watch this video and create dialogue around it. I highly recommend this video and any of Michelle Alexanders’ work.
Tricia Rose presents “How Structural Racism Works” at Brown University
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
- Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
- The New Jim Crow by Alexander Williams
- “The 1619 Project”
- “It’s not just the South and Fox News: Liberals have a white privilege problem too”
- “Racial Disparities in Mental Health and Criminal Justice
- The Bible – James 2:1-26 To summarize: as believers, we are not supposed to be prejudice against anyone. We sin when we show favoritism by classifying people according to their socioeconomic status when we compare people when we try to control people with a sense of superiority. These are all things we may or may not be aware that we are doing. But I personally think that as soon as we recognize that we have internalized these opinions (because we all have) that we have to immediately start doing the work in our own heart.
Words to Google:
- Cultural appropriation
- Mass incarceration
- School to Prison Pipeline
- White Privilege
-Speaking of Racism Podcast
-Asking for a Friend Podcast – Episode “Is our Criminal Justice System Working?”
I’ll end with this because I know I’ve personally used phrases like this before, and I’ve heard them more times than I can count.
“Thus, white privilege need not be overtly racist, and in fact is most potent when expressed through coded language cleansed of racial terms. It comes out into the world in phrases that seem reasonable to us white folk, but that obscure the immense freight of racism they carry — phrases like: “I’m not racist, but”; “my ancestors didn’t own slaves so I am not responsible”; “I didn’t get any breaks, I worked for everything I have”; and “what are they complaining about, things are so much better now.” Instead of “black neighborhood,” we say “high crime,” “dangerous” or “investment risk.” Instead of(Source: It’s not just the South and Fox News: Liberals have a white privilege problem too)
youngblack male, we say “thug” and “gangster.” White privilege leads us to repeat nostrums like “hey, Africans had slaves too”; “Republicans aren’t racists because the Democrats were the party of slavery”; and “what about black-on-black crime.” Such phrases are so utterly denuded of historical context as to be meaningless, yet they are repeated ad nauseam by right-wing bloggers and pundits.” – Joseph Heathcott