I’ve never been so nervous to write a post. Literally, as I sit here typing, aware of the words that are begging to spill from my fingertips, my stomach twists and turns into a knotted mess of doubt.
Do I even have the right to speak on this issue?
And what if what I say doesn’t come out the right way and just offends? Or hurts?
What if I get backlash?
What if I use the wrong word, say the wrong thing, highlight the wrong subject matter, and make people more angry than not?
Part of me wants to skirt the issue. It is, after all, my privilege to not have to be involved.
In fact, let’s start there…
When news broke out about Charlottesville, VA, I was lying in my plush, king size bed, in my large home in the cozy suburbs of a predominately white neighborhood. Nothing could be further from my area of concerns than racial equality.
Because why would it concern me?
For my entire life, I have been comfortably in the majority. I settled nicely into my chair of privilege and unspoken power, only rocking the proverbial boat when that “power” was threatened by the only persons who might have more than me: men.
Race? Not my problem. Being a woman? That I can relate to.
It is because my first words were, “I just don’t feel like I need to be involved, I’m tired of being shamed for being white” that I feel compelled to write this post.
The truth is, I am tired of being shamed for being white. For being born into privilege; privilege, I may add, we all have some shred of just by being born in America. If it’s hard for anyone in this great country of ours to constantly hear about the problems in third world countries, to constantly be told “be more grateful”, to constantly be spun into selfish, spoiled, unappreciative greed monger just because they are in fact 95% richer than 95% of the world, due to where they were born… it might be easier for someone to understand why so many white people turn away from this issue.
No body likes to be told that who they are is wrong by nature, just like no body likes to be told that they’re evil for being born in this country instead of another one that is worse off. Because, as Brene Brown so eloquently put it, shame is not a motivator for better behavior. It is the greatest barrier to conversations about privilege.
But that doesn’t mean that turning away is right, even if it is your right.
Brene also pointed out that shame is emotional offloading. It is not a social improvement technique.
We simply cannot shame one side of the equation in the hopes that it will improve the circumstances of the other side. Shame ignites anger. Anger fuels shaming.
Here’s a better explanation of why I reacted the way that I did, when I first heard the news: I was annoyed. An annoyance brought on by fear. I wished the other party didn’t show up. No one’s mind is ever changed by someone yelling counter-opinions in their face. From my perspective, from my safe and undisturbed vantage point, the other party should have stayed home. Not because the one was right, but because of the danger of having the two clash. I wasn’t blaming the victim, I was feeling desperate to make it all go away. For better or for worse, I wanted the discomfort of acknowledging the racial tension in this country to go away.
Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so. It might make me slightly ignorant. It might make me a statistic. It might make me weak. But I don’t think it makes me bad. Because here’s the thing that we have to remember… we all have our own lives full of our own experiences that have shaped who we are and how we think and see the world. If we acknowledge that a person of a minority group experiences life in a way that a white person will never know or understand, isn’t it fair to acknowledge that a white person didn’t ask to be born into their own specific culture and have that shape their thoughts and behaviors, either?
This isn’t to say that it’s not our job or responsibility to approach these very real issues and do something about them. But can’t it be with a healthy dose of grace from both sides? Because none of us asked for our skin colors or historical blood lines. None of us asked for the history of America to have included such barbaric displays of dehumanization. And really, I believe that more caucasians would be more willing to work toward racial reconciliation if both parties could extend genuine and merciful forgiveness for being who we never asked to be.
Here’s the truth of the matter: I was born into a town of less than 1000 people. I attended a school that had, for most of my career, just one African-American family.
It isn’t my fault that I don’t have a lot of experience with other cultures.
It is my fault if, as an adult, I don’t try to.
But there is just no way that I can possibly be as eloquent toward, or even comfortable around, other cultures as someone who grew up in a more racially diverse neighborhood and learned about it from the beginning. The fact is, my school never had to broach the subject. My family never had to. My town never had to.
We were never held accountable for our beliefs or thoughts toward other races because we didn’t ever have to talk about it. We were born with the privilege of it not being our problem.
Let me try to summarize what you just read so that none of this is taken out of context or misunderstood:
White people have no excuse to not make racial reconciliation their problem, too. And other races have no excuse to continue to further the divide by assaulting every ignorant event with white shaming techniques.
There is just one right answer here and one right way to get it.
The answer is racial equality, the way is love.
Proverbs 29:11 says,
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
I have prejudices to work through. It pains me to admit that. But this event did nothing, if it didn’t shine a glaring light onto a dark place in my heart that needs to be relit with the light and love of Jesus. My initial reaction tells me everything I need to know about where I stand on this issue.
And I’m not proud.
And I don’t wish to remain stagnant.
But if I don’t acknowledge where I am and what prejudices I need to face, then I can’t ever change. And the same is true for you.
I know the feeling of wanting to turn away. I know the feeling of wanting it to not be something that you have to think about. I know the feeling of building up excuses as to why it can’t be real or right or true because it’s just too dang uncomfortable if it is.
But I cannot, with peace of mind, be an advocate for truth and authenticity and then avoid this difficult conversation. I cannot be an advocate for Jesus and then avoid looking this great injustice in the eyes. I cannot be an advocate for love and then refuse to acknowledge the parts of myself that need a serious excavation.
I want to know more. I want to know better. I am scared to pursue understanding because I am terrified of someone not understanding me. But, as my pastor said during an impactful sermon, no great thing is ever accomplished without hard work.
Hard work to rectify this problem that is sweeping across the country begins with hard work in our own transparent hearts.
If you’ve gotten this far, if you’ve read this incredibly long, probably not incredibly organized, post… regardless of what you’re feeling… please know this: I am trying. I won’t always say the right things, I won’t always get it, I won’t always leave you un-offended by some ill-spoken thought or un-biased idea. But my heart is genuine. I am coming from a place of love for all.
I have a lot of life experience to overcome, a lot of lies that became truths to debunk, a lot opinions shaped by my circumstances to correct… but I am trying.
This post isn’t a teaching post. This is not a post of do this, don’t do that, this is the right way, here’s who is wrong and why.
This post is a confession from the heart of a convicted Christian white woman who until this very day never had to worry her pretty little head over racial injustice… and a plea for grace while she navigates her new problem.
Sometimes people aren’t acting, not because they don’t care. Sometimes they aren’t acting because they don’t know where to start.
If you are a minority reading this, I beg you, teach instead of shame. Educate instead of condemning. Seek to understand why someone’s lens might be much different from yours and give that person grace when they inevitable say the wrong the thing. They will say the wrong thing. I will say the wrong thing.
I can’t change the fact that I was born white, in a white neighborhood, in a white ruled country.
I can’t change history to not reflect the worst of humanity.
I can’t change the fact that I still don’t quite get it.
But I am trying.