I have tried for a while to minimize my posts about controversial topics because I know we don’t all land on the same page. Some of those topics are political or religious and I respect that we don’t all want what a single white female in her 30s in the South might want. My view of my neighbor and my view of the world are limited to the experiences I’ve had, places I’ve been, and lessons I’ve learned, as are yours. I know that everything coming next has the potential to bruise my relationships, both blood and water, and it may offend you enough that you stop reading (those four of you who do) or unfollow, defriend, block, or any other manner of thing.
Honestly, I love all y’all, but I’ve never been good at being quiet.
Notes on the Past
I grew up in a small south (central) Georgia town just off I-75. I was never aware that my skin color provided me opportunities to which others were not privy.
Fast forward to college. A predominately white college in rural Georgia. I was still ignorant of my privilege, but began to see how others around me were treated as less because of their differences and I felt…like something was wrong, but I didn’t know what or how to fix it.
As we’re all aware, I’m sure, I then spent a year living out of a backpack on four continents. I often found myself in the minority because of my gender and the color of my skin. And yet. In all that time, I never questioned my rights or what danger I might encounter because of my race. In every country I visited, I was treated with the utmost respect and regard because I was white. Because I was an American. My power wasn’t diminished; it was amplified.
In Swaziland, I remember a conversation with a friend about a few things I’d been writing. Without sounding so cliche, God taught me really beautiful things about humanity in that country. One of them was this idea that each of us holds a unique essence of God. It is who we are at our core. It is the aura around us, unique to you and to me. All together, we are fitted like a stained glass or a puzzle, creating a complete picture of who God is. He poured all of himself into each of us. Without one of us, He is missing. There is no Him without all of us together. The image in my head of this…I wish I could give you a glimpse. It changed my mind about so much.
I came home a wreck (again – we all know this) and have been piecing together what I’ve learned since then. This includes, but is not limited to, an extensive amount of time lamenting how and why “mission trips” are executed in the big-c Church. White-savior complex. More damage than good. Taking scripture out of context to serve our own purposes. The more I explored that, the more I saw how the society I live in operated the same way. My ancestors acted like they were holy in the sense of holding power over anyone not like them, owning those people. And we’re now of the mindset that we’re here to save everyone, that our power affords us a betterness that others do not have.
There’s so much more to this story of mine, so many small moments you’d almost not notice until they all come together, magnetic. In these last few years, I’ve been watching, listening, learning. I’ve felt unable to speak for fear of breaking fragile friendships or offending people I care about, but also because I have been dumbfounded by what I have witnessed.
There was a time in my life when I would have argued that the Confederate flag is part of our Southern heritage, how it’s important to who we are and we should be allowed to fly it, wear it, adorn our vehicles with it.
There was a time in my life when I would have argued that gun reform infringed upon my second amendment right.
I would have argued that we all started out on an equal playing field and if you want to be anything in this world, you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make it happen.
I would have adamantly insisted that I was colorblind.
Notes on the Present
But now? Now I know better. I know we don’t all start in the same place.
By being born white I was born with privilege. No, not riches, but definitely privilege. I was considered. In policy making, in educational structure, in opportunities for growth and advancement. I was considered.
Now I know that policies and reforms are not meant to be all about me.
Now I know that we treat the Civil War and era of slavery in this country in such a flippant, disregarding way that it disrespects the magnitude of the hurt and the pain and the wrong done. We minimize it because we do not know how to humble ourselves and release the power we possess.
Now I know that ignoring color and culture that was created by the Creator is just as dismissive and devaluing as racism.
Notes on the Future
Someone said recently that valuing diversity does not mean valuing equality. We (white people) have an obligation to speak up and condemn the oppression in this country. It will not change until we do, until we come to terms with our privilege, lay down our pride and our tight grip on power, and choose to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Being quiet was never an option, but we let it be our path forward.
Who am I to say anything? What can I know, from my place of privilege? How can I possibly bring anything to this conversation without being just another loud voice, offensive to some people? What can I say that people will actually hear? What good are my words when people are dying?
I let questions like this dictate what I say on social media a lot, especially on Facebook because it feels like such a dumpster fire even on good days. Mis-information. Hatred. Disregard for others. It’s endless. But silence isn’t an option.
Where did we get off thinking that another human being, created in the image of the God you and I profess to love and follow above all else, deserves to be brutally murdered, blood on our hands, while we watch quietly on the sidelines – over and over and over and over.
As I watch Minneapolis grieve, lament, and mourn, I’m stopped in my tracks. Maybe burning it all down is what it will take to make change. I cannot begin to understand the suffering that generations have experienced in this country and, thus, cannot begin to comprehend the depth of the grief. Our very roots are rotten and though slavery was abolished over a hundred years ago, the racism and power complex of white Americans continues to bulldoze an entire people. How do I begin to understand what that feels like? Groups march, buildings burn, and our president lashes out with words from a racist police officer who glorified violence against African American communities, inciting riots in the 1960s. This level of disregard for a group of people does not make sense.
I’m still discovering my own privilege, but I’m determined to do better. There’s so much to do, to say, to be that I can’t wrap my mind around, but a few small steps I’m taking include:
- voting – in local, state, and federal elections (all of them). This includes researching candidates and choosing what’s best for my neighbors, not just what’s best for me.
- learning, continually, about the policies that put one people group in power while disadvantaging others.
- reading more works by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
- changing who I follow, watch, and listen to on social media to include more BIPOC views.
- getting involve with Be the Bridge.
- checking in with my BIPOC friends, supporting them and using my privilege to hold space for their voices to be heard.
- no longer being quiet on the sidelines while African Americans are lynched in our streets.