Plenty, and it Starts with Taking Racism Seriously
The news has been dreadful for the past two weeks. (It’s been dreadful since the beginning of time, I know, but it’s finally overtaken our country’s consciousness in the last two weeks.).
Our church had a time dedicated to prays this morning — anyone who was willing was encouraged to pray aloud. I heard people pray for people in our church, for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and for our country’s leaders in general…. But no one prayed for the racial/ethnic divide or the violence or the need for reconciliation and peace.
I prayed for Ferguson and all that situation represents, for the families and friends of John Crawford, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford… killed by police in what appears to be unjustified violence. I prayed for the police working hard to keep order peaceably (one of whom is a family member) and for the police who are failing to keep order peaceably.
But I didn’t pray aloud. I waited to see if anyone else would. I wanted to see how aware this group of people were. I excused myself by testing them.
I waited too long. The prayer time ended and immediately I regretted my choice.
I am trying to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe many of them are aware. Maybe they, like me, were waiting to see if someone else would talk about it.
I’m disappointed that my church failed my test, but even as I think those words, I see it. I’m as guilty of silence as they are.
I knew I was supposed to pray out loud, I knew it as clearly as I know my name. I failed.
Brothers and sisters, I have sinned. Please forgive me.
I will speak up next time.
It’s time. Stop waiting. Speak up. Make people uncomfortable where necessary. Do the hard work of admitting our wrongs and working to make them right.
I want to do this. But I don’t know how.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the church we attend is very suburban, affluent, and white. Do we leave? Seek out a Latino or African American church? Learn Spanish? Do we cross the divide?
Would we be welcome or seen as invaders out to appropriate or whatever other buzzword is out there for whitewashing and Anglo-fication?
Or do we invite people of color to our church? Would you come? Would you stay? How do we make you feel welcome and at home?
Or do we pair up with a church made up of people of color and start doing things together, recognizing that some of us are more at home with certain things and others are more comfortable with other very different things?
How do we desegregate Sunday morning? How do we desegregate our churches?
I have found a few articles and posts that give some insight. I’m starting here. I encourage you read these articles. We need to find active answers to these questions and then we must stand up from our computers, walk out our front doors, and join together to make this right.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles police shot yet another black man, Ezell Ford. Many white Christian bloggers and tweeters and Christian leaders (save Rachel Held Evans and a few others) still haven’t said a thing.
Meanwhile the news outlets are trying to figure out why the Ferguson police department looks more like a military. Journalists who tried to hold them accountable were arrested. And few members of the white evangelical twitterverse have said anything.
While the white Christian world debates who’s going to hell, the African-American community is already there, and nobody seems to give a damn.
Let’s talk about an active role for white people in the fight against racism because racism burdens all of us and is destroying our communities. And, quite frankly, because white people have a role in undoing racism because white people created and, for the most part, currently maintain (whether they want to or not) the racist system that benefits white people to the detriment of people of color. My white friends who’ve spoken out harshly against the murder of Michael Brown end with a similar refrain: What can I do that will matter in the fight against racism?
White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.
I asked Rev. John Vaughn, Vice-President of Auburn Seminary, what kind of response he would like to see from white Americans. Rev. Vaughn responded via email that he hoped his white friends would be vocal and articulate why these killings are not ‘yet another isolated incident’ and ‘explore the premise that racism is not a thing of the past.’ Perhaps most importantly: “Listen to your friends and colleagues of color about their experiences and analysis of racism in America.”