The Hard Truths About Ourselves
Yesterday, I wrote a blog on the hard truths about racism. In it, I explored the question of how to talk to other white people about white privilege and racism, as well as our/their complicity in it-however unintentional it may be.
To be honest, as long as that post was, it only scratched the surface of racism in America today. For instance, I didn’t even begin to discuss systemic racism and how it affects all areas of public life for people of color…that’s a post for another day. I felt that in this moment, the most important thing to focus on is how we all play a part in the issue of racism-because the only way to stop it is to recognize the hard truths within ourselves.
The problem with the #AllLivesMatter response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement is that it fails to recognize the immediacy of the issue at hand. It’s like someone telling you they have cancer, and you respond with, “Well I have diabetes, and that matters too! #AllDiseasesMatter”…it sounds ridiculous, right?
Another example I came across today compared the two to a house on fire. If someone else’s house was on fire, you wouldn’t insist that the fire department come spray down your house on their way to the fire, would you? Yes, your house matters just as much as theirs, but in that moment theirs is literally on fire. I think it’s reasonable to assume the thought of comparing the importance of your house with theirs in that moment would never cross your mind.
Right now, in our country, black people are on fire. Their lives are being put in danger at an alarming rate, and while they’re trying to call for help many white people are instead continuing to insist that they matter too-or worse, that the issue doesn’t exist.
One thing that I failed to address yesterday (because I didn’t think it was necessary) was the issue of the riots and the damage they’ve caused. Categorically, I can say that while I do not condone the intentional destruction of property while protesting, I also understand why it’s happening.
As far back as the civil rights era, black people and their allies have been peacefully protesting in the name of their most basic human rights. We are coming up on 70 years since then. In that time, progress has been made, but it isn’t enough. It will not be enough until we can categorically address and rectify the issue. These memes say it best:
See, the thing about privilege is that it makes you blind. The most common thing I hear from white people is that they “don’t see color”. What a disservice that does to all of us. That’s like saying that the grass isn’t green to you, or the sky isn’t blue. When you claim to not see color, you’re rejecting the beauty that exists in God’s creation. He didn’t limit his brushstrokes to shades of gray-not in the plants and animals, and certainly not in His people. Failing to acknowledge all of our individual differences and gifts and beauty is a slap in the face to our creator, and severely limits our experience in this world.
Willful blindness never achieves anything of substantial good for anyone. Looking the other way doesn’t take away the pain and sorrow and evil of the world…if anything, it magnifies it. Failing to acknowledge a victim’s experience only compounds the agony they feel. In order to work through anything in a healthy way, we first have to recognize that there’s a problem there. It’s literally the first step in addressing anything.
When we ourselves are beneficiaries of that unrecognized privilege, we must strive to identify it, if for no other reason that to know ourselves fully. While we are all made in His image, we all have flaws. And just as we must realize that we are quick to anger, or lacking in patience, or a record-keeper of wrongs before we can become more like the love exemplified in 1 Corinthians 13, we have to acknowledge the privileges we take for granted before we can truly say we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Because I recently came across a series of graphics by Courtney Ahn Design that explain white privilege in a straightforward manner (and probably far simpler than I could), I’m going to share them here:
See? Simple and straightforward.
The reason I’m bringing up white privilege in regards to the riots is this: we fear (and tend to condemn) what we do not recognize in ourselves.
When we see buildings burning and stores being looted and general chaos, it is hard for most anyone to watch. However, the most important thing to ask ourselves in that moment is if those sights are more sickening to us than watching the video of George Floyd’s death. If the loss of property incites more of an emotional response than the loss of life that inspired it, therein lies the privilege I’m talking about.
When you see yourself in the business owners’ shoes, of course you’re going to sympathize with them. However, if you do not have a similar visceral response to the deaths of the black people at the hands of police authority, it will be very hard for you to empathize-or even sympathize-with them.
We fear what we do not see within ourselves. True Christ-like love means loving everyone regardless of how much or little they resemble us or our lives or our ideas of what “should” be. Christ himself was a table-flipper, a rebel of his day. He spoke frequently on injustice and how we should all be rectifying it. If we’re going to authentically follow Christ and everything He stands for, we need to be relentlessly, loudly vocal about the wrongs we see happening.
It’s never easy or fun or comfortable to admit our wrongs and shortcomings. In fact, it’s a very humbling experience. It takes a great deal of courage to put aside our pride and recognize that we can do better. We can do better as individuals and as human beings that were put here on the face of this earth to be God’s kingdom, His hands and feet.
It is not enough to remain silent-or worse, to condemn the riots but not the injustices that led to them. It is our responsibility as white people to align ourselves with right in every form, starting with recognizing that there is a problem. Black people don’t need to be rescued by us, but they desperately need our support-they are so, so tired of fighting for the acknowledgement of their humanity. We need to stop expecting them to explain to us why their lives matter and start learning how to do better ourselves. We need to fight as hard for them as if it were our own children and brothers and sisters lives’ on the line…because if we are truly all God’s children, that is literally what is happening.
Know better. Do better.
If you are interested, Harvard has a series of Implicit Association Tests (IATs) available on their website. They range in subject matter, from transgender to religion to age and weight and are created to gauge our implicit biases. There is one at the end on race. It only takes about 10 minutes to complete, and will show you what your individual level of implicit attitudes or stereotypes on race is. The results might surprise you (or not), but they serve to increase your own self-understanding.
For what it’s worth, these were my results:
Originally published at http://sincerelyaformerrepublican.blogspot.com on May 30, 2020.