Today, I want to share with you some things I’ve discovered as I continue to explore ways to bring racial justice into our culture. In the first blog, I spoke about my own growing awareness of white privilege and the systemic racism found in our land. In the second blog, I talked about racism being a spiritual issue, a sin. Today, I hope to give some real actions we might take to try to change the world.
The poet/memoirist/actress/teacher Maya Angelou suggested a very simple thing we can do to help fight racism. Simply say ‘Good Morning.’ That may not seem like much, but a greeting and smile to a fellow human being does a couple of things. It recognizes the basic humanity we share. It says ‘I see you and I acknowledge you.’ It might open doors to friendship or conversation. This past Election Day, I found myself standing in line with a woman of color. We struck up a conversation and discovered we supported the same candidate. The lines kept growing as we waited for the doors to open so we could vote. As we stood together, she said, “I feel like a fish out of the box.” She was the only person of color in the growing crowd.
That morning, I was pressed for time. I had a fleeting thought of leaving and returning later in the day. But then, I realized I did not want to leave this woman alone. I wanted to stand with her as an ally of sorts. So, I waited and we finally had our turn.
While we stood in line, we talked about many things, beginning with the political and moving to the personal. She was from New York and had moved south to be near her daughter. She had grandchildren here and we chatted about our grandkids, sharing pictures, etc. If I had not smiled and said ‘hello’, I would have missed that opportunity.
The next thing we can do as white people is to “Wake Up.” Educate ourselves about the white privilege we all share. So many of us are defensive and way too sensitive about this privilege, so that we deny it. Instead of denial, may I suggest listening? Listen to what people of color are saying about their lives. They are the experts here. They are the ones who must live with racism and fear every day. They are the ones who can help us get over our white privilege if we will listen to them. At the end of this blog, I’ve put just a few websites for you to take a look at that will explain better than I can. Please check them out.
If you choose to become more involved with insisting on racial justice, be prepared to be uncomfortable. This is new territory. You might learn something about yourself you don’t like. You might discover hidden racist attitudes you didn’t even know you had. This is painful for people of good will. Stick with it. Ride the discomfort out and see where you end up. Do not expect people of color to be particularly sensitive to your own emotional fragility. They have their own battles to fight. Instead, look honestly at yourself and begin weeding out those attitudes which you discover do not represent who you want to be.
Another thing you can do is to support groups that fight for racial justice. The NAACP, The Poverty Law Center, the Black Lives Matter movement are just a few groups that are working for a more just America. https://www.splcenter.org/
Because racism is a spiritual issue, get your churches involved. Speak with your minister about what your church can do to teach tolerance and bring people of different races together. Perhaps you can start a ‘Dinner for Eight’ program where you partner with a traditionally black church. Members of each congregation could sign up, putting two white couples with two black couple. These eight could determine where they will meet for dinner. It is hard to hold onto one’s prejudices when we break bread together.
Or, the churches could visit each other once a quarter. Have the choirs sing together, parishioners worship together and pastors lead worship together.
Our churches need to show us the way, finding methods of bringing people together. We have so much more in common than we often think.
Pray. I pray daily for God to open my heart and mind, make me aware of what’s going on and give me wisdom to do what I can to bring about change. God has put this on my heart; I believe He will show me how to proceed.
Here are some links:
These are just a few places where you can learn about how to work for justice. I have come to believe that if I am not actively working for justice, then I am complicit in the continuation of an unjust world. I intend to continue this work for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me.