#dearwhitepeople #charlottesville #thisisreallyus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I’m a fixer. A type-A perfectionist that likes to keep her shit together. When I do vulnerable – I want to do it on my terms. When I do angry – I want to do it on my terms. 

When I do whatevertheeffhappenedthisweekend…I want to eff it. I feel the tension inside of me that wants to polarize and alienate and condemn. That tension, for me, the noticing of it, the ability to name that when I am at my weakest, I want to turn inward is the part that sustains me because I know that by noticing where I could go when I am in weak reinforces my desire to lean into community instead. I know that at my core, my center needs  transformative, holistic, diverse, shalom community. 

But this weekend wasn’t on my terms and it wasn’t shalom-oriented.

 It was finally a WTF moment for white America. And, I use the word “finally” intentionally because I think it is incredibly important for us to look at how and why this happened. This weekend wasn’t surprising. Black and other persons of color have been talking about racism, the alt right, the KKK, the system…. for years.

And, (***controversial thought***) I would argue that this weekend wasn’t just because of Trump and his continued inability to denounce the symptoms of systemic racism. 

It is important to note that this wasn’t something that just came out of nowhere. And it wasn’t ever about the statues. The statues are a symptom of a much deeper problem. 

Remember: The American system was founded on the bones of brown nations.

There has always been blood (or lead) in the water. And, it was planned that way. 

So yeah, this is really us, and I wonder at all the goodwell-intentioned white persons that use the hashtag #thisisnotus, or #thisisnotamerica because who are they protecting? Who continues to hold the risk if we all are unable to sit in the really big shitfest that is us?

Let me be clear:

Pretending it away only protects the system.

Pretending it away only protects those that can keep pretending.

The ability to pretend it away is a function of privilege.

So Charlottesville. You want to fix this. You are asking – what can I do? You’re that one at home reading and re-reading that quote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Maybe you’re that one still in bed with the mound of tissues and that pile of really expensive chocolate you’ve been saving. Maybe your numb, you’re at work, you’re tired, you’re exhausted. Maybe you’re angry.

There isn’t a self-help book to get you through this. 

There are just other people.

 Other real people.

 Lean into them. 

Share your tissues and your chocolates.

 Ask questions. 

Educate yourself. 

Don’t expect people of color to lead you right now.

Too often the white community relies on Black America to lead them through the (fill in the blank) moment.

Breathe and fight back (and, as a mennonite peacebuilder, I am advocating for nonviolence). 

Reach deep into that righteous anger and find your strength.

Don’t just rely on Google to tell you where to donate…what books to read…what podcasts to listen to. While these things are important (and I will share some of these resources with you, don’t stop there) Remember that where we are now comes from years of a system protecting some yet always polarizing us from each other. And, it was designed that way.

If you have zero friends of color, this isn’t the time to try to be their best friend. This is also definitely not the time to try to quiet people with those cute sayings of “oh…you are not really black/brown…whatever.” (Whole other rant on why that is NEVER appropriate). So yeah, this isn’t the time to ask them what you can do. This isn’t the time to go to that black church and be the good, white person. 

Instead – show up and interrupt white spaces. Talk to that friend, that cousin, your parents. Use your body by entering into spaces that you haven’t before…

Talk to other white people. Talk to your friends. Your community. Take a good look around the spaces and places in which you frequent. Look at your bookshelf. At your movies. At the places you get your news. What are the ramifications if these spaces/places/things are all or mostly-all white?

(In addition to the usual news sites, -and yes, I do check ALL newsites including Fox…whole other discussion on why it is important to know how things are being reported on all “sides”…in short, I want to lean into relationship with those I disagree with, and it is hard and trying, but I think critical…anyways, I usually check these out daily: aljazeera.com, theroot.com, poetsreadingthenews.com and medium.com). 

Learn to interrupt hate. Part of this practice requires internal as well as external interruption. Knowing how to pay attention requires learning how to pay attention. For many white people there is a need to be innocent – to distance themselves between “those racists white people” and distinguish themselves as “good white people.” Lean into that tension. Interrupting hate also interrupts our own patterns of how we interpret and understand truth. If those we seek “truth” from are primarily of one race and that race benefits from a system that was designed to benefit them over others…what are the ramifications? What does that mean for those who wish to be change agents?

Get involved. Maybe you don’t know anyone of color. Maybe you’ve never even met someone of color. Maybe the first time you really thought America had a race problem was when Trump became elected. Maybe you still don’t know what is wrong but you know something is. Get involved by becoming more educated.

On the national scale, there are a plethora of racial justice groups. Here are just a few (and, you’ll notice my answer is particularly tailored towards those in Central PA).

Showing Up for Racial Justice(SURJ) offers resources to engage, mobilize and educate white persons on racial injustice. There are platforms in both central PA and the Harrisburg Area.https://www.facebook.com/centralpasurj/

Dr. Amanda Kemp leads workshops and seminars in which she advocates for racial justice and healing, by empowering cross-cultural dialogue on the issues. I’ve been profoundly impacted by a mentoring workshop she provides online and would definitely recommend each and every one of you, particularly those of you who are maybe not quite “beginners” to RJ and who want to develop your own RJ spiritual formation. https://www.dramandakemp.com/

YWCA – Racial Justice Institute 
https://ywcalancaster.org/calendar/anti-racism-analysis-workshop/

Crispus Attucks Community Centerstrives to improve the quality of life for youth and families in Lancaster by providing services that promote community prosperity, physical and mental health, and by offering programs and cultural events which preserve the African American heritage. http://www.cacc – lancaster.org

Listen & Lean In via multiple mediums. Listen to other white people. Listen to people of color. Listen in different ways. Try some poems. Below are a few of my favorite listening apparatus’ (and yes, I’m an NPR fan).  

Podcasts:

Our National Conversation about Conversations about Race – aka: Show about Race. Love this show even though it has been discontinued. Features Baratunde Thurston, author of How to be Black,Tanner Colby, author of Some of My Best Friends are Black, and Raquel Cepeda, filmmaker, journalist and author of Bird of Paradise.https://www.showaboutrace.com/ 

It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders
http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510317/its-been-a-minute-with-sam-sanders 

Code Switch: Race and Identity Remixedhttp://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/

Hidden Brain. Okay. You caught me. So, this particular podcast isn’t entirely about race, but I love how it talks about why we think the way we do…and that has racial implications.http://www.npr.org/series/423302056/hidden-brain

Books (There are so, so many to read. Here are a few off the top of my head – you will note that most of these are Black Literature, but don’t limit your scope. Stay committed, engaged and intentional. The scope of racial injustices is massive. Remember to engage in your own self-care):

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas(YA Novel – Black Lives Matter)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

The Souls of White Folk – W.E.B. Dubois (HS/College Level).

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf – Ntozake Shange(HS/College Level.)

The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros (reads like a novel)

Brown Girl Dreaming – JaquelineWoodson (YA Novel)

“Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” – Beverly Tatum

Young, Gifted and Black – Theresa Perry

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison(YA/Adult Novel)

This Bridge Called My Back – Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa

MusicI feel particularly spiritually connected when I listen to music. Below are a few of my favorites…old and new. Feel free to listen to them…or not. You know what kind of music you turn to for healing and for sustenance.

Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
Imagine – John Lennon
Lean on Me – Bill Withers
I Am Light – India Arie
‘Til No One is Free – The Steel Wheels
Draw Me Nearer – Meredith Andrews
You Can Do Anything – Forever Jones
Think – Aretha Franklin
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
People Get Ready – The Impressions
I Wish I Knew How it Felt to be Free – Nina Simone
A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Remember to practice self-care. In an earlier blogpost, I shared a few of the things that sustain me. You can check it out here. Christena Cleveland, social psychologist, public theologian, author and professor also offers some profound and moving practices here.

Of course, I am just one voice. And, I come with my own unique background. Dig into others. Find people to hold you accountable. Lean into community. Ask hard questions…to yourself and to others.

Show up for the journey and for the process. Stay intentional and committed. 

Peace to you. Peace and discomfort and outrage and bodies willing to interrupt hate, voices willing to speak out and hearts willing to risk more than what you risked before. 

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