Thursday, August 17, 2017

From a white person to white people: We're complicit



From a white person to white people: We're complicit

We need to talk about something uncomfortable that our brothers and sisters of color have been shouldering for far too long.

Dear white friends, family, and church family,

We need to talk. About Charlottesville and what happened there. We need to talk about something uncomfortable that our brothers and sisters of color have been shouldering for far too long. We need to talk about race, and we need to talk about sin: the sin of racism.

But first, can I tell you a story?

I grew up in a very small town outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania in a working and middle class community. TV made me vaguely aware that there were people who weren't white but who were still just like me, but almost everyone I knew was white. Everyone was white at church. Everyone was white at school.

In sixth grade, boys and girls become hormone-crazed squirrels, whispering and giggling about things like holding hands and "dating." One day I made an offhand remark to the only black boy in my class that he should really date S., who was the only black girl in my class.
Looking me straight in the eyes he said, "Why? Because we're both black?"

I grew up in a place and was raised by people who taught me that you tolerate and are friendly to people of other races. But you do not befriend them, and you certainly do not date them.

I knew that day I'd said something wrong, but I wasn't sure exactly what and I had no one to ask. It made me think: Perhaps what I'd implicitly been taught about race wasn't all correct.

I share this story because I think a lot of white people have a story like this--the first time when what we had learned about race came into conflict with the words or experiences of a person of color.

At the time, I felt ashamed and confused. Now I know these moments are opportunities for white people to stop and listen to what people of color are trying to say. Those moments are invitations for us to unlearn some of our damaging ideas about race and the privilege we experience because we are white.

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