LENT. 18.

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”
– Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love that this quote calls out our laziness when it comes to truly learning about the oppression of racism – this is simply yet another sign of our white privilege.

(Also, I didn’t know this quote before I read what Andre Henry recently wrote about his lent challenge for white people and it’s so good – I’m so glad he shared it.) 

Anti racism for Lent. #18.

White Fragility.

Last year, I almost went to a class called White Fragility, it was hosted by a church, which made it that much more appealing to me. See, I’ve spent a lot of time in churches and church sponsored environments throughout my life, and while I have heard the word justice used a lot, I’ve rarely seen it enacted, lived out, or truly, practically preached about. So I was shocked, and so excited to go possibly see the church having conversations I’d never seen them have before.

The class actually ended up changing names before the event. It was something much less ‘offensive,’ after the name change. I had already planned to go, and hoped the content would remain the same despite the name change. I am glad I went… I heard lots of things, some of which I had never heard before, particularly about racial reconciliation. I sat in a room full of people who were clearly eager to learn and grow. I took a lot of notes. I asked questions after, and wrote a list of recommended books, podcasts, and movies, and I got to work, slowly but surely, opening my mind and letting my paradigm shift.

I have to say that white fragility seems to the hardest topic to actually, practically talk about. Especially when I know that I’m primarily writing to a white audience, as a white person. I am sure I don’t even fully see my own white privilege (“white undeserved advantages.”) It has been an interesting process (to say the least) for me to identify my own unconscious bias, and to take a hard look at my own fragility.

I think that the suggestions of the last 17 days have really given each of you about a zillion starting points to choose from, and that’s good, because I’ve only got two for this one.

FIRST:
Read this post – “The Sugar-coated Language of White Fragility.”

SECOND:
I try to check myself in my daily life – here’s my metric:
If I find myself getting defensive, mentally, verbally, or even with my body language… Or if I find that I’m really quick to respond with some ready made answer defending my position about something (even only within my own mind) I do an immediate reevaluation…. here is a small sampling of questions I ask myself:
Why am I responding this way? Do I feel threatened?
What about me is being called into question? Is there a real threat?
What truth am I possibly missing?
Am I really listening to the other person/perspective?
Or am I focused on protecting my own beliefs regardless of what might be true?

LENT. 17.

LENT. Day 17.

Learn about and oppose systemic racism.

This topic has been heaviest and hardest on my heart throughout my hopes of understanding the racial divide and attempting to really advocate for racial justice.
I connect and learn really well through story, most of all when that story brings me to questions for which I feel I HAVE to find answers. This is vulnerable for me, but until I saw the movie Lincoln in 2012, I really, really did not understand how the horrifically oppressive system that was slavery was still effecting black people and African Americans today. I didn’t really have thoughts like, “they should just get over it” because… empathy. But I definitely did not realize the systems that were put into place and the stories – and lies – which continued to be told to keep people of color oppressed in our culture ever since the slaves were set “free.”
If I felt betrayed by my education when I came to the questions I did after I watched Lincoln, by the time I got to the film 13th last year, I was completely beside myself. Slavery was abolished in the 13th amendment, but has since morphed into the mass incarceration crisis we see today if we are willing to look. 
I remember asking questions I had never even thought before, even just on the drive home from seeing that movie. And feeling completely betrayed by everything I had (not) learned of American history throughout my school years.
The reason this topic has been so hard for me to try to write about is that it still seems overly complex for me to try to explain. Films like the ones I listed on Day 11 really helped me to ask the right kind of questions that led me to resources and incredibly eye opening conclusions. This work (of pursuing racial justice) though, is a huge undertaking. I say that not as a deterrent. I obviously believe it is one that you ought to take – I think every single person in our country (who is inevitably a part of these systems which continue to oppress people of color) ought to seek out evidence which reveals the brutal truth of the systemic racism which takes place daily.
As with any time you open your mind, it requires significant mental and emotional energy to understand things from perspectives you’ve never considered. Your entire paradigm might actually shift and that courage will inevitably open you up to a more real world than you’ve experienced before… In all of its’ wonder and glory and pain and horror.
Truly beginning to see the oppression which continues today has been both of those things – wonderful (because truth always is) and excruciating (because I don’t want it to be true.)

Last thought – recently, someone asked me WHY I care to put forth all of this energy, especially when sometimes the places I come to can be confusing – sometimes I think I’ve understood something, only to have someone else’s completely valid perspective color it entirely differently, and I’m left fairly unsure of what’s really possible for racial justice. So I realize, that like everything else worth doing, it’s about the constant forward motion through failure and mistakes, to keep pursuing truth and striving to know better and do better.

(Btw – My answer to the WHY is that it is right. Justice is essential, and this is a simple way to pursue justice.)
Links:
+ Huffington Post Article: The Evolution: Slavery to Mass Incarceration.
+ Movie, on Netflix: 13th.
+ Book: The New Jim Crow

#antiracismforlent #antiracismforlife #systemicracism