Know Better, Do Better.

There’s this brilliant activist that I know who challenged his friends to something different for Lent in 2018. (You may have even followed some of that series, here.)

The challenge was to become an anti-racist for the 40 days of Lent.

Up until that point, I would have confidently told anyone that I wasn’t racist. I loved black people, after all. I could have identified some of my white privilege, and was ahead of the white curve when it came to awareness of the problem of racism in our culture.
But I learned SO MUCH in those 40 days.

I learned the ways that I was unconsciously oppressing others. I learned more of* the depth of my white privilege and more of the depth of racism, white supremacy, and nationalism that run so rampant in this time and place. I woke up to the ways that the church had taught me a white savior complex.

By the way, I say “more of” because, while I am actively doing my best to grow in this, all the time, I don’t know that I’ll ever know all of it. As long as I live, I will continue to keep digging out the roots of white supremacy that are the ground upon which I have stood, those roots that have run through my lineage. But I may not ever be able to fully even see all of them. No matter how much I care, how much I try, how much I grow, I can not take off the privilege my white skin has afforded me any more than those with black and brown skin can rid themselves and those they love of the oppression they’ve endured because of their pigmentation.

During that Lenten practice, I had some complications with my pregnancy, as well as other personal things, which included a trip across the country that launched a different set of personal growth and reflection, and just jam-packed days.. and I did not finish the daily writing part of actively challenging my community to antiracism. Even as I have continued to learn and grow in my antiracism knowledge and practice, I have carried guilt and shame that I didn’t see the project all the way through. If you were one of the people who engaged with me through that process, please forgive me for failing to finish.

I cannot really begin to put into words what all this learning of antiracism has meant to me, my family, and my life. It has seeped into the crevices of everything in our lives.

This brings me to what started this post:

I’m part of this Facebook group that focuses on parenting with antiracist intentionality, and in this group, a post was shared about racist themes within the curriculum being used at the church we attended at the time, for the VBS we intended to send our kids to, and being used at so many other churches locally. I read it, and quickly shared with my closest mom friend. (You know, the one that would be taking turns dropping and picking up kids from this VBS with me.)

We talked to our husbands, and she came over the next day so we could spend time  discussing the weight of this VBS curriculum, our decision, and choosing how to move forward. We agreed that we didn’t feel comfortable sending our kids to the VBS, and we talked to our group of children together about our decision. We explained that we got new information, and that when we KNOW BETTER, we must DO BETTER. I have to take this moment to tell you, that we did NOT know AT ALL how our kids were going to respond to this because they had been SO EXCITED to go to VBS. And we had agreed to try not to replace it with a bunch of other exciting adventures and let them feel, along with us, a little bit of the costliness of making the better, harder choice sometimes. That’s for another post, though. The costliness of our decision to skip VBS pales in comparison to the weight of oppression, and now that we know better, it is our responsibility to do better.

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?