The news out of Charlottesville and around the country in the past week has been bewildering. It’s bizarre to watch a president struggle to condemn racist hate. It’s encouraging to see people come together and condemn this hate, but at the same time I can’t help wondering how we got here in the first place.
We’ve overlooked too much, sat by in uncomfortable silence, allowed injustice to go unchecked for too long.
All this talk of taking down statues is helpful, but we need to be careful that we don’t see taking down statues and condemning groups that should obviously be condemned as enough.
Ta-Nehisi Coates said it this way:
“I will say that there is some danger if it simply stops at taking down statues. … I support the removal of the statues, but I just want to make sure that we’re not skipping over a conversation, you know, by taking down symbols and saying, ‘OK, that’s nice. That’s over.'”
We face a real danger if we whitewash our public spaces of any potential signs of racism, but refuse to do the deeper work of ridding our hearts of racism.
It’s easy to condemn slavery and Jim Crow, to look down on the South and the Confederate flag. But racism thrived (and still thrives) outside of the South. When it was founded, Oregon banned black people from the entire state. The 1951 riot in Cicero, Ill., showed that Jim Crow existed outside the South. Even today, Minnesota has the worst racial disparities in the nation.
We have work to do.
We can’t breathe easy just because we stopped some Nazis.
I think Austin Channing Brown said it powerfully:
Its time, Beloved. Its time to commit yourselves to learning. Its time to commit yourselves to speaking. Its time to commit yourselves to writing. Its time to commit yourselves to organizing. Its time to commit yourselves to preaching. Its time to commit yourselves to teaching. Its time to commit to understanding American history. Its time to commit yourselves to the work of racial justice. Its time to commit yourselves to love- whatever that looks like at the intersection of your giftedness and influence.
But when I say love, Im not talking meaningless, polite niceties. You can keep that. Im talking about a love that takes risks. A love that requires sacrifice. A love that protests hate.
Its time to unequivocally protest the hate embedded in white supremacy- not just in the events of Charlottesville but around the dinner table, in the pews, in the classroom, in the neighborhood, in the board meetings, in the curriculum, in the books, movies, and media in your house, and most of all from within your own heart, mind and spirit.
Go read her entire post. It’s good stuff.
A good first step is to commit yourself to learning. Read a book.
Yeah, I’m all about the books.
And I understand that can sound intimidating. Some of the best books on these topics are thick. And it’s not a topic that goes down easy. It’s hard reading.
All that can conspire against you ever cracking the binding.
But it’s worth it, my friend. Take the effort.
Here are a few of the books I’ve read recently that I highly recommend:
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- The Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon for White America by Michael Eric Dyson
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G. I. Hart