I’ve had a pretty hectic weekend; white supremacists and Nazis ambushed the town of Charlottesville, VA in order to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. While they were there a young woman and protester named Heather Heyer was murdered. No longer attending church has given me the freedom to speak freely on Facebook about my views, and the events of Charlottesville (combined with a recent confrontation with a college friend about the meaning of the Confederate flag) compelled me to make multiple posts, drawing my white friends’ attention to my everyday reality as a black woman in 2017. I also attended my very first rally last night. It was a very empowering and encouraging experience. To be honest sometimes I feel kind of isolated being a progressive black woman in the Bible Belt, but being around other like-minded people and seeking justice made me feel less alone and very encouraged. The sight of multiple clergy people at the rally was particularly inspiring.
After last night I wanted to offer thanks and support to the white people in my life who are speaking up about the current wave of racism and fascism, so I wrote a few (ha!) words on Facebook about how they can continue to help people of color during this time:
1. Examine your hearts and do the work of uprooting the racism in yourself (in church we call this “repentance”). Be aware of your privilege and find ways to use it for good. Read books by women and people of color and seek out their wisdom. Ask questions and educate yourself. Be sincere in your desire to eradicate racism, don’t just do it to make yourself look good or earn points with your black friends.
2. Talk to your racist friends and family. Make sure they know you’re not okay with anything that dehumanizes and oppresses people of color. Of course there are circumstances where it may not be safe for people to do this (abusive household, etc), but if you’re able to confront the racists in your life with little harm to yourself, please do it. Your racist moms, dads, aunts, uncles, teachers, pastors, etc. probably won’t listen to me or read a book about black feminist theory but they might listen to you.
3. If a person of color shares a racist experience with you, listen to them. I know the human response is to get defensive or try to soothe the hurt feelings as quickly as possible (especially if you’re the one who caused them), but minimizing the pain racism causes only makes it worse. If a black friend approaches you and shares a racist experience with you, that means they trust you and feel safe sharing that type of information with you. Take that responsibility seriously. If what they’re saying causes you pain, sit with that pain and use it as an opportunity for self reflection. Acknowledge the anger and pain your friend feels and let it cause a shift in your own mind and soul.