(*While I’m specifically talking about white/black races here, I think this is applicable to all races. If we only make this about black/white, we will have the same problem a few years from now, only with a different minority.)
I’ve debated writing this for a while now. As a white Southerner, writing about race brings with it a lot of fear. Fear of saying the wrong things, of using the wrong terms. I think that might be why a lot of us don’t want to talk about racism in America—because we’re afraid of insulting someone when we’re genuinely trying to understand and make things right. I think most of us would rather just keep our mouths shut and blend into the background and see how this whole thing plays out.
But it’s all worth it, because we need to start talking about this.
I don’t have a prompt for this essay, or even an end goal. I’m just tired of being an outsider; I want to be a part of the conversation and I want to stop seeing my black friends hurting.
However, I want to get a few things straight before joining in on the conversation:
- I’m not an expert. Far from it, actually. But I know what is happening right now is wrong, and I want to talk about it. I want to understand more from my black brothers and sisters.
- Why talk about it? Because THAT is the solution. Or at least that is where the solution begins.
- I don’t think everyone reading this will agree 100% with what I say. That’s totally okay. I know I don’t agree with most things I read, at least not fully, and that’s one of the best things. We can come to the table with different backgrounds and opinions, and we can still work towards a better future. You can disagree with me; I just ask that you do it respectfully.
Okay, here we go. Let’s talk about race.
I am a Christian, and I believe that God created us to look differently for a reason. I think it’s beautiful. I think HE thinks it’s beautiful. And somewhere along the way, we got that wrong. Very, very wrong. I don’t know enough about history to know when or why that happened, but it did. And now we are on the verge of a race war in America. IN 2015. 2015! How is that possible?!
I grew up in a small town in Florida. I’m pretty sure it was a mostly white town, but I don’t really know. From 6th grade until I graduated high school, I attended magnet schools. Both my middle and high school were centrally located in the “ghetto,” yet I don’t think I realized that until later. It was just where my school was. I had black friends, white friends, Hispanic friends, Asian friends, and friends who I couldn’t “classify.” While my great aunt and uncle still use the n-word, I’ve always had a strong desire to punch them in the face when they say it. Most of the adults in my family still use the word “black” to classify a person in a story they’re telling, even when it bears no relevance to the plot line. I’m sure they’ve all been exposed to even harsher racism from the generations before them.
I think they genuinely mean well. They’re nice to blacks in person, and I really don’t think they have ill will towards them. So why use racial microaggressions (or aggressions at all)? I don’t know.
Even though I’ve been exposed to racism since I was a kid, I’m not kidding you when I say that, until recently, I really thought our generation was getting it right. We were global; we understood humanity better than any generation that had come before us.
But then, Dylann.
And I was proved wrong. We aren’t getting it right. I mean some of us are, for sure. But “we,” meaning America, are getting it very wrong.
On the Confederate Flag
This is hard to write, because until basically yesterday I shared the Southern groupthink ideology that the confederate flag was a symbol of heritage, of the Old South, of sweet tea and tall oak trees and boots and cutoff shorts. I was offended when people thought it represented racism, because that meant I was a racist. Because I liked the confederate flag and what I thought it stood for.
You guys…I was wrong.
It does represent racism. It does represent a painful, dark, evil time to millions of people. And I quickly reconciled my feelings for this “symbol” when I realized this:
There are quite a few people who think the confederate flag is just a symbol of the South and does not equal racism. BUT. There are millions of people who see the confederate flag and want to throw up. Who think of their ancestors being beaten, enslaved, murdered. And those people? Those people win. Those people have the right to win this argument.
I don’t want anything that I “mildly” stand behind to genuinely hurt anyone else.
Which is why I agree with all of those who are saying that it is time for the flag to come down from the South Carolina state capitol. It’s time to make it a part of our history, not our present. Not our future.
What’s the solution?
I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know. BUT. I know that there are people who are way smarter than I am that might know (see Jen Hatmaker, Jess Connolly—they’re both white women, and I list them off the top of my head; I’m sure there are more people than just these two!). They might have some ideas, and know how to bring people from different backgrounds to the same table. They’ve been seeing in equal since before all of this began.
I don’t think politicians need to figure it out. I think there are just better, more qualified people for the job.
But the conversation NEEDS to be widespread, because some people don’t even know they need to hear this. They don’t think they need to be a part of the conversation because they don’t think they’re a part of the problem. And while we may not all be a part of the problem, we are all part of the solution.
With all of that lack of a grand suggestion, I know the best solution out there will always be Jesus. It will always be grace. It will always be understanding. Jesus came to save us from all of this, and it’s time we ask for His help.
What isn’t the solution?
I just got an alert that eBay is no longer permitting the sale of the confederate flag and most items bearing its image. And I’m sure that it will just be a matter of days, if not hours, before the flag comes down in SC.
While I don’t disagree with these actions, I think we are missing a HUGE piece of the puzzle.
If your child bullies someone at school, do you just tell them “NO!” and then move on? I certainly hope not. I hope that you have a serious, tough conversation with them about why what they did was wrong. You don’t just tell them no and move on, expecting immediate behavior change.
We cannot replicate that. We cannot simply say NO and expect thousands of years of behavior to all of a sudden change. We have to talk about why it isn’t okay, and what is okay.
Banning the confederate flag will not stop racism. But talking about why we are banning the confederate flag might help. It might help people understand racism more, and that racism isn’t just black and white (pun intended).
I say all of this to say that our heritage, our race, our identity is very important. Pretending like we are all the same is not the solution. But honoring our differences is a beautiful part of the way God designed humanity.
We are all different, but we. are. all. equal. Let’s celebrate that.
On the Conversation
So how do we do this? How do we play a part in healing this divide we’ve created? We talk. We ask questions. We listen.
To my dear black friends, here are some questions that I hope helps start a conversation and help clarify some things. I hope you can help me understand how to help, how not to help, and that you feel heard.
Because I want your pain to be my pain. I stand beside you and I acknowledge that there are many injustices happening against you, and that, in the name of Christ, this will end.
- I’ve used the term “blacks” in this essay. I’m called a “white person.” Does the term black work for you? Does it offend you? Is there another term you think I should use?
- There are a lot of terrible events that have happened lately that have made me angry. How have they made you feel? Do you feel different that I do? More intensely?
- You’ve probably heard many people talk about what is going on and what should be done. What do you think about what people are saying? Do you think they’re right? Wrong? Missing the point?
- How can I walk beside you in this? What, tangibly and practically, can I do? What should I not do?
- Do you feel like you’ve been the victim of racism? Do you want to tell me about that? I’d like to understand better and make sure I’m not contributing to that.
- Have I said anything ignorant that has offended you? I want to repair that and know not to do it again.
- If racism is gone in twenty years, what would the world look like to you?
With love and humanity,
PS–Friends, I hope I got this right. Like I said, I am NOT an expert. I just want to help start the conversation, and I pray that this is a way to do it.