I understand what it’s like to feel like you’re being blamed for things you don’t believe you’ve done. It happens with my wife and I sometimes. In fact, it happened last night. She pointed out that I’ve been distant and distracted.
She was right. But it took a sleepless night for me to embrace that truth.
My generation grew up reading about MLK, the Jim Crow South, slavery and the Holocaust in our history books. We were unified in our condemnation of the ways in which previous generations acted our their prejudices or remained silent in the face of racist laws and systems.
We were all convinced that we would have spoken out against genocide, slavery, lynching and the like.
Because we weren’t there. We weren’t buying, selling or mistreating slaves. It wasn’t me drinking from a white only water fountain. It wasn’t me participating in vigilante justice by lynching black folks. It wasn’t me ignoring the plight of Jewish folks during the Holocaust.
But here we are today, being told that injustice is still rampant in communities of color. Yet we find ourselves responding with offense rather than remorse. And when white supremacist rallies pop up around the country, we find ourselves agreeing with a president who claims that both sides are at fault. We find ourselves defending the confederacy, even slavery. We find ourselves rationalizing and talking about free speech. As if that’s what this conversation is about.
Friends and family, believe me, I get it. I understand why it’s difficult to embrace the idea that we have, in some way, participated in and benefited from a racist system…especially when we find ourselves struggling in our daily lives.
I understand how it can be maddening to hear people from the opposite end of our ideological/political spectrum telling us anything, never mind having them call us racists!
Of course that’s gonna cause you to shut down or become defensive and angry.
But please, don’t let that cause you to be silent when white supremacy rears its ugly head in such an overt display of ignorance and bigotry. Don’t let your annoyance with liberals cause you to blame black folks for the problems our society has imposed upon them. Don’t close your eyes and cover your ears when your neighbor tells you they have been discriminated against since they were a child.
And if it causes you to feel guilty or ashamed, don’t run away from those feelings. Search them out. Talk to real, live human beings rather than listening to the talking heads on TV or scrolling down your news feed and arguing with folks from the opposite side of the isle.
Let’s be clear about this. German nationalists believed Jews were the cause of their struggling economy. And today, just as it has been for many years, lots of white Americans believe black folks in urban settings to be a huge part of the moral and economic decline of our “christian” nation.
But it’s time to listen. Racism cannot be a partisan issue!
There’s common ground to be found here. But first, we have to face the facts. We have to face the truth about ourselves and the role we play in a society that upholds and fuels white supremacist attitudes.
Just like I had to come to my senses when my wife pointed out something I couldn’t see, it might be time to swallow that pill. It’s painful going down, but it will set you free. And it will deepen your capacity for love.
Friends, let’s have that conversation. I want my capacity for love to be expanded. I know you do too.