Tonight, after the Dallas shootings, I was broken. It’s such a weird thing to be grieving for your community when you are in a different country. I almost wept in the grocery store because everyone is just going about their everyday life, and for me, my heart has stopped.
Jesus has gotten a hold of my life and given me a burning passion for all people, and also gently pointed out areas of my life that need work. Racism has been one of them. So tonight, I called the only black American I know in England, asked her to meet with me, and I asked her for forgiveness. I am so sorry for the bigotry in my heart. She held my hand, gave me a hug and so freely offered forgiveness. What a gift. That’s what church has done for me. Replaced fear and division with unity. My African American friend is my sister. Thank you Lord. She loves, because she was first loved by God.
I was talking to an 80 year old white person about the Black Lives Matter campaign. In her day, blacks had a separate waiting room at the local doctor’s office, and since those days are gone, in her mind, America is pretty much cured of racism.
I cannot in anyway speak for a black American. There is no way I can sum up a single day of a black American’s life if I spent my entire life’s work studying it.
But what I do know is that white people have to start validating blacks’ experiences of discrimination.
Whites are accountable for not expending the effort to understand the plight of our black neighbours. Whites point out the chip on the blacks’ shoulders, having no idea they hold a chisel in their hands.
Ten years ago, I was definitely a racist, but I didn’t even know that until recently.
I had a best friend who was black, and I loved her entire family. My husband and I went to a black church for a while. One of my most beloved and trusted adults as a kid was a black man and his white wife and their pink pet pig. I love how white people do that— list a few black acquaintances and pretend like they don’t have a problem. That was me.
I was not rude, unkind, or biased to the individuals that I encountered; it is just that I didn’t understand that many of the systems I was apart of were bent in favour of whites. Every good old boys club that ever existed perpetuates a racial divide providing inequitable access to tools which foster success.
I went to women’s university and took a women’s studies course. I had to be shown how society is set up for men to succeed, and in that process, my potential for success is limited. The expectations are not the same; the privileges are different; ingrained assumptions boost up the authority of men and degrade women. Similarly, there are different rules for blacks and whites in America today. I had to learn that I was discriminated against because of my gender and a discriminator because of the societal systems I was apart of– the automatic memberships in clubs based upon my gender and race.
So what do I do about this?
On my journey, I have learned to hear people’s stories- to be approachable enough to give people an opportunity to let their guard down to tell me who they are and why they do what they do, what brings meaning to their lives and how the history of their culture in macro and micro-systems has led them to the lives they lead and the beliefs they hold.
I am teaching my 3 year old son (prejudices start young) and my 6 year old daughter that black lives matter, not by just having people of colour as friends, but by teaching them the stories of slavery, embedding her in black culture- watching MLK on You Tube, teaching her that heroes come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and colours. My prayer for my kids is that they recognise the privileges they have and use that to benefit other people without the advantages she has.
I remind my daughter frequently to “check her privilege” in race and economic status. I know when she looks at the heart of people instead of the package they come in, she will find amazing friends, loyal neighbours, trusted advisors, potential life partners, and exceptional employees that she might otherwise overlook based on biases she didn’t know she had. We celebrate when we see a black people succeed and talk about how that is extra special because there were so many ideologies that made that journey extra difficult.
My kids argue every morning about who gets the favoured red cup and red bowl. I have to tell them over and over that the cereal tastes the same in every bowl. And so it is with people.
The outside container doesn’t change the inward character, but if kids struggle with a cereal bowl, I know they are hard wired for racism.
My parents generation taught us to be colourblind, and in doing so, we didn’t see the struggles of our brothers and sisters with darker skin. We didn’t realise that because we now drink from the same water fountain that the tension didn’t go away- the discrimination went underground. Subliminal messages marinate whites in a brainwash delirium that says we aren’t racist.