The news in the last week has been a little surreal. From the discovery of Rachel Dolezal’s flagrant misappropriation of black culture and the term “transracial” to the mildly humorous hack of the Canadian government’s web presence in response to the totalitarian Bill C-51, the world has felt a little unbelievable. In the wee hours this morning, I got a news notification on my phone while I was at work about the shooting at Charleston’s Emmanuel A.M.E. Church. My heart sunk deep when I got home this morning and checked the news, but given the latest in racialized violence against black lives, I was appallingly unsurprised to learn the details of last night’s events.
As a white person of privilege, I work as hard as I can to offer support and alliance with the black community. Personal experience and witness to the very real fight against systemic oppression and violence that black people face has burdened me with a passion for change and reconciliation. But what I cannot attest to is the deep, searing pain that is felt whenever a black child is murdered by the police, when a hate crime takes place. I will never be able to fully grasp the anger and sorrow because it is not my experience. And because it is not my experience, I can only use my privilege to amplify the voices and experiences of black lives, standing alongside them in the pursuit of justice.
This post is not about how to be a good ally. This post is not about how to fix the world. This is a rage post, directed at white Christian apathy.
When I was at school last Fall, I watched the Ferguson grand jury hearing coverage with great intent. I repeated the results to many people around me, seeking to have a meaningful discussion about how Christians should respond. The information was met with glassy stares and, on more than one occasion, a sickening question: “Why do you care so much?” As more black people lost their lives to police brutality and racially-motivated violence, I noticed a disturbing trend amongst my peers; a tendency to shrug their shoulders, say “oh well”, and bury their heads in the sands of placid Christian living. Even more upsetting has been the justification of the deaths of innocents through abhorrent stereotyping. The more murdered black people became Twitter hashtags, the less anyone I knew seemed to care.
This apathy contributed largely to my exodus from evangelicalism and lies in a gross misunderstanding of what racism is. Racism is so much more than the KKK and lynch mobs (although those are very real things still). Racism is systemic oppression against other people groups at the belief that one’s own is superior. The whole of Western civilization is built upon the subjugation and slavery of people of colour and 50+ years of civil rights “progress” has had minimal impact on the far reaching impact of racism. It has permeated our economy, social discourse, politics, education, health care, environmental causes, and religion. The fact that Christians rationalize Mike Brown’s death because of his alleged criminal involvement, and in the same breath “forgive and forget” the actions of Josh Duggar means there is something incredibly wrong. The fact that Rachel Dolezal is being defended, but the brutalities against black women are being ignored means there is something incredibly wrong. The fact that we were so quick to condemn the Baltimore riots, but join in when a sports team wins/loses THERE IS SOMETHING FUCKING WRONG. This is more than just ignorance, this is woven into the fabric of North America.
White Christians; we cannot ignore matters of race. We cannot lie to ourselves about this any longer. Nine black believers were killed by a white aggressor in their own church last night. They are our siblings in Christ and they deserve more than your apathy. It is the mandate of the believer and the example of Jesus to work for justice and dignity for all people. It is not the time to retreat, nor is it the time to infringe with our privilege. This isn’t about us, but it deserves our attention and effort. It’s not about #AllLivesMatter, so don’t you dare use this tragic event as a platform for including yourself in a very specific cause. Learn, listen, pray. Weep with those who are weeping and lay yourself down for your siblings of colour. If you have read this and are uncomfortable; good. I hope you stay uncomfortable. I hope that the violence perpetrated against the lives of minorities unsettles you to your core and you are motivated to ask yourself why. And that in doing so, you will be stirred to action.
Or don’t. By all means, keep posting funny Bible memes and articles about guarding your heart.
Christ have mercy.