My White Privilege

I’m not afraid of talking about race but I didn’t really plan to write a post on the current events of our nation. Mostly because other, better, more educated writers have already done it. Writers of color have lamented through their keyboards in ways I can’t. White writers have shared facts I don’t know. So I wasn’t going to say anything here.

But this:

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Silence is not only not stewarding my influence and platform, however small, well, it’s also in essence saying it’s ok. Everything’s ok. Our country is ok. The American Church is ok. And it’s very much not ok.

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So I’m here. And I’ll screw up and say something wrong and piss someone off. I’m ok with that because this is a conversation I want to be part of. 

If you still believe what happened at AME Church in Charleston was not racially motivated, I cannot help you. If you think it was an isolated incident, I cannot help you. But, if you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty for the sake of pursuing racial reconciliation for the Glory of God, may I offer a suggestion:

Start with your own heart.

You might think that because I have a few black and biracial children, I don’t see color. You would be wrong. You may think that because my son will grow into a black man I have zero prejudice thoughts when I encounter one on the sidewalk, you would be wrong. You see, there is sin in my heart because I was born a sinner. And there is racial profiling happening in my mind because I was raised in America. 

When I interviewed my friend T.C. Taylor for this article on Race, the Gospel, Raising Black {+ White} Kids & the Imago Dei, he made a comment I haven’t been able to shake. He said white people got a “400 year head start” on people of color when it comes to education, jobs, equality, culture, etc.

Here’s the work I need to do in my own heart: I don’t really even know what that means. I know there was slavery and the civil war and Martin Luther King, Jr… but that’s about it.

I have no idea what my brothers and sisters of color endured for hundreds of years. I have no idea the atrocities my ancestors committed against them. I have no idea the history of African-Americans and the weight of oppression they have been forced to operate under because I didn’t have to know it. I have been able to live 34 years of life without having any idea of it.

My life has never required me to learn it, let alone try to understand it. Beyond memorizing and regurgitating some facts for a history test back in junior high, the plight of African-Americans, the history of racism and the role my ancestors played have occupied no part of my brain.

The freedom not to notice our lack of knowledge about people of color is another privilege that is afforded only to white people.
– Francis Kendall, Understanding White Privilege 

I have gotten on just fine without knowing any of it. And that’s not ok.

(Let me be clear, I recognize I can never fully “understand” racism and the injustices that have taken place against African-Americans for hundreds of years because I did not experience them. I can take full responsibility for my apathy and ignorance. I can still get in the fight, however late I may be.)

I feel certain everyone reading these words can look at Dylan Roof with horror. Disgust. Judgement even. We have no category for that level of hatred.

But we won’t send our kids to “that school” or move to “that part of town”, because why? Because we hate people? No, probably not, but we perpetuate the idea that people who don’t look like us or dress like us or talk like us are inferior. And we pass those ideas and judgements onto our kids and racism continues.

There is a time for learning, a time for listening, but in the words of Denise Anderson, the time for silence is up friends.

At this point, I’m not interested in your listening. I think the danger in this listening posture is, while it seems like the mindful and conscientious thing to do, it can also be far too convenient. It’s a great way of doing nothing. For the sake of finding the right action, you take no action instead. – Denise Anderson, Soula Scriptura

Those words have straight up seared me since reading them over the weekend. So here I am, hoping they do the same for you.

I don’t know what the action is for you because I don’t know what’s in your heart. Maybe it’s speaking up the next time your co-worker makes a racist joke. Maybe it’s educating yourself on the history of this country. Maybe it’s joining conversations that make you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s asking your pastor why he didn’t mention the #CharlestonShooting from the pulpit yesterday. Maybe it’s unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of white privilege in your own life.

I do know this, I’m going to start with my own heart. I’m going to get in the fight, late, flawed and sinful, and refuse to be silent.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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12 Comments

  1. Lauren Casper June 22, 2015

    Thank you Lindsy. Yesterday morning I sat in church with an deep ache in my heart because no mention was made of Charleston. Not one prayer… nothing. And then we sang arise my soul arise and when we got to the line “his blood atoned for every race” I couldn’t hold back my sobs. And I looked around and saw exactly one black person sitting in the church and I realized my own sin in that moment. I chose a church that felt comfortable to me. Because everyone looks like ME. Even though 50% of our family is black. And I immediately shifted from frustration and anger to grief and repentance. Because I am not immune. Looking for ways to be active and this week it’s starting with Wednesday evening special service at the local “black” church… a historical church that traces it’s roots back to the late 19th century, formed by former slaves in our area. And I will go from there…

    I appreciate these discussions. <3 Miss you, friend.

    Reply
    • Lindsy Wallace June 22, 2015

      Thank you for sharing Lauren. The more I learn, the more I believe not one of us is immune. We have a lot of work to do but I love your starting point!

      Reply
  2. fearless June 22, 2015

    Absolutely incredible post. Truly, thank you.

    Thanks for your public voice (and for the shout out)!

    Reply
    • Lindsy Wallace June 22, 2015

      Thanks for commenting Sean! I look forward to following your blog!

      Reply
  3. Katie Shannon June 22, 2015

    I so want to get involved. I know where I’ve grown & where my heart is still yucky. I know how angry I feel with racism, but honestly I struggle, like really struggle with this whole “white privilege” thing. And I think it’s because in my head privilege somehow means easy or picture perfect & when I reflect on my childhood it definitely was not that. I know that’s not what white privilege means but I struggle with it, head & heart.

    Reply
  4. Kristen Dione Harris June 23, 2015

    I’m pleased to say my priest did mention the shooting. I’m glad I go to a church that cares and that prays for the opressed and for justice every Sunday (which I might add my church is majority white). I’m not pleased to say that I haven’t seen any post about it on FB from my christian friends from college. It’s like people think “if I just ignore the problem it will go away!” Silence is almost just as bad as the hate. It goes to show that people really do discuss what’s important to them.

    Reply
    • Lindsy Wallace June 26, 2015

      Thats’ the conclusion I came to Kristen; silence is just as detrimental as actively hating someone. However, I have heard several white friends say they don’t know what to say, and therefore remain silent. Which is why I loved the post I linked to from Soula Scriptura about the time for listening and learning coming to an end. It’s past time for ALL of us to speak up!

      Reply
  5. Lauren Pinkston June 23, 2015

    Thanks for speaking up. I seem to have lost my voice lately. There seems to be SO MUCH to talk about, and I can’t keep up. But it’s not about keeping up, it’s about being present. And you’re doing a great job with that.

    I listened to Jamie Ivey’s podcast featuring Tasha Morrison today and it was spot on. Same topic. You two were the encouragement of my heart today.

    Reply
    • Lindsy Wallace June 26, 2015

      “But it’s not about keeping up, it’s about being present.” Amen Sister. Praying you get your voice back as I very much appreciate it! 😉

      And have that podcast in my queue!

      Reply
  6. Sarah J June 25, 2015

    Thank you so much for your encouragement in this. Sometimes I feel like you- others have said it better and I don’t really know what to do. But in doing nothing, I’m part of the problem. Thank you for this post.

    Reply