it’s not our turn

I woke up this morning with a burning in my gut. Words racing through my head demanding that I write them down before they were gone forever. Lots of words. Not a Facebook post. A LOT OF WORDS.

Here’s the deal. (my mom’s favorite line of mine)

When I’m done writing this post, I’m going to a farmer’s stand with my dad and getting fresh Ohio sweet corn for lunch (hold me). Then the girls and I are driving to Columbus to meet dear friends who live in West Virginia but are driving up from Tennessee today (6 hours) to spend the afternoon/evening with us.

We’ll come back to my parents’, then tomorrow we’ll drive to Dayton, OH to spend the day with my mom, dad, brother, sister, and their families. (My brother lives in NC.)

Late late Thursday night MY HUSBAND COMES HOME (after a 10-day trip out West).

Friday morning, we pack up the van and my dad’s truck with all the Dancing Elephant stuff and Gabe’s photos, and we drive back to Columbus to help Pam & Britt & everybody get ready for the WALK AGAINST TRAFFICK. (woot!)

Saturday from 6:30am to 2:00, we sell stuff and talk to people and give out hugs (COME SEE US!! EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO WALK!) and eat free donuts and Khmer food and hotdogs and walk a lot and wear ourselves the heck out for the thing our hearts beat for: the beautiful kiddos of Cambodia who are being sexually abused and exploited.

Sunday? I will probably fall over.

All that to say: I’m going to have to put all my thoughts on white privilege and racism on my mental back burner for a few days.

I soooooo want to be sarcastic here, but instead I’ll just say: Think about that, friends. While my black friends hurt and worry and feel sad and angry and discouraged and disheartened and frustrated and want to just give up (but they can’t even for a second), I get to put all of this OUT OF MY MIND. FOR AS LONG AS I WANT.

That? Is white privilege.

(Okay, 342 words, and I haven’t even gotten to any of my points.)

Backstory: events unfold last week. I share things. None of it makes people too terribly upset. Sure, the normal people argue the same ol’ things (“ALL lives matter” and “I don’t see color”), but nothing too serious.

Then I share a post about 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors that struck a nerve. You can search for it on my wall to see all the comments if you have that kind of time, but basically a handful of people said things like “the list is exhausting–I don’t even know what I’m allowed to say any more.” And “how do we know when something is racism and when it’s just black people crying racism?” And “why are you saying all white people are guilty?” And “according to this list, nothing we ever do is right.” (and so on)

I was accused of shutting down dialogue, etc. Finally, I said, “I have ONE GOAL right now and that is to BE THERE for my hurting black brothers and sisters. Part of how I’m doing that (besides offering prayers and hugs and words of encouragement) is challenging my white brothers and sisters to open their eyes, minds, and hearts. Comforting white friends who feel blamed and offended is not even on my radar.”

On a later post, someone said my perceptions of racism are one-sided and intolerant and the reason why racism continues. (I unfriended her.)

A friend said something about me not listening to “both sides” and I said this: “I’m asking white people to hear black people, not the other way around. It’s not our turn to speak or try to defend ourselves right now (it’s been our turn the last forever many years), and that’s what some people are really ticked about. I can pretty much guarantee you that the words she wrote up there ^ will be hurtful/offensive to any of my black friends who read them. My fb wall will not be a space for that.”

And, now, 692 words in, WE GET TO THE REAL DEAL.

We can not even START this racism conversation until we wrap our white heads around the fact that IT IS NOT OUR TURN.

We act like we’re coming to the table as EQUALS who have gotten EQUAL TALKING TIME our whole entire lifetimes, and so we’ll get EQUAL TALKING TIME at the discussion table.

NO. No no no no no.

WE’VE HAD OUR TURN. And, holy cow, did we make a mess of it.

We??? Me?? What did I do?? I’ve never owned slaves! I’ve never said the word “nigger” to anyone! My best friend when I was little (Justina Brown) was black!

It doesn’t really matter what we’ve done or not done, guilty or not guilty. If you’re white, IT’S NOT YOUR TURN TO TALK RIGHT NOW.

Here’s the first HUGE hurdle we have to get over, fellow white people. Wanting so desperately for this discussion to be “fair” while things haven’t been “fair” in REAL LIFE for hundreds of years.

We can ignore that, because it didn’t affect us much, but we can’t ignore when someone tells us to SHUT OUR MOUTHS AND LISTEN TO OUR BLACK AND BROWN BROTHERS AND SISTERS FOR ONCE.

If we cannot, WILL NOT, do that, then this will go NOWHERE. We will never, not ever, make this right if we are clinging to OUR RIGHTS.

This is the time to humble ourselves, to withhold our opinions about unfairness, to take off our white-people glasses.

This is NOT the time for our egos to be treated with sweet loving care. This is NOT the time for us to defend ourselves against racism. This is NOT the time to say that our lives are hard too, OUR LIVES MATTER TOO.

Of course they matter. No one has EVER said that white lives don’t matter. IT’S A GIVEN.

White friends, I love you. I have a white mom, a white dad, white brother and sisters, a white husband, 3 white kids, a ton of white relatives and a million white friends. And I LOVE THEM.

But I’m not here to coddle you right now.

If you don’t like that, WALK AWAY. Unfollow me on Facebook. Unfriend me if you’re really serious. Do what you need to do.

BUT THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME.

THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU.

That’s one of our biggest problems, white friends. WE MAKE EVERYTHING ALL ABOUT US.

(Even this blog post has been mostly about ME.)

(Sigh.)

A little over six years ago, a new church plant called Sanctuary Columbus (and Jesus) saved me from a racist way of life I had no idea I was living. (I’ve blogged about it before.) I was a super nice person who loved Jesus and Cambodia and knew all about the Bible, but I was CLUELESS to what life was like for people of color in America.

Today, as I remember the old me, and acknowledge how far I still have to go, I want to offer grace (instead of eyerolls) to white friends and family who just don’t get it.

But when I’ve offered so much grace that it defeats what I’m trying to do (LISTEN TO BLACK PEOPLE), then I can’t do it. So, grace, yes, but it’s STILL NOT OUR TURN.

Please. Come to the table with your mind, heart, and ears open. And your mouth closed. Come humbly, ready to learn. Put YOUR agenda aside and hear from our black brothers and sisters.

THEN we can move toward being US, being ONE.

ALL LIVES will never matter just because white people say they do. They will matter when we white people humble ourselves, close our mouths, admit that it has been our turn for far too long, and LISTEN.

9 thoughts on “it’s not our turn

  1. Pingback: a place to start – Marla Taviano

  2. Megan Willcoxon

    Thank you for this! I am still just learning but I am already so sick and tired of “well why isn’t there white entertainment television?”, “If I said something like that as a white person I would be called racist”, “well what about black on black crime?!”, “Here’s a video about how you conduct yourself at a traffic stop so you don’t have a problem”, and “here’s one black cop who agrees with me!”. Ugh!!! Not our turn is so right!!!

  3. Matthew Fagin

    Coming from Irish immigrants who were escaping indentured servitude (read financial slavery ), the British sponsored potato famine, & 2nd class citizenship in Ireland on 1814, I’ve been ask my ethnicity, am I “Irish “, etc.
    My response is always “American “!
    Glad I never faced what my ancestors did being called “micks, Paddies, “etc
    Thank you for your soul searching article.

  4. Aneta Hall

    “On a later post, someone said my perceptions of racism are one-sided and intolerant and the reason why racism continues. (I unfriended her.)”

    Marla,
    You give up too easily….you should have tried to change her perception instead of proving to her that you are one sided “my way or the highway” and you should be more honest. You are not going to change anything with this attitude unless the only goal is to write an angry blog with lots of views?

    On a personal note, being a white immigrant in United States, I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked where I’m from, how long I’ve been here, how I came, whether I’m here legally and if I’m staying or if I like it “here”. I stopped counting how many times I’ve been told that I have an accent making me feel as if I didn’t fit in. Your post, however, really makes me “fit in” for the first time…for as long as I don’t open my mouth and don’t say anything, ALL I am is white and it isn’t my turn.

    “It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of truth” John Locke

  5. Carrie Hart

    This is so, so good, Marla, such great points. I read the article you shared, and really appreciated it. So many of those words and attitudes I never would have thought of. I always appreciate your stand and the way you use the words and experiences God has gifted you with to make a difference in the world.

  6. Rhoda

    This makes me want to go back to an evening with my African American friends and just hug them and stay for hours. Thank you for opening my eyes. I knew it was bad, I just didn’t know HOW BAD. (Thinking along the lines of, oh it is just a local thing,etc. Clearly not so.) And yes, that long list majorly intimidates me. Doesn’t mean it’s right to walk away without trying to learn how to love better.

    Of the things you have shared that help the most in creating a mindset that seeks to listen & understand, the stories are NUMBER ONE. Your friends are brave to post publicly. I do so wish I could go back to the States and sit with my friends who are dealing with this issue and hear more of their own stories.

    And your crazy weekend…Take some time to “get away from the crowds to pray” this week! Blessings.

  7. Kim

    You summed up my thoughts exactly! Everytime I see someone state All Lives Matter, I want to scream “You don’t get it.” Quite often it’s in the context of Jesus died for all, so all lives matter. I want to say,”Really, that’s your response?”

    I absolutely love your part about coming to the table with your mind, heart and ears open and your mouth closed. Amen!

    Marla, I hope you enjoy your lunch of corn and your visit with your friends!

    Kim
    PS- A middle aged white girl with freckles and red hair!

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