First of all, thank you for the OVERWHELMING positive response to the blog post I wrote the other day. I was honestly kind of blown away. You people put wind in my sails.
Only two people (so far) voiced disappointment in what I wrote. And their issue was with the same statement. Because, being related to me by marriage, it reflected on them.
Gabe and I both grew up in extended families that would both consider themselves very much Christian, very much Jesus-following, but are very very very much racist (they would most likely deny this). Being in Cambodia (and missing out on all the family reunions/holidays) makes this easier, frankly, but we will see them all next summer and cannot avoid this forever.
These two men had reason to be upset. It was a pretty strong, harsh statement I made. I almost deleted (or softened) it several times.
But then I didn’t.
Why? Because the blog post itself was about being vulnerable and truthful, and I believe that statement to be true. It’s how I feel (and I feel it pretty strongly), so I left it, come what may.
Gabe and I had a good talk about it last night, and he made the point that people really need to hear the whole story–from my family background (where I grew up/what I believed/how I was raised) to what I’ve discovered on this journey God has had me on for going on a decade now to the very humbling fact that I have racist tendencies deeply ingrained in me (I believe all of us white folks do) that will take awhile to root out.
I told Gabe I feel like a whole book is really the only way to make the entire thing clear. It’s that complex. He agreed.
So, why make a blanket statement and stir up trouble now, while I only have a few hundred words of the book written?
BECAUSE I AM AN IDIOT.
No, because the time is long past to put this out there and start the messy work of plowing through it.
Another good point by Gabe: “They may not agree with you, but I think it’s good that Bill* and Ted* are responding to this. They’re entering the conversation. I think that’s what you want.”
(*not their real names–wouldn’t that be something?)
Yeah, it is what I want.
(because I’m an idiot)
Confession time. I feel deep regret and shame for the way I have listened to racist comments from my family in the past and have said or done NOTHING.
Have I EVER had the guts to stand up to one of them? Yeah, several times (none of which went over very well). But not nearly enough.
Is a blog post going to make up for that?
Will a book make things right?
But it’s what I’ve got right now.
As Bill* wrote me, “Would not the biblical response to have been to confront individuals privately rather than paint your entire family as ‘very, very, very much racist’ to your entire readership?”
I HAVE confronted individuals privately, some in real life, some in Facebook/emails. And. It. Is. Exhausting.
And, as you’ll see in a minute, when I list some of the racist things family members have said, this is pretty widespread. So I’m just going to tick all the birds off with one stone.
This next sentence is very important. And kind of the key to this whole thing.
These family members and I have a very different idea of what racism is.
None of them are “bad” people. As a whole, they are good, kind, hard-working, God-loving, patriotic, and charitable. Some of them very very much so. I love them.
And some of them, were I to play judge and rank them, would be way higher on the racist scale than others. Some very very low. Some lower than me. (Yes, I am on the scale. Much to my dismay.) Some of the most racist have already passed on to glory, as makes sense, since the older generations tend to be the most prejudiced.
But for them to tell me that “there’s no hint of racism whatsoever” in their family or “no one in our family has a racist bone in their body” or “I’m the least racist person there is” (all things I have been told)?
Those are all tired, red flag phrases to me.
Let’s start with me for example. I do have a racist bone in my body. It’s all throughout my bones actually. And I do have a hint of racism in me–waaaay more than a hint, frankly. And I will never win a contest for being the world’s least racist human (how would that even work?) (and, besides, Donald Trump has already claimed that title as his own).
The difference between me and many (not all–many of them are on a journey similar to mine) of my family members? Is that I’m not pointing at a speck in their eye while I have a plank in my own. I am well aware of the inherent plank of racism sticking out of my face. I am well aware of the white plank of supremacy, privilege, fragility, and all the others. And this is a fairly recent awareness.
So, it makes sense that it’s taking a lot of my relatives awhile to catch on. Here’s the thing (and I’m going to focus on my own blood relatives, not Gabe’s, for a minute). The small town my parents were raised in (and that we moved back to when I was 12) had like 2500 people in it when I was growing up. And maybe 5 of them were black.
When you grow up with so little diversity, fighting racism is an uphill battle.
This is not an excuse; it is just a fact.
So, when I say that my extended family and my husband’s extended family are racist, and two people in that family have told me there is “no hint of racism whatsoever” (you can read one of the comments for yourself on this post), then I suppose it’s only fair that I give proof.
Here are some anonymous, 100% true examples of racism (as I see it) in our extended families from both sides of my family and both sides of Gabe’s:
–an uncle who constantly forwarded me racist, white supremacist emails about President Obama and his evil black agenda until I told him to stop it and that I thought he was being racist.
–a grandma who believed (she and I had more than one conversation about this, and she stood firm) that “black people are cursed because they’re descendants of Noah’s sinful son, Ham.”
–a grandpa who told me about a kind black nurse he even hugged once. “I have no problem giving one of them [black people] a hug. No problem at all.”
–stories from my parents about my racist great-grandparents
–people jokingly calling other family members–and other people–“nigger” (over and over and over again)
–relatives (several of them) upset with me for posting “Black Lives Matter” on Facebook. (I read recently that if “Black Lives Matter” bothers you, you would have hated Martin Luther King, Jr.)
–conversations among uncles around the dinner table, the game table, the talking table about “those blacks.”
–another grandpa who told me (quite sincerely) he knew a black person who was actually intelligent. “Some of them are, you know,” he said.
–someone who said, “Why do you keep talking about racism in this country? Do you know how many successful black people there are?”
–someone who was furious (in 2015) when the Confederate flag was being taken down from various places and golfer Bubba Watson painted over the Confederate flag of his Dukes of Hazzard General Lee car. (Gabe tried to have a conversation with this person who refused to listen.) (and can we just take a second to think about that TV show? what in the heck?)
–relatives (lots) who voted for Trump, call him a man of God, completely ignore every awful, racist, misogynist thing he has said/done and every lie he tells, and are in full support of his Muslim ban. “Keep those terrorists out!”
–a nephew making a racist comment, his sister reprimanding him, their mom saying it was a joke and he’s entitled to his opinion.
–one of our girls’ cousins apologizing to Livi and Ava last summer, “I’m sorry my family is racist.”
–two of my own cousins apologizing to me for their racist siblings.
–various relatives (many of whom comment on nothing BUT these kinds of posts) upset on Facebook any time I post something about racial injustice, police brutality, etc.
–multiple conversations started with the words, “I’m not racist, but…” followed by something about “black people.”
–disparaging comments made by relatives about our neighbors at Abbey Lane.
Gonna stop now. My heart is actually racing and I don’t feel so great.
And this is just off the top of my head. (yikes)
Here’s the thing, friends.
If someone says I’m racist, and I bristle and get defensive and angry and lash out, I need to ask myself why.
If I really, truly don’t have a hint of racism in my bone marrow, then I can let that misguided person’s accusation slide right off my racist-free feathers. She is wrong about me. Moving on.
If, on the other hand, it is possible that my outrage is a result of a deep down feeling I have that there might be a grain of truth in that person’s judgment, then I have a couple options.
1.) Ignore it and go back to my life as usual.
2.) Humbly start exploring what all of this might mean for my life.
If I’m ready for Door #2 (which is where I found myself some years back), there are soooo many resources available. The first step is to say–okay, I admit I may be blind to how racism is subconsciously a part of me. I want help opening my eyes.
Then read, watch, listen, reflect, repent. Repeat.
Read this amazing compilation on Whiteness.
And this great interview with Lecrae.
Watch the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.
And this short video about being Black on the 4th of July.
Listen to this podcast: Black and White.
Read the book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
And the young adult novel, The Hate U Give.
There are thousands more resources written/created by people of color that will help us all on this long, important journey of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world through eyes not blinded by privilege and whiteness.
I can’t help it I was born white. But I can give my life to loving my neighbor as myself, which means making sure my brothers and sisters of color have every right and opportunity I was born with already in my mouth.
Read, watch, listen, reflect, repent, repeat.