Tuesday, June 30, 2015

About Charleston, the Confederate Flag, and What White People Can Do About Racism

I've thought about this blog post for a long time. While I've been on the road a white man shot nine black people gathered for Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Photos of the murderer showed him displaying the Confederate flag, which until then flew outside Charleston's statehouse.

I don't really know what to say about any of this.

Of course the attacks were racial motivated. They were also insane. I don't know how you can pull the racism out of a diseased mind other than completely eradicating it from our society--and I have no idea how to do that.

I keep typing out paragraphs here and erasing them. I'm not usually at a loss for words.

I want to ask my friends who fly the Confederate flag, why would you display something that you know causes other people pain? Sure, you have the right. The Confederate flag should never have been flown over any state building--but private individuals are allowed to fly it, Nazi swastikas, or whatever. You can do it--but why would you want to? It reminds me of when (white) people complain that it's no longer socially acceptable to use the 'N' word. Are you really feeling deprived because you no longer us that word?

This is such a jumble, and I'm sorry about that. At Bristol Faith in Action board meetings, I sit next to Dr. W. A. Johnson, the pastor of Lee Street Baptist Church, a black congregation in our town. Dr. Johnson is a lovely, gentle, humorous and thoughtful man. I've thought many times about going to a service at Lee Street Baptist. I haven't done it. I'll say that I'm very busy, and I am--I won't even be at my home church for the next four weekends--but also, I know that I'll feel a little uncomfortable as a white woman walking into a black church.

I think it's time I felt uncomfortable. If white people are going to do anything to fight racism at all, we're going to have to be okay with feeling a little uncomfortable. If we want to become honest and aware of the racial divides in our society, we're going to have to listen to words we don't enjoy hearing and put ourselves into situations where we aren't the majority. We're going to have to step down from our dominant position. It won't be easy, but it's necessary, if we want to prevent things like Charleston from happening again and again and again.

I went online and took an Ally pledge from the organization Million Hoodies for Justice. It said-I'm paraphrasing-that I would acknowledge racism, be mindful of the language I used to describe racial incidents, listen to black voices, confront racism when I encounter it, and support black efforts toward justice.

I can think of a few other specific things I can do:
--continue to support the We Need Diverse Books Campaign, not only financially, but by reading diverse books myself and buying them for my nephews and other children in my life
--read more about social justice in America.
--while not expecting my black friends to tutor me, pay attention to what they post on social media; learn from it.
--be willing to talk about race among my friends and with my family.
--don't dismiss other points of view, particularly minority points of view; shut up and listen.
--pray. For justice, for reconciliation, and for the souls of the faithful departed: Clementa Pinckney. Daniel Simmons. Cynthia Hurd. Sharonda Singleton. Myra Thompson. Tywanza Sanders. Susie Jackson. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Ethel Lance.