When unaccompanied children were arriving at the southern border of the United States, grandmothers’ arms ached to hold and comfort. In my eastern Oregon town we talked about, “What can we do to help?”
When Mike Brown lay dead on a hot summer street for hours, we didn’t talk. It was a foreign land; it was news from the big city back east. Grandmothers’ hearts were protected by ignoring and avoiding.
When burnt convenience stores awakened white grandmothers’ arms, I told my story of growing up near Ferguson. I told my story of my family still nearby. Grandmothers asked, “Is your dad okay?”
Assured my white father was safe, it no longer mattered that Mike Brown had lay dead on a hot city street for hours or that black mothers and fathers sobbed. White grandmothers’ arms crossed in defensiveness and talked about, “What did he do to deserve this?” and “Why are they burning buildings?” while black grandmothers’ arms ached to hold grandbabies.
And so I told my stories of race, identifying my own sins, and our collective white sin of racism. I was dismissed, “You only told one side of the story.” We talked about anything but race.
When Freddie Gray died in police custody, white grandmothers’ arms ached again. We talked about, “something is not right” until we were reminded by power and defensiveness that Mike, Tamir, Trayvon, Eric, Tanisha and so many more before and since were not worthy of due process.
We listened to the voices of power, fear, and sin justify shooting children of God because of skin melanin. We listened to white supremacy, fragility, and privilege as it determined the status quo, the truth, and our white history of subjugation must be hidden at the cost of black body after black body.
It is our turn to confess our sins. It is our turn to learn our history. It is our turn to bear the pain of the truth of what white supremacy, ignorance, and fragility has wrought.
If our arms aren’t aching we aren’t paying attention.
Other Suggested Reading
These represent a few of the many articles that I’ve found helpful as I’ve begun accepting my own white culpability and responsibility in responding to our nation’s race problem.
Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race,
Good Men Project
This article includes a reading list to help whites self-educate.
Dear White Preachers, Take Off Your Prophet’s Mantle
Rachel G. Hackenberg
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Race,
Good Men Project
This article talks about white reluctance to deal with issues of race.
One Way or Another,
The Dogma of Mountains and People,
Condon & Ferguson: A Response
Condon United Church of Christ