White Trucks

There is a white pickup truck near my home. I see it when I walk the dog. It catches my attention when I take my morning runs. The racism oozes from this particular truck. The truck sports a large window sticker bearing these words: “White Trucks Matter.”

No. This is not funny.

Humor has a way of revealing our beliefs, convictions, or values. Our laughter-disclosed feelings are sometimes those things of which we are not proud. A self-aware and moral response to revelations about ourselves can lead us to personal growth and change. Noting what we find funny can be an impetus to lessening unconscious ways in which we act in racist ways.

Sadly, the owner flaunts his racist values. Though you and I may not post racist signs on the back of our vehicles, we have a lot of growing to do. For those of us who are white, a willingness and awareness of our privilege is critical. Whether revealed by our humor or not, failing to accept the existence of our own privilege, denying systemic racism and privilege which benefits us, is no less offensive than “white trucks matter.”

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Additional Information

TEDx Hampshire College: Jay Smooth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

On Racism & White Privilege
http://www.tolerance.org/article/racism-and-white-privilege

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, National SEED Project
https://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

White Privilege: Let’s Talk, United Church of Christ
http://privilege.uccpages.org

 

Grandmothers’ Arms Are Aching

Grandmothers’ Arms Are Aching

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.

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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. 

I, Racist
Huffington Post

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,
Being, Wandering

Quick to Listen,
Being, Wandering

The Dogma of Mountains and People,
Being, Wandering

Condon & Ferguson: A Response
Condon United Church of Christ 

 

 

Enough Culpability to Go Around

Enough Culpability to Go Around

When I was trying on pacifism in my formative years, my peers would begin the classic argumentative questioning. “Would you kill if someone threatened your sister?” “Would you kill if it was the only way to save your own life?”

The goal — if there was an articulated goal in my society of children and teens — was to prove pacifism flawed because it was impossible to practice.

As a mature pacifist I know that given the right circumstances I could be driven to violence against another. Though I understand the harming of others to be out of bounds, I understand violent urges. I am human.

None of this negates my belief that pacifism is consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the interconnected divinity of creation. Harming another ultimately harms self.

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Anytime we resort to violence, in the language of my faith, we sin. Violence, harming of another, is a tragedy and a failure because it breaks relationship. The perpetrator of violence is not the only one at fault. Typically there is plenty of sin to go around.

Context matters. When basic rights and needs are denied, when people are oppressed, and their call for relief and change go unheeded, the likelihood of physical violence increases.

When people go unheard, the ones who fail to listen and respond are at least as culpable as those who are driven to violence. My dog can accurately be called sweet and loving. However, if I were to taunt him, fail to meet his basic needs, and abuse him, couldn’t he be pushed to the limits of friendliness and lash out?

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Now is the time for whites to accept our culpability in the pattern of police killings of blacks. Now is the time for us to stop tsk tsk-ing about property damage when our sisters and brothers are being killed!

We must listen to and believe our oppressed kindred and follow them in insisting on change. Despite what our media tell us, this is not about property damage. It is about the  taking of lives.

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