I am a white woman. I live in a diverse neighborhood, but work and attend church in a white world. While I have black acquaintances and neighbors, my circle of friends is predominantly white.
As such, I have not voiced an opinion on the events surrounding Ferguson.
Someone recently posted, “My kids tell me there is an app that will tell you which of your friends is racist. It’s called Facebook.” I could not agree more. It has been enlightening and appalling to watch the fall out from this incident on social media.
I’ve un-followed some for blatantly offensive statements, and frankly, those weren’t all that surprising to me. It’s to be expected that some will be open in their leanings. The memes that demean protesters as jobless or falsely assert that whites don’t riot, plainly label those who share them as the bigots they are.
It’s the subtle racism that pops up in my newsfeed unexpectedly by my educated, middle-class, Christian, mostly Republican friends that takes my breath away. When people repost the facts of the case, it’s an affront to people in mourning. When they publish statistics of black on black crime, or stories of white unarmed suspects being shot by police, they ignore the frustration, anger, and grief of an entire people group. It leaves me cold.
I have no answers. I don’t pretend to know anything other than the visceral response I have every time one of my white friends expresses an opinion on this. Four of my white female friends linked the remarks of Voddie Baucham, a male black pastor, which pointed to rampant fatherlessness in the black community as a root cause to many of its ills. The piece seemed directed at other black men, as they are the only ones in position to respond to that charge and yet, these white women felt the need to repost it. Why? They have no dog in this fight.
Likely for the same reason another FB friend, a white man, “liked” a piece written by a black man with a title similar to “Justice Prevailed in Ferguson Failure to Indict.” Why, as a white man, did he feel the need to click “like” on that?
I know why. Because as white people, if we can find a black person who agrees with us, who sees it our way, we can stick it to all the other black folks who are clearly wrong. We can wave that person’s opinion around as if to say, “See? Don’t you see? One of your own agrees with us. We’re right! It’s not about race, at all!” Because that’s what it comes down to. We don’t understand how this is about race and not simply facts in evidence, and rather than seek to understand where all this emotion is coming from, we will stand on principle and keep spewing facts.
It’s a need to be right over a need to be compassionate. It’s blatant defiance of Scripture which tells us to “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) We are wrong, my friends, when we believe that racism isn’t a thing. If we would simply listen to those who are living the burden of it, really listen to their stories and hear their hearts, maybe then our eyes would be open and our world would begin to change.
I want my friends, my white, Christian, God-fearing friends to do this one thing. I want them to stop talking. Stop insisting on being right. Stop having an opinion on a truth you haven’t lived.
I mentioned that I’m white. I have no experience with racism. But as a mom to kids with special needs, I know a little about discrimination. Several months ago, I was involved in a conversation about the church and disability. I tried to communicate how wounded many of us have been because of rejection our children have faced in the church. I was told, by those on the outside, that we in the special needs community were being overly sensitive, that no actual discrimination was taking place, it could all be explained by over-worked volunteers or misunderstandings. It was infuriating to have our moments of discrimination minimized and ignored by those who haven’t lived them. It was demoralizing to have my lived truth diminished by those without shared experience. I was angry. I was hurt. And I felt impotent and defeated. It wasn’t the first time on this journey and it won’t be the last. I’m grateful for every one of them because it gives me a tiny bit of insight into what it must be like to live it daily.
When people are hurting, you don’t tell them all the reasons they shouldn’t be hurt. When they are offended, you don’t tell them they have no right to that feeling. When they are weeping, you don’t tell them there is no basis for their tears. You simply listen to them tell the tale.
And you weep, too.