As a Black woman in the United States, I have spent too much of my life trying to avoid people like Richard Spencer. Recently, however, I watched an interview with him and I want you all to see it. Let me tell you why.
I grew up in a small Virginia town that lacked diversity. My life has been spent with mostly White people, so much so that I am often made fun or rejected from Black social circles, but that is a topic for another post. My point is, I am very much Black, but I know A LOT of White people. I have even married into a White family. Most of the White people in my life claim that they are not racist. Some of them acknowledge White privilege and actively work against it, while others spout steam from their ears when they even suspect that I will bring the topic up. Some of them think that I should be nicer to White people, and by that they mean that I should not constantly bring up race because it makes them feel uncomfortable, and also they would like to be recognized for being not racists please and thank you. But here is the thing, almost every White person that I have ever known has said or done something racist, or at the very least has majorly failed to recognize their privilege in my presence. You see, most of the White people in my life have a very specific understanding of what a racist looks like, how they act, and what they say. I say racist to them and they picture straight leg Levi’s, sleeveless t-shirts, farmer’s tans, cheap beer, hunting rifles, and confederate flags. And sure, there may be some racist people who fit the Larry-the-Cable-Guy stereotype, but the most painful, heartbreaking, and dehumanizing things that have ever been said or done to me have been done by solidly middle class, well-educated White women.
This is why I want you to pay attention to Richard Spencer. In a recent interview that he had with Charles Barkley, he is well dressed, clean shaven, and charismatic. He welcomes his interviewers in warmly even though he knows that the following conversation will be a difficult one. He is confident, cool and collected. He is nothing like what you imagine when you hear the word “racist”. There are no Klan hoods or swastikas here. He starts off by saying he loves diversity. He wants “true” and “real” diversity, which to him means that we all stay as far apart as possible and recognize the supremacy of White people. Here is what really got me though; he said things that I have heard from people close to me. My White husband and I have been told by loved ones that they hope we will decide not to have biological children because our biracial babies would uproot his family tree. My Black blood, my Black DNA is enough to ruin the value of his good White family. Even though our children would be as much a part of his family genetically as they would have been if I was White, they will not look the same, and therefore will not be the same, and his family will be worse for it. That is exactly the argument that was made by Richard Spencer, an actual Neo-Nazi, open racist, proud homophobe, and unabashed anti-Semite. The people who believe this stood up with us at our wedding, and honestly believe themselves not to be racist.
1) See him as a person. Resist the urge to call him a monster. Give him his full humanity. Remember that Richard Spencer, along with every member of the KKK, every Nazi, and each hateful person that you have ever learned about is a human being just like you. God made them all in the image of God. Each and every one of them. They are not monsters, they are men and women, like you. You have all the same potential for evil and you have at some point in your life said or done something that hurt someone deeply, just like they have. Be willing to see the potential for that kind of evil in yourself. Be honest about when it has come out of you. Recognize that you are not fundamentally different from Richard Spencer. I picked him because you could pass him on the street and not think twice. He isn’t your stereotypical racist. That is important. See yourself in him.
2) While you are listening to him, pay attention to the places where he starts to make sense. Even if it is just a little bit in the back of your head. Be honest with yourself about that too. You have been raised to believe that White people are better than others. Even if no one ever said that to you directly, we live in a society that teaches everyone that. So if things that he says start to make sense to you, don’t freak out, just recognize the symptom of the sin-sick society that we live in. Now, if you do not hear anything that makes you start to agree with him, I challenge you to find another way to hold a mirror up to your our prejudices and see the ways in which you have been taught to believe the lies of White supremacy.
3) Recognize that racism is a sin and you are a sinner, then confess your sin to God. I am a United Methodist, which means that I am a part of the Wesleyan tradition. John Wesley believed in an on-going process of sanctification that can lead to Christian perfection. As a Methodist I am striving towards that goal, and the only way to do it is to recognize the sin in your life. Many people are afraid to look at the places where the sin of racism has become a part of their lives. When someone shows them where that sin is hiding they get angry. They push away the thought and lash out at whomever dared to accuse them of such a thing. Don’t be that person. Believe in the power of God’s refining fire. The fire will burn away the impurities and leave you with pure gold. This will not be easy. It will not be comfortable. You probably won’t like it. But when someone comes to you and says, “Your current speech, or lack of speech, your current action or lack of action, is oppressive and you are adding to the sin of systemic racism” LISTEN TO THEM. Then use the discomfort that you feel to let God burn that sin away from your life. Remember, sin is what separates us from God and one another, therefore, racism is a sin.
I have been in a lot of conversations about racism. As a Black person who was raised with mostly White people, I am a bridge between communities. I tend to make White people feel a bit more comfortable because I do not fit their image of what it means to be Black. Therefore, they are often more willing to speak to me. I have used this to my advantage and have had the opportunity to have many candid conversations about racism. Based on all of those conversations, I am sure that most White people do not know just how entrenched in the sin of racism they actually are. I pray that you will hear me when I say that if you are serious about wanting things to get better, if you mean it when you say you are not racist, if you are mad about this blog because I am being too mean to White people, then please try out my suggestions here. Prove me wrong. Show me that you are not a racist at all. I want to see someone who has been able to meet the Wesleyan standard of Christian perfection, and I hope that is really you. So, go listen to Richard Spencer, and recognize the sin of racism in your our life, then let God root it out of you.