Dear White People: We Need To Stop This Insanity

Dear White People: We Need To Stop This Insanity July 7, 2016
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This is Part One in what will be a series focusing on justice in race issues. I’d love to include more voices than mine in this discussion. If you would like to submit a guest post, please send me an email at editorial@jgjmagazine.com.

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Something is broken in America.

 

Only white people can fix it.

 

This morning, I knew I wanted to write about Alton Sterling, but I was too disgusted.

 

With myself.

 

I was disgusted with myself because I could hardly feel anything. That’s how completely desensitized I am to this kind of horrific violence, the every day occurrence of our country’s black men being murdered.

 

But then I watched this video, detailing the events immediately after Philando Castille was shot. I dare you to watch it, too. Watch the whole thing. See the blood stain spreading against the white tee shirt, the empty dying hands, held up in supplication. Hear the panic in the cop’s voice as he begins to understand the magnitude of what he’s just done. Note the shock of the girlfriend and listen to her prayers as she begins to understand what’s happened. Look into the eyes of the four year old witness.

 

Or you can use your white privilege to look away, because it’s not happening to you and yours. Your choice. I’ll see you on the other side of the video.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usav1fvGtLE

 

If you are white, like me, this might be a hard post for you to read.

 

And that’s the point.

 

If you are a Christian, like me, this post might resonate with you, but if you’re white, it still might be a hard post for you to read. And that is still the point.

 

Two more children of God were murdered this week. Two more families in mourning. If you are American, like me, you should be in mourning, too. Because every time another black life is snuffed out we all lose a part of ourselves that matters. Watch Alton Sterling’s murder in this video. Watch it, because you need to know.

 

 

Read more ——> If you think Blue Lives Matter, You Should Think Black Ones Do, Too.


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  • John

    I agree with everything you articulate here – the outrage, the motives, the call to action, the response of the church, all of it. But what I hate, absolutely hate and makes me resist your good intentions is your approach and attitude. Go ahead and blame me (a white guy) some more for all the ills of modern society. Beat me over the head with your historical analysis of white privilege, power and position and make me feel like I am a slug that needs to crawl in a corner and apologize for things I haven’t done but am associated with by default.
    You make me regret wanting to be on your side because of how you come across. This isn’t going to accomplish what you want and the unity we need right now. Maybe this is petty, but when fighting for a noble cause, I prefer to be alongside someone who shows wisdom, composure, self control and respect.

    • There’s no need to feel like a slug, crawl in a corner, or apologize. You and I were born into a racist system that we both abhor, and yet have benefitted from, even if we were unaware that we were benefiting from it. Your self-imposed slug-crawling into corners does nothing to solve the problem. Your anger at me for pointing out our mutual participation in this system is white frailty. I get it. It sucks. It’s not comfortable, and your anger is a good thing because it means, perhaps, that you’re listening. Maybe you’ll be so incensed that you’ll go enter into other conversations with other people to prove me wrong, and your awareness of your privilege will grow.

      I’m not trying to be condescending, although I know it probably sounds that way. But I am speaking from experience.

      What there is a need for is awareness of how privilege works systemically in our culture, and for white people to own it, acknowledge it, and call it out for what it is. Even in the face of other white people who might accuse them of lacking wisdom, composure, self control and respect simply because they wrote a blog post about white privilege.

      • John

        I would love to be a part of conversation in church over how we can best respond and even how we can better understand our position of privilege and use it to make progress, as you articulate. But what I understand from experience is that you can’t get (white) people to move when you re being condescending towards them at the same time. You may not think you are being that, but you are. That is where the wisdom and self control enter. You have the right message, just don’t loose the initiative by delivering it poorly. In this context, how you say things to privileged white people matters if you want to get them off their butts. In writing this I recognize how trivial it can seem, but I think the message is important enough to consider it valid.

        • John, I sincerely appreciate what you are saying, but respectfully disagree. You’re asking me to cater to white frailty — this idea that white people are so weak and threatened by any mention of racial tension that they won’t be able to handle it. It is a huge part of the system of white privilege and a big part of the problem. And to be honest, it’s more condescending to think I have to be “gentle” about it than it is to speak truth and allow people to be uncomfortable.

          I still get uncomfortable when people point out privilege. But I know that it’s in that discomfort that I am changed and grow.

          The link I posted in the piece about white frailty is a great read that helped me understand the concept of how white frailty is truly keeping us — the human race — from making progress on this issue.

          • John

            I think some nuances are being lost in translation. There is white frailty on one side and there condescension on the other. I’m not asking for catering to the weakest position, but calling for some place in the middle, which is mostly lost in the argument. It is easier to go to the extremes, to expect and/or demand change, and when you don’t get it you label the other side as something (frail, aggressive, wrong, bigoted, etc.), but that may not be true nor helpful. What is typical in our culture is being outraged, calling for action, blogging our anger, name calling and demanding change. If it doesn’t happen quickly enough or in ways we think it should look, then we get further outraged. I’m all for pushing people, but I have also learned by experience that you can push too hard and too fast when it may not be necessary. I think we are on the same page and I like your points. My disagreeing with your methods is not my disagreeing with your argument. Both can and should coexist if we want to move people to change, especially in the church where unity and peace should be defining. Outrage can make good points and get results, but too often at the expense of other values.

          • Garp

            Maybe black people’s lives are more important right now than fragile white people’s feelings. I am white, and that may sound condescending. But listen to yourself. Yes a lot of people feel the way you do, but it is idiotic. This whole culture caters to white people’s feelings. It needs to end. Now. Black people were dying on video tape including young boys. And we watch it and move on. And some people call those kids thugs, innocent children. Children. Enough is enough. And then a few cops get shot and now everyone is in mourning. How that looks to most black people? It looks like their lives and their pain and their grief don’t matter. That is how it looks. And enough of them are standing up to say “Black Lives Matter.” And that scares white people and it hurts our feelings that people are pointing out our sizable blind spots. Stop. Have your feelings. But stop making it about your feelings. It is not about your feelings. It is about people’s lives.

          • John

            I hope I wasn’t making it just or primarily about feelings as much as I was trying to take a middle ground position against railing on slow-to-come-along/frail white people. Ultimately, those people need to be moved, educated, challenged and involved. I am asking for some degree of patience and control in addressing them because if you insult and berate them, they will never come to your side. I would hope that both a position of challenge (JerseyGirlJesus) and mine can coexists and both be better for it. Ultimately, I am with the crowd that desires action and change and I will eventually leave the white frail people behind, I’m just not sure we are there yet. Change usually takes more time that we are willing to give it, but we must give it none the less. You may think they have had enough time, but I would disagree. The reason I advocate this is because I have seen people want to get involved but because the messenger of change was such a jerk, it all fell apart. I don’t want that here. So, please push for change and do it with passion, but let calmer voices that can allow for slower change be a part of it also. You may find that once people come along, they will be your most committed. We can have different levels of passion and intensity, but we will need each other to really make for lasting change.

          • Perhaps it’s true that we are two people called to do the same thing in different ways. I’m cool with that — we’re allies! 🙂 I don’t think my post was extreme (I’m interested to know what specifically you take issue with) though I completely recognize that it will make people uncomfortable. I do think the situation is extreme. Just like I was uncomfortable when I started awakening to my own privilege. In this case, discomfort is a good thing.

            Privilege and white frailty are real things — I have one of those little label maker thingies, so I know: it’s really hard to put a label on something that doesn’t exist.

            There are no easy answers here. But if answers exist, we won’t ever find them if we don’t enter into this very uncomfortable conversation. And yeah, some feeling may be hurt. People may be outraged. White people might have to stand in the force of black people’s anger, even when it’s true that we don’t want to be racist.

            John, I hear you speaking peace, though. Both our hearts are in the right place.

          • John

            Thanks for all the kind responses and challenges, Jerseygirl. In a world gone mad, Jesus is our peace and our hope. Keep moving forward.

    • No one is blaming white men. And the cop who shot was Asian.

      It’s funny how rightwingwads claim to be the ones discriminated against; talked back to; or you’re not in charge anymore, etc. And your “side” is constantly crying about “the persecution of Christians” and how things are always being “shoved down your throat;” and soon they’ll be “arresting preachers” and “silencing” the voice of the “people….’

      And yet here we are. All the over-the-top things that have been spewed from the NRA to Rush has NOT happened. Gay marriage didn’t usher in the rapture. The sky didn’t collapse.

      Your Zoroastrian duality creates the illusion of “sides.” I’m on no side. I follow the fact-checked facts. I’m with scientists and professors cuz they’ve been allowed to specialize and therefore might know more about a subject than me.

      Weird. I could flip your script and it will say exactly how I feel about the right! Revisionist history is NOT the same thing as historical analysis.

  • Maniac1980

    I agree that too many young men are dying. Some are dying (right or wrong) at the hands of a cop. But many more are dying at the hands of their neighbors.

    We have had 566 police involved shootings this year. And yes, black men are way over-represented (given the % of population, about 88 of those killed would be black; in reality 136 are black). But 566 is too high a number PERIOD. Is anyone really comfortable with the 87 Hispanic/Latino lives lost? With the 279 white lives lost? Or the 13 Native Americans that died?

    And the things that almost all the victims have in common? They are age 18 – 35 males. Almost all of them live in poverty.

    Something is badly wrong here. We are killing or imprisoning a generation of young men living in poverty.

    And btw, it isn’t just cops. Being poor makes you much more likely to be a crime victim.

    We have to address the whole picture–poverty, racial inequality, and yes, we have to figure out issues like police training and how we find the balance point for police to act safely, to ensure our safety.

    And anyone thinking that this is easy, or an overnight fix is not seeing the picture clearly.

    My only concern with the Black Lives Matter movement is that by “focusing” on one group, and really, only one portion of the problem (the police) we create a different kind of division. And what we need is to find ways to create more unity.

    So my questions would go like this:
    (1) how do we bring police and community together?
    (2) how do we better train police when we know that too many cops are shot at each year (and die)
    (3) how do we deal with the problems of poverty & race in society, including but not exclusive to: education, living wage jobs, violence
    (4) how do we deal with the high murder rate in the African American community (almost half of all murders in the nation are committed by African Americans with African American victims).

    These are not in any particular order. And some of it, contrary to what Jersey Girl thinks, may be problems that white people cannot solve (I would suggest that the African American community needs to be more proactive in dealing with violence in their own community). And some of them we have to take the lead in solving (education, overall, is an issue for all people living in poverty, and we are a better society when ALL children recieve a quality education).

    The hardest problem is in some ways the easiest problem also–education. If as a nation we provided a quality education to all kids, that would make a huge difference. Everyone knows this (which is why it is easy) but no one wants to fund it (which is why it is hard).

    And I do think we need to look at how police are trained. Maybe even at the psycological testing they take before becoming cops, to ensure we are selecting only the best. And yes, that means defining “best”.

    The other thing we need to do is fix the court system. Overall, a LOT more whites are arrested than blacks, but a higher percentage of blacks end up in prison. I would guess that whites may be somewhat more able to afford legal assistance, and are more likely to get referred to programs that help them avoid prison. We need to be putting fewer first offenders in jail period, and when they are in prison, we need to make sure that they have skills for when they are released–GED’s, basic job skills, etc.

    And I could say a lot more, but I am sure I have already gotten myself in more trouble than I have any desire to be in. But we have to have the conversations.

    • You bring up many good points: Poverty, education, murder rates, incarceration rates — they are all important parts of this conversation. And of course I could speak to them, but that’d become a book, not a blog post. This post was in response to a very specific topic that causes vast amounts of pain. And yes, I think white people can do a lot to stop it.

      And I do believe that white people owning the system of privilege and doing something about it actually will help the sense of hopelessness that occurs in oppressed populations. So just saying that black people need to be more proactive about fixing their own problems, well, that’s sort of like telling them to dust in a sandbox. Removing the system of privilege that keeps whole populations poor, under employed, and under educated will reduce the amount of violent crime in these communities.

      As for the Black Lives Matter movement, I think they have every right to be the focus right now. It’s an important movement — yes, part of a bigger picture — but important in its own right, and I don’t want to participate in their further marginalization.

      I’d be interested in seeing your sources for your stats, but generally I don’t disagree with you, so there’s no trouble you’re in (anymore than I’m in for this post, anyways).

  • Otto T. Goat

    Fix it yourself, I’ve got better things to do.

  • Temperance Raziel

    40,000 murders by other black men last year, but is the 258 armed black men that were shot by cops that is the problem.

    • Garp

      Any black man that kills anyone (white or black) in this country will likely get arrested, tried, convicted, and put in prison. How many of the white cops that killed unarmed black men and boys and women and children will be arrested, tried, convicted and put in prison? How many white people are killed by white people if you are going to put in the old black on black crime argument. The point is that cops can kill you, me, or our black and brown brothers and sisters and “good Christians” and supposed patriots don’t seem to care. That is what Black Lives Matter is about.

      • Let’s be careful about saying “good Christians and patriots don’t care”. I certainly don’t claim to be good, but I DO claim Christ and I care.

        • Garp

          I’ll edit it to make my meaning more clear.

    • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

      All armed, were they? Or did you hear that on Fox News?

  • Frank

    Racism exists. Systemic racism no longer exists.

    • By definition, racism is systemic.

    • The Happy Atheist

      Anything you do over and over again, without without thought, is systematic.

      • Well said.

      • Frank

        Systemic perhaps to the individual.

        • The Happy Atheist

          Are you being intentionally obtuse? What happens when millions and millions of people do the same thing over and over without thought?

  • Brandon Roberts

    “only white people can fix it” i’m sorry but do you think i hold some sort of power or influence just cause i’m white? cause if you do your a moron and to me all lives matter and maybe this is a race issue but more likely it’s a combination of society making everything about racism when a lot of the times it was some dumbass who tried to grab a cops gun and people having this false view of cops as either perfect beings who can do no wrong or evil vile corrupt pigs when in fact the truth is they’re people like me or you or anyone else and yeah some are corrupt douches some are racist but sometimes some panic and make mistakes in the heat of the moment and the truth is blm is only making the matter worse by endorsing this stereotype of black people as uneducated thugs these are people who would probaly want you dead just for being white society is probaly not racist cause we have laws against cops judges companies etc. mistreating people based soley on skin color and blm just uses their cause to get away with awful behavior like hijacking a toronto pride parade or hijacking a vigil to make it about them or throwing rocks at cops who are not doing anything. the only real way to fix it is stop making everything about race and going after the cops who really are corrupt

  • toddrvick

    @JerseygirlJESUS:disqus Thank you for this candid and honest appeal for us to examine our hearts and prejudices. As I read the comments, it seems we still have a long way to go. But I heard it, and I thank you!

    • Thank you, @toddrvick:disqus . Having the conversation is the first step.

  • The first step might be for young black men to make an effort to act in ways that lower white perceptions that they are criminals.

    • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

      Wow.

    • Ummm wow. Because it’s all about white people’s perceptions. So many things wrong with this statement. From the same manual called “How To Blame Women For Their Own Rapes Because Of Where They Were, How They Dressed, and What They Drank”. The first step might be for white people to examine our own hearts for the bigoted racism that makes them assume all young black men are criminals.

      • 240,000 young white men died to end slavery. Thousands of us were on the streets in the 60s working for civil rights. As long as blacks see themselves as victims and blame whites for their issues they will be impotent to create the real change black families and communities so desperately need. Whites can’t provide the leadership, family services, education, and community organization skills which also are desperately needed. These have to come from the black community if they are to be effective and not seen as white manipulation/exploitation. The problems go back to the days of slavery when blacks were imported into a basically white European cultural context and stripped of their own cultural identities. They have yet to recover from this but that recovery has to come from within the black community if it is going to be anything other than acquiescence. And if it continues to evolve as a culture of blame and victimhood it will continue into a downward spiral for those unable to adapt. The real solution is, of course, a spiritual solution but American culture today is a long way away from that one.

        • Garp

          Do you even know any black people? Wow! Black people are not doing anything that white people are not doing in this country. Black children, particularly boys are “criminalized.” Philandro Castille was pulled over 52 times in his lifetime. 52. Fifty freaking two. I’ve been pulled over a few times in my life. But never because I matched any description. Not once. I’m a white female by the way. The real problem is white people like you thinking you are an expert on race and the “black community.” The problem is injustice and every time black people get killed, we have white people saying, “well, if you black people just acted respectable and stopped your culture of blame and victimhood.” Here is a hint: Listen to actual black people. There is a revolutionary idea!

          • Yes, I know many black people and even count a few among my better friends. I appreciate that I overgeneralized in my comment. The issue of race relations in America is so huge that it is difficult even to capture real essences in writing. I am no expert on race or the black community but consider myself well informed enough to have a viable opinion–an opinion that may represent a particular viewpoint in the matter. My perspective is that 240,000 young white men died to end slavery in this country. I and many of my contemporaries were tear-gassed and spent time in jail during the civil rights struggles of the 60s. It was white Christian civilization which ended slavery as it had been practiced for thousands of years. So I don’t think much of positions that try to blame whites. I think it is time for the black community to step up and clean up their side of the street. Projecting a social identity of victimhood is not likely to be very productive–in spite of the fact that victimhood is a very real element of the mix. But victimhood leads to casting blame rather than taking creative action.

            But here again there is a note of tragedy–whites can only make it possible for blacks to become assimilated into what is essentially a white culture. But that doesn’t seem to be a desirable option either. The scale of the tragedy is huge and there are no easy answers. I can’t answer for issues that are delineated on a cultural scale but I can answer for my own personal relationships with my fellow human beings. And perhaps this is the only real way to heal the rift–individual persons interacting with other persons on the basis of more spiritual values.

          • Garp

            How about you LISTEN to black people. And you do realize that many black people won’t tell you their whole experience and frustrations with white people because of idiotic comments like “it was white Christian civilization that ended slavery.” Many black people are trying to “clean up their side of the street.” And they are also saying, in the meantime, “hey, you guys over on that side of the street, could you please maybe, you know, try stop shooting us? That would be great.” And as we continue to ignore their pain and frustrations, generation after generation, guess what some of them are angry. Some of us (white people) are pissed off too. As far as all the selfless whites that fought on the union side in the civil war, get over your savior complex please.

    • MrCorvus

      Well, problem solved! What a relief!

      Who knew that all that was needed was for some clueless white guy to come by and tell black people how they “should” be acting.

      Hey David, can you solve religious extremism and that pesky war issue next?

      • If people act in ways which reinforce stereotypes, then they will continue to be victimized by those stereotypes.

  • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

    I have to say, I am not uncomfortable at all. I am angry. Shit’s going to get real for those stinking bigots and they will deserve it.

    • I am angry too, and I want our judicial system to (finally) work. But let’s be careful about making sure our words are clear and NOT provoking violence.

  • Ken Orton

    As long as black people say “white people” and white people are saying “black people” we’re going to have a problem. Racism and reverse-racism is as old and ongoing as Genesis and it’s never going to change. It’s like rich people and crooked people (politicians) versus poor and middle-class people. We’ll never stop discrimination but we can learn to live better with it. The biggest segregationist organization is the Christian church. Don’t believe me? Go to one of the huge Methodist or Baptist churches in Dallas and see if blacks are proportionately represented. Or, any predominately black church and see how many whites. are there. I’m caucasian and attended a black church not long ago and the people acted like I was the devil himself. No welcome, no introductions. If we can’t worship together, we can’t live together.

    • scott stone

      You make some very interesting points. I’m about to really step in it but I truly am concerned about this issue. Do you think the majority of the population really wants reconciliation between the races or have we kept our heads in the sand, allowed cultures to be developed over the decades, that the differences between Black America and White America are too great?
      Let me give and example of what I mean. I’ve been adamantly opposed to the concept of multi-culturalism and the forced notion of ‘celebrate diversity’ for many years. When the starting point is about diversity, our differences, we are bound to create wedges between people. I want to start by celebrating the things we have in common first. Then when a relationship is created we can learn and benefit from each other based on our different cultural experiences. The transition from an America that was a melting pot to one that encouraged self segregation has been catastrophic. On to my example.
      I’m white and I am privileged in many ways. Let’s be honest, just being born in the USA can be categorized as privileged compared to most of the world. I live much of my time in Miami Beach. Not the rich area south of 5th, but in a small condo in the middle of SoBe. I choose to live there. I like the pedestrian life style, the diversity, and obviously the weather. SoBe has just about every demographic you could imagine. Poor, rich, white, black, hispanic, et al. It truly is a melting pot of cultures with obviously a heavy Latin influence. Every year for the Memorial Day weekend there is a loosely gathered festival called Urban Beach Week. I won’t go into the detail, you can google it. I spend time walking around Ocean Drive and other areas just to observe. I’m sorry but there is a cultural gap so large between a not insignificant segment of black America and white America, it causes me to ask if the gap is bridgeable and do enough people want to construct that bridge.
      We have self segregated and forced segregated so many people for so many years that when we encounter one another it’s like we are from different worlds, because we are. I truly don’t have the answer but I’m hoping we can all figure it out together.

  • Roger Lauricella

    Bull, I don’t care what race or color you are, ALL LIVES DO MATTER. You sure do not write in a Loving manner

    • Nicole Mendolera

      Of course ALL LIVES DO MATTER. My life as a white woman matters just as much as everyone else’s. Not more, not less but the same. As an educated middle class woman I have been so fortunate to be given so many opportunities in my life. I never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from, graduated from college with my bs and masters, have a fantastic job and am surrounded by an amazing group of people who encourage and lift me up. Because I am so incredibly blessed I many times find myself reaching out to folks that may be going through a tough time and helping if I can. Sometimes it comes in the form of working with a non profit or serving at a soup kitchen or taking a child into my home that needs a temporary and safe place to live. I know that there are many people, of all races, that I have the privilege of meeting that have not always been given the opportunities because of the circumstances they have been born into (or even bad choices they made). Regardless, their life matters just as much as mine so if I can share my blessings I’m going to. For me the same thing is true for certain groups of people who in past (and even now) have not been treated equally and given all of the opportunities. This may include our LGBT, African Americans, Hispanics or whoever. Their lives matter just as much as mine so if they are struggling because they have been oppressed do to a long history of racism and are only now starting to get some of the opportunities that I am so fortunate to get why not reach a hand out to help them? Helping someone else better their circumstances and letting them know that you’re there fighting for them doesn’t take anything away from us. If anything it makes us stronger as a society and encourages unfair treatments to be punished and no longer tolerated.

  • Al Cruise

    Hopefully 8 years with Hillary, and if it would work out , another 8 with Chelsea would be a good start.

  • ashpenaz

    If Black people stopped committing so many crimes, then maybe they’d have the same privileges too – no?