Racial justice and white ego

imageA friend’s heartfelt expression today on Facebook about “ugly racism” stays on my mind. She emphasized a more conscious return to love and taking each day “one day at a time….and to take care of our own porch and neighbors” among other insights.

I shared below in response:

Your comments have triggered a thought about love: It is the answer.

At the same time, I invite an overt understanding of how love can be easily misconstrued in society as a decision void of discomfort – especially to the white privileged in our country.

I’m not an expert on the perfection of love; but the enacting of it exceeds the proverbial porch of our own comfort or sense of ease.

We as whites need to fully look and listen to how structural racism has strangled opportunity for Black people, strangled their right to decency, and their basic sovereignty to live out a loving life due to entrenched racist structures. The violence we have seen these weeks is nothing to the immoral hegemony that our white race has created in this country.

Consequences of this play out in less violent but demonstrative ways. Like I heard a white mom friend get angry that a Black student, as example, won the scholarship instead of her white son. Why? Was racist judgement at the root of her frustration?  Or was she stressed at facing hefty tuition and I took her expression of disappointment in the wrong light? In that moment it felt uncomfortable to not question her. And it felt as uncomfortable to challenge a friend with such directness.

But in the moment, I believe to return to love as you mention is to also pursue truth and uplift it.  So I inquired about her meaning; she was surprised yet forthcoming. I said her comments sounded racist. It was awkward but damn we talked about it. Hopefully a little greater consciousness was achieved for two white people.

Or here’s another scenario:

I’ve seen white people question the authority of a Black leader in front of a crowd; yet they remain silent when a white leader of same capacity asserts the same authority in the same dynamic. Love means divining the courage to call that out….which frankly I failed to do.

These are just mere slivers of the non-violent racist attitudes and structures that rage, along with the obvious blood.

What is the loving response?

It goes beyond taking care of your own porch. The first black family in my mom’s home town moved in, then a week later their water heater blew up in flames so they left. An actionable love surely means to wake up at the discomfort of how our decisions and perceptions can dehumanize people, limit them, and inspire horrendous fear.

It goes beyond the immediate localness of our porch and into the murky unease of learning that being white does not equate to an entitled sense of ease at the expense of minorities especially Black people.

Surely to God love means not only taking it one step and one day at a time. But it must include taking the consequences of white supremacy and dismantling them one consequence at a time. We must achieve awareness and that takes rigorous adjusting (and deflating) of white ego.

Brexit & recalling a trapped man

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A kind, raw-hearted man entered my work a while back  (a church not far from the White House). He asked for information about good shelters in the area, and if we could sit together in the chapel for a while.

We sat in quiet some minutes before he shared he’d been hiding in a locked bathroom. His lover in a violent rage had beat him before he was able to scramble to the restroom where he locked himself in; meanwhile his partner attempted to break the bathroom door down off and on for about 48 hours. Eventually the threatening partner gave up and left. So this guy now in the chapel was at least out of immediate harm seeking shelter someplace else.

That’s all I know about that man back then and his vulnerable crossroads toward safer ground. In my imaginings since, I pretend (hope?) the start of his once beloved relationship held some kind of shared appreciation of rights — right to breathe, right to breathe in safety, a right to simply live in a space together, both aware of life’s unforgiving spikes (but as aware that each qualified for safety amidst the turbulence, an equal capacity of deservedness).

Who knows what triggered the violent partner. Did the straining complexity of life spark an evilness within him? Did a tidal wave of vulnerability or sensed lack of control press his weaker side into dominance and cruelty?

I just don’t know.

Something about the recent Brexit vote brings all this envisioning of that weary man to mind again, and his primal run for safety.

It is reasonable to say we as humans in general want to live a safe life. We want to live with loved ones in the framework of safe shelter, safe day to day experience, safe access to food and rest. It’s reasonable to say that’s what Britons want.

It’s reasonable to say that’s what immigrants want also. Immigrants are fleeing for new lands to find new space for safer ground. They are running from violent threats, from lack, from fear, escaping from horrific deficits of safety.

Given this common yearning for safe places, it appears Britons with the Brexit vote have met the immigrant flight from fear with fear itself.

There are many political and economic layers to Brexit and the EU that are in play here too; I respect this and am no expert on all of those dynamics. As it relates to immigration though, I keep comparing Brexit with the threatened man on the run long ago, arriving bewildered at the chapel.

I equate it to this “what if…?” possibility:

It’s as if when the fleeing man knocked at the church’s door back then, colleagues and I locked the doors and then our neighbor’s doors and the doors to potential shelters just to preserve our own territorial comfort. It’s as if back then we even may have slipped out from behind those chapel doors, let the fearful man in for a few minutes, then kicked him out letting the huge bolts of once welcoming safe, oak chambers clamp shut in his face.

It is as if back then we grew childishly discontent from the inherent civility and organizational energy required to share; …..so we elevated our desire for comfort above his primal need for safety. Our comfort then would have arrived at the expense of his basic need.

Brexit smacks of this fear and entitlement.