Thesis 30: Dear White People

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

Dear white people,

It's been over three weeks since Mike Brown was shot. It's been over three months since I've written anything on this blog, the last post being a rant about potential schism in the United Methodist Church. We have some catching up to do. And that catching up relates to Ferguson.

1. We really need to chill out on saying things like, "Well we don't know all the facts yet," or "All of this seems so one-sided."

You're right. We don't know all the facts. That doesn't mean we wait to gather all the evidence possible before responding. The African American community in Ferguson is pissed. They have been for a long time about a lot of things. Perhaps the reason this seems so one-sided is that our side is not the only one being presented. Perhaps when our privileged eyes see a different narrative emerge, we aren't used to having our narrative of privilege questioned. And that's hard. Let's deal with that.

2. This is about much more than Mike Brown now.

Don't hear me wrong on this. This is definitely about Mike Brown's death. It should be, and will be for a long time. However, if we were listening correctly, we heard our brothers and sisters in Ferguson talking about a pattern of police brutality and profiling, about systemic oppression of all African Americans in our society, not just folks who are poor. Mike Brown's death was a catalyst for us to talk about, among many other things, race in America, something that we white people don't like to discuss. We don't have to. Our ethnicity is still considered the norm.

3. Working for justice is hard.

Ok, you've been to the protests once, like me. You've been to a couple of organizing meetings, like me. You were glued to social media for a couple of weeks, like me. That doesn't make me a social justice activist/organizer/advocate. But I'm learning. I'm learning to do things like defer to black voices, not let it become about me, and take cues from the African American community if I really want to be a vessel for change. Our whiteness is a stumbling block sometimes, but we can never change it. A white friend of mine recently advised against white folks acting in an anti-racist capacity without asking the African American community what it wants from us first. We've gone a long time deciding what's right for people. It's time to let them decide what's right for them, so that we (all of us of all races) can decided what's right for us.

4. It's time to listen a lot more than we talk.

Even if it's unfair and mean-spirited. Even if it hurts to hear. Even if it brings up facts which you know aren't true. Even if, as Luther suggests, we are unsure of our own contrition, now is the time for white folks to listen. Shouting down voices who are historically oppressed not only continues what's been happening for centuries, it's insensitive. We have had the ears of the world for a long time. It's time to step away from the mic for a bit, for as long as it takes for us to figure out how we can share it again.

And I believe we'll get there. But we'll need to do it together. Are you hearing me, white people?

Your brother and fellow white person,
Original photo by flickr user hermanturnip. Used under Creative Commons license.


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