Between transitioning homes and seasons, I haven’t had the capacity to respond in any articulate way to the current flashpoint for racism in the USA: Ferguson. As the active boil publicly– or at least “media” publicly–settles to a simmer, I find myself holding the weight of how many white liberals have responded. (I count myself as one of this camp–often more of a latte liberal than I like to admit.) What continues to strike me about the response from those of us in the left-leaning camp is our denial to admit that we, too, have been infected with racism. We, too, participate in a system that is not just. We have benefited from the accident of birth. No–it might not have been us. No–it isn’t our fault. No–on an individual basis we might not be “doing” something wrong. But my left-leaning sisters and brothers, until we admit, we, too, are a little bit racist, we aren’t ever gonna be able to change. Not one bit.
It’s like recovery. You can’t begin the process until you admit you got a problem. A problem that you can’t fix or solve by yourself. A problem that makes you and the systems you are part of crazy. A problem that keeps you from connecting with your inner (real) self and your Higher Power–and ultimately, other people. Admitting you’ve got a problem and stoping the shame/blame game is the first step in recovery.
I think it might be the first step to healing and reconciling the hurts of racism as well.
Six years ago I had the privilege of traveling to and through India for the first time. That mind-blowing and eye-opening experience stoked the coals of white liberal guilt in my soul. One night was particularly challenging. My seminary classmates and I had spent a long, 14 hour day walking through the Dalit (untouchable) villages outside of Bangalore. We had listened to stories. Played and held children. Eaten from the fatted goat prepared just for this special occasion. At the end of the day, our hearts were warmed and stoked. On one hand, what a blessing to meet, play, and pray with such wonderful people. On the other hand, we got back on our bus to drive back to the theological college leaving the villages behind…villages without running water, without modern conveniences, without power. The world was not right or fair. The world is not right or fair. Many of our hearts were heavy that night as we debriefed the day. Thankfully, one of our Indian guides, a wise professor and therapist, both forgave us and challenged us. She said, “I don’t blame you. But your guilt will not help make this situation better. How will you live differently now?”
And that is the question. How will we live differently now? Now that our eyes and ears have been opened to the pain and injustice live in and with, how will we live differently? Might we be willing to take the first step and admit–we, too, are just a little bit racist?