Even with the pandemic, it keeps happening. Unarmed African-American citizens get killed by white law enforcement or vigilantes. The continuing occurrences of these events is making it harder for white-supremacy deniers. Michelle Reyes, professor, church planter and speaker, defines white supremacy as “a belief, a story, that white bodies and lives are more important and valuable than black and brown bodies.” Now, us white Americans have trouble believing that we think that. And, in our age of racial tension and mass media, we certainly don’t want other people believing we think that.
So, we cover our own arses. I’m not racist. I have black, Hispanic and Asian friends. I worked hard for everything I have. My family emigrated to a small town in the North after the 13th Amendment and never owned slaves. Sure, maybe my church denomination helped continue the legality of slavery, but that’s in the past. Look at the diversity of my church now! Also, my company has great diversity initiatives.
White Americans, even if all of the above is true about you as an individual, you need to step out of your comfort zone and help. Our obliviousness to racial tension and economic injustice is a luxury that the health of this country can no longer afford. You need to do more than preserve your non-racist appearance.
First, discard the romanticized stories of our nation’s founding (written by the proverbial winners) and take an objective look at our country’s history. It’s not good, and we should not be proud. The truth is that we have mistreated Native Americans (after some of our imperialist ancestors enslaved them) and enslaved African-Americans for 250 years. And, ever since the 13th Amendment, us white Americans have found and used various legal loopholes and obfuscation to make sure that we’re running the table, continuing to deny opportunities, privileges and rights to anyone who isn’t Caucasian.
We may comfort ourselves (or we may have been deceived) to think that any and all privilege we have is based purely on our work ethic or (unbiblical) God-given exceptionalism. But if American society is so objectively navigable, why are incomes, household wealth, incarceration rates, and living arrangements so disproportionate?
Second, find something to do about it, no matter where you are in the country. As Fred Rogers said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say ‘It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond."
You can find ideas of what to do for racial justice here.
Today is Juneteenth, and my institution of employment has given it to many employees in the United States and Puerto Rico, myself included, as a holiday to reflect and take action. I will use this day and others, to do a few more things on the aforementioned list.
White Americans, we need to do more than establish or maintain appearance as "non-racist." We can't be distant spectators anymore. We need to care and help.
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