Since the tragic and unjust death of George Floyd, much has happened online and in life, and while I have been quarantined, I have been following current events and reading about it all. I haven’t posted on my Instragram or Facebook pages because I’ve had such strong and mixed feelings about the atmosphere online. Particularly troubling to me have been the posts, admittedly by folks I don’t know, that shame others who do not post social justice related images and topics. I have watched people I respected get “canceled,” and I have been actually afraid of being trolled for posting my normal book pictures and family updates. This was probably overboard, but it did lead me to stop and think.
So I want to post what I really think about race relations in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t want the cancel-social-media-warriors to prevent me from embracing the true insights of the movement. And at the same time, I don’t want to mindlessly bandwagon myself onto causes I don’t fully understand and be inauthentic for the sake of an empty virtue-signaling performance.
I have been reading about white privilege and the historical injustices that still harm black folks for a few years now, before the recent wave. Currently, I am reading, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo as recommended by a colleague.
I absolutely believe in and support two main insights–the reality of unintended biases in white people (and all people). And the historic injustices that continue to leave black folks at a disadvantage.
And I want to work to heal these by the practical ways that I can, especially using best practices in my classroom. I believe it’s about love. God loves all his children, and that we are called to love each other in Jesus as the Body of Christ.
There are some recent things I’ve read online that have been upsetting to me, however, that I don’t think follow from these basic insights, and I’ve listed them out here because to me, I would be being inauthentic if I pretended to ascribe to everything entailed by the recent social justice movement.
- That historic injustices have left blacks at disadvantages that persist into the present day.
- Such as slavery, Jim Crow Laws, redlining of school and voting districts.
- Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, describes in 17 minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGUwcs9qJXY
- That white people and all people likely carry unexamined and unintentional biases that need to be conscientiously examined.
- I am happy and willing to consider and examine the existence of such biases.
- I am happy and willing to listen to the stories of the people of color and everyone I know, and let them know that I support them.
- I am happy and willing to add more books by black authors to my personal bookshelf such as Maya Angelou and Ta Nehisi Coates.
- I am happy and willing to examine my classroom practices to promote fairness.
- I am interested in reform of police practices.
- I am extremely excited to add more children’s books featuring people of color to my classroom and home book shelf. I loved this list that a colleague-friend sent out. https://www.readbrightly.com/diverse-poetry-picture-books-for-kids/?ref=PRHBEBAF5AF5E&aid=randohouseinc8425-20&linkid=PRHBEBAF5AF5E&fbclid=IwAR0QH9oMlinRY8TB1vnb2RoHycmnZhUZLORwS37UUbOzkPwPNUzwkb_LNJU
What I don’t understand:
- The call for white people to identify as racist because of the aforementioned unintended biases
- To me, a term like racist is so loaded, like Hitler, …I prefer explanations to labels.
- I believe that intention matters. If I hold an unintended bias and am willing to examine it, it doesn’t seem right to label or penalize someone for the unintended bias.
Ancillary Topics I Don’t Understand:
- The call to abolish or defund the police.
- I do not understand what “defunding” the police entails.
- I was under the impression that police officers carry out certain essential functions in communities? Who do I call if someone breaks into my house?
- Statistically, officers who are white do not disproportionately shoot black people. (https://www.npr.org/2019/07/26/745731839/new-study-says-white-police-officers-are-not-more-likely-to-shoot-minority-suspe) Can we recognize the positive accomplishments of police while improving practices?
- The implication of one article about de-colonializing one’s bookshelf that said there should be as many black as white authors.
- As stated earlier, I embrace the call to add more authors of color.
- At the same time, my personal bookshelf includes many volumes of philosophy, theology, history and literature that are European in origin and predate the 1800s or are totally unrelated to race relations in America. These were my majors and MA (Religious Studies, Government, Theology). These disciplines have immense value, and I don’t understand why there are calls to focus all learning on race relations and ignore other subjects.
- Philosophy, history and theology have given great contributions to thought and human learning that I think retain value even if they came from European culture.
- When the phrase “dismantle systems of oppression” comes out, I don’t understand what exactly it entails and I worry about losing the great contributions to learning by European society. To give an example, I am a feminist and Aristotle thought that women were not equal in intellect or value to men. I disagree with him there, but I still think Aristotle had an accurate picture of virtue and morality that I wouldn’t discard.
- How do I avoid microagressions?
- #11 and #12 give me special trouble because I am unsure of how to reconcile them.
- I get that ignoring race and being “color blind” can be inauthentic and can lead to leaving people of color at a disadvantage
- I also understand that it isn’t fair to expect a person of color to represent all people of color in a discussion or situation.
- However, this leaves me very confused and worried about doing it wrong. So in very practical classroom discussions, such as about slavery, I just avoid it altogether out of fear. I would like to learn the right way to allow students who are of color or who have a strong reaction to the subject the place and space to be heard without demanding it of them.
- The difference between cultural diffusion and cultural “appropriation.” (This came from the Angela Watson article. I don’t get it. People dress up as sexy nuns for Halloween, and it bothers me a bit, but that’s all. I cook tacos for dinner–is there a problem with that?)
Here is what upsets me most: Posts on social media shaming people who don’t post (I’ve seen a lot of it on Instagram).
- We don’t know anyone else’s story
- We should not assume the worst of others or assume we know the meaning of their silence
- Posting on social media is not inherently virtuous or akin to meaningful action. – Thank you for this post, David Brooks, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/opinion/us-coronavirus-protests.html?smid=fb-nytopinion&smtyp=cur&fbclid=IwAR2E0ktMEexmXXT1w6NCbeZL2b7s1qr1cFfSwbY2s01rq6h1y5_lHNGhc3k
- Other need space to think. (I do).
- The assumption of so certain a moral high ground that conversation and disagreement is precluded and mere silence is itself shamed.
- This dries up good will, prevents meaningful conversion and conversation and serves only to alienate others. It violates basic ideas on the respect and goodness of others which have otherwise been enshrined in current psychological and therapeutic practices and which are actually good.
Giving others the space to disagree, allows both of us to grow. We aren’t in control of others, no matter how much we might want to be. And few people change their minds when backed into a rhetorical corner. We can give each other some space and invite one another.
Here is what I do believe:
- That there are win/win situations and we should aim for that. Such as noting the advantages (privileges) we do have, and leveraging them to include others.
- That hearts and minds can be convinced and brought into unity by telling the truth with love, especially when the truth is the obvious fact that we are all created equally in the love of God.
- That discussion and teamwork should be the goal.
- That Jesus can restore us to healing beyond belief, in the words of the popular song.
Well, that’s all for now, though I have loads more that I’ve written and am thinking about, and there is loads more left to be said. And I would like to end with a prayer.
I pray that we can see the face of Christ in each other, and live in the reality that God calls us to share together in his life. I pray that we will know that we are One Body in Christ, and that that means love and compassion even when it’s difficult and that we rise by lifting others. Amen.
If this has been objectionable to you, or if it hasn’t, and you have something to share, I welcome and invite you to do with thought, care and love. St. Augustine said, “Love, and you what you will.”