In the wake of the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville last week and Donald Trump’s refusal to disavow their ideologies (merely condemning violence “on both sides” and then backtracking on a clearly forced statement condemning white supremacist rhetoric and now fully embracing revisionist history and white supremacist rhetoric) I have a few things to say as a white person trying to educate myself on the evils of white supremacy and what white people can do to dismantle and destroy it (taken from several posts on Facebook and conversations with my friends).
I do not particularly care how much a white (and most specifically a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – WASP) person hates and denounces the KKK and neo-nazis. Combating racism in America today is not simply an internal adjustment of mindset or prejudices (as your individualistically predisposed pastor may oversimplify things to be), it is destroying the racialized and segregated power structures and culture that have been put in place in America over the centuries.
If (predominantly white) beneficiaries of these systems are not actively seeking to dismantle all forms of white supremacy in our society, and more broadly white colonialism and imperialism, then they will to a large degree continue to unknowingly (at least I hope it is unknowingly) benefit from and remain complicit in the realization of the goals and work of the KKK and neo-nazis, solidifying and perpetuating the white dominated control of power in this country and the whole world.
This unchecked and ingrown white supremacy is the very real problem that largely underlies and contributes to the continued hate and racism that has plagued America since far before its formation and manifests itself in far more ways than just the easy-to-condemn overtly racist activities and ideologies. Merely being a liberal person or rectifying and adjusting one’s personal sentiments toward “others” is not enough to destroy racism in America – it takes listening to the voices of the marginalized and oppressed and subsequent action. It is the responsibility of those in traditionally privileged positions to listen to the marginalized and to step aside and become followers and allies instead of temporary-bandaid-applying and white-power-structure-preserving “white saviors” that only aim to “fix” problems in order to restore their coveted “law and order”.
To clarify what I am advocating that white people do: In white (and particularly in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) culture (see my review of the book “Waking Up White”) we (WASPs) are often unable to deal with such challenges without trying to slap temporary band-aids on them. This particular issue is not going away immediately and stepping into it without learning and subjecting oneself to the teaching and leadership of persons of color and the marginalized is actually part of the reason such systemic oppression and racialization/segregation (see my review of the book “Divided by Faith”) still exists.
I am declaring that we (white people) absolutely must stop trying to simply smooth over tensions and fix surface level things that make us temporarily uncomfortable and step into the discomfort by becoming allies and followers of the leaders that have been fighting and marching forward in this fight since the beginning of the abolitionist movement and all of its subsequent incarnations and iterations.
A key step is to stop thinking we (white people) can just fix everything immediately and to open our ears and hearts and listen. Only then can we hope to help without making everything worse. I know this goes against a lot of the principles that are cooked into white culture, but this is exactly what I mean when I say that white supremacy in all its forms must be destroyed – even the tendency for white people to assume some superior ability to solve problems and the mindset that any publicly visible scuffle or conflict is abhorrent must be abandoned.
Here is an example of the respected and famous Presbyterian Pastor Tim Keller failing to adequately address the ingrown cultural problems, merely skirting around them and trying to distance himself and his followers from the political correctness disaster that is the surface level issue and allowing the problem of systemic racism, historical white supremacy, and ongoing racialized and segregated society (in many ways facilitated and fueled by church segregation) to continue to fester and thrive.
Here is a short list of (evangelical church-centric) resources (for more general resources see my previous post here) that have been popping up in just the last few days responding to the boiling over of the white-supremacist movement into the public sphere:
- The Reformed African American Netword (RAAN) on how white supremacy continues unchecked and 10 ways it continues to thrive.
- RAAN’s Jemar Tisby on the church and white supremacy.
- Russel Moore on church complacency in the face of overt cultural sin.
- The Washington Post with some statistics on racial disparity in America (the smoking gun of the influence and remaining power that white supremacy continues to have in this country).
- Most importantly (in my opinion): Austin Channing on the invalidity of the both sides argument and what Jesus’s turning over of the tables in the Temple has to say about it.
- The Pass The Mic Podcast in general, and specifically the last few episodes.
- A list of ways that allyship is often coopted into performative virtue signaling.