Curiosity, not Certainty

In this cacophony, here’s what I’m getting:

These constant, consecutive instances of outrage over race make me feel guilty for being white, which I can’t help, no more than black people can help being black.

(I know enough about white privilege to recognize that’s not the problem, and that we white people can only think in those individual terms, instead of seeing the racist social systems in which we participate, is in large part the problem).

And despite what I know, I feel guilty helplessly. That makes me angry, which is bad, so I get defensive.

I’m seeing lots and lots of people in my circles feeling defensive about race/racism, and rightly so. Now is exactly the time to have these conversations. But I’m not seeing conversations. I’m seeing angry people, like me, anxiously publishing their defense: either, “I’m not racist!?! They’re their own problem!” or, “They’re problems are our fault! We need to do something!”

Both of these, I think, are instinctual, defensive reactions, to armor ourselves against how vulnerable this conversation makes us (white people) feel. This reaction is normal, real, human. While it is normal, it is not helpful.

Instead of armoring myself, asserting my defense, and then moving on, I want to quiet my defensiveness so I can stay curious and listen.

Am I racist?

What am I guilty of in this, if anything?

How am I unwittingly contributing to the problem of racism in our country?

What do I need to know, that I clearly don’t? Who does know?

I’m learning. And learning means listening in the vulnerability of not knowing. I can see two truths simultaneously: I am only one person in a large, complicated world; and, because I participate daily in multiple interconnected systems, I have a far bigger impact on the world than I can see. My actions (and inaction) have consequences.

I’m writing all this, not to shut down conversation, but to invite it.

I’m writing all this, because until I do, I cannot finish writing my sermon for tomorrow, about the Spirit’s authority in my life and in the church.

I’m writing all this — after not writing anything here for far too long — because I’m trying to believe that what I think about this actually matters right now, if only to me.