The following was some of what I was going to share at the Race Ethnicity and Place conference, but wasnt able since my baby boy was born on the same day. Enjoy.
Whiteness, The White Church, and White Christian Twitter
It is a racist issue as for the reason why I am sitting here today. I first contacted Rod over a year ago, because I came across his blog, Political Jesus, and started following him on Twitter as well. I began to learn so much from his blogs and was led to contact him after a while to seek his wisdom on an issue that some of the teens that I work with were having at their schools.
The teens, all of which are hispanic girls, came to me with an issue that I had long heard about in their conversations. They raised the issue that in their middle school and high school, that when they tried out for any sports team, that they never made A team, but were automatically put on B or C teams.
Even though my research in postcolonialism or anti-racism should have led me to a different conclusion, my white, middle class, mind automatically went to these conclusions, “ well maybe they aren’t that good “ or “ Maybe the coach knows better than them” But something research can’t teach you is how to listen, and when to shut up. So I did, I didn’t speak those words out loud to them. But I met with Rod instead, seeking truth in the area. He quickly reminded me with grace, that their feelings should always be validated, and that I really had no place to judge whether or not this was an issue of racism. If they were naming it, then that was true. He encouraged me to meet with them and find a way for them to solve, NOT ME. He kept reiterating that I shouldn’t solve the issue for them, but empower them with tools that they could do it on their own.
I met with them, gave them tools, and they spoke up about it. Not just to coaches, but fellow classmates, teachers, etc. One young lady has formed an anti-bullying effort and another young lady came along that has blown us all away. She is an amazing basketball player, but was immediately put on B team as 7th grader. Her first game she scored 30 points, and was put on A team a few weeks later. She is currently the only Hispanic on her girls freshman team. But this year, a 7th grader, from the same neighbourhood, same race, was put on A team the first game of the season. Marking a new day. Change is slow.
I give you this story as an example of 1,000’s more waiting to happen, they will happen when white followers of Jesus began to sit at the feet of people of color and listen.
Too often I find on White Twitter, that too many white xians try to tone and police radical comments, asking for grace instead of voice. I too often see white mega church pastors or para church leaders calling for peace or fact finding when tragic situations happen to people or youth of color. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told to wait for the facts, when a young man is laying on the ground with execution style bullet holes in his body. Or trust in the system, when I see white men getting let off for far worst offenses than men of color. Or that people of color need to learn to comply with police, when we see a video of a police officer smashing through a window to get a black man out.
So what I’ve learned as a white male working in a community of color, is to first listen and learn from people of color. Next comes working with people of color, alongside, arm and arm. Last comes, my voice.
White Jesus followers cannot simply be mad at injustice, we must say something about it and in our saying something about it we must never take the side of status quo patent white answers. We must first fully support what people of color are saying about injustice issues, then we must do something about it. That means confronting family members, co-workers, church members, friends, etc. That is the first line of speaking out. Next, social media. RePost and ReTweet people of colors statuses, blogs, etc, without your comments. Your thoughts aren’t needed. Your voice is.
White Christians should act as parrots of issues of injustice. Repeating again and again what people of color are feeling and saying, not how we are feeling.
So what I mean by voice isn’t your opinions, it’s what people of color are already saying, you’re just relaying the information to uninformed white people.
Voice also means doing something. Finding a way at the street level to get involved. It can look and take on many different forms. What is will always consist of is you listening, learning, repeating information, and acting on information.
Voice is friendship and family.
I have worked with children and youth of color for about 12 years now, and I am still learning from them. I won’t stop learning from them.
Over those years I have been invited into their homes, places of worship, rite of passages events, family dinners, family tragedies, and spaces of entertainment. Even after all of that you would think this white guy would learn how not to put my foot in my mouth. But I do. Often.
Thankfully, my friends and family of color, have corrected me, and then have grace upon me. The oppressed always have large amounts of grace and love to dispense.
My whiteness is exposed daily. A sweet young lady that I see almost daily at my program, is Jasmine. Her mom is African and her dad is Middle Eastern. She is my white voice police. When I show up to a program and start talking “too white” , then she will shut me down and say “Murphy you are here now, turn off that white voice” What she doesn’t mean is to not speak proper “English”, as she can fluently speak English and French. She means my white privilege, my white supremacy, my whiteness is coming out, and they don’t need that. They need my blackness. My voice that sounds like I care about what they are saying, not just hearing it and judging them. She is saying listen to us, stop judging us. She is inviting me in to the fold, but asking that I take off my white mask.