This weekend was a tad bit overwhelming for me. The events in Charlottesville, while not surprising, were extremely horrifying. The pictures looked like something out of a history book. The abhorrent words that were slewed out of people’s actual mouths. The silence from Christians. The defending. The bullshit response from 45. It was just a lot to take in.
We live in a city much like Charlottesville, VA. We live in the south. People are, how do I say this, extremely proud of where they live. Their heritage is something worthy to flaunt. I get it. It feels similar in some ways to Texas Pride which if you have never encountered Texas Pride, Lordhavemercy. When my husband tells people he grew up in Texas nine times out of nine people say, “I didn’t know people left Texas.” Texas people are PROUD to be Texans.
Now I’m not a history buff and I really don’t want to, like, get in an argument about The Civil War because to be straight honest I could not hang in that conversation. But from what I’ve heard… The north and the south fought a war over slavery and “states rights.” Which from what I’ve read was about the states ability to decide for themselves whether it was legal to own slaves. So they fought. The south lost and over time slavery was abolished. But the south lost. A war over slavery. That much I know for sure.
I know we live in a society where it’s okay to be a loser and everyone who participates gets a trophy non-sense but the south lost a war and we’re down here, I don’t know, celebrating that? Fine, memorializing that? Okay, God, recognizing that? Super weird and basically stupid. Whatever word you choose.
Not a day goes by where I don’t pass a truck waving the confederate flag. Not a day goes by where I don’t see cars with confederate flag stickers stuck to them. There are houses that proudly wave the confederate flag from outside their home. We have a confederate memorial in our town square that I drive by several times a week.
Every single time we pass that statue one of us says out loud to each other, “They would not approve of our family.” Because the truth is they probably would not. The truth is whenever I see people proudly waving that flag in whatever form I think, “I don’t know if you’d like my kids. I don’t know if you’d like my family. I don’t know if you are a safe person for my kids to be around.” They might be the kindest people on the planet earth. They really might love our family and our kids. They might just be waving it around because they deeply believe it represents just being proud of being southern. But based upon history and what history says that flag represents, I’m just not totally sure. And that is just the truth of how I feel as a mom of three black children, thank you for understanding.
And so here we are again…. as a nation, as churches, as Christians, as families, as individuals… facing the racism that still lives on in America. And this time it didn’t involve a police officer but instead the KKK.
I’ve had enough people say this weekend overwhelmed them. I’ve already told you it overwhelmed me too. I’ve heard enough people say that they just don’t know what to say or how to say it. I have already told you I basically failed history and have no idea how to talk about The Civil War. I heard enough people say they just couldn’t take it anymore so they just turned it all off. I fell prey to reading one too many comment sections on Facebook posts this weekend that sent me spiraling into anger at basically everyone on planet earth. I went on an angry run yesterday where I just pounded the pavement and said all the words to God. I am really sore today.
It’s easy when we’re overwhelmed to turn everything off and stick our heads in the ground, and there is definitely a time and place to shut it all down, but I deeply believe this is not the time or the place. It’s easy when we get overwhelmed to think, “This is too big! I can’t do anything! I can’t fix this!” And then instead of doing something, one thing, we do nothing. It’s easy when we get overwhelmed at the evil in the world to fall prey to fear. And fear is paralyzing.
So let’s just not do that this time, eh? We can do this. We can rise up. I believe we can. But it starts with us, white people. It really, really does. We have to do the work. Everybody likes to talk about reconciliation as if it’s easy but very few of us want to actually do the work of reconciliation because, news flash, it is hard and not fun and not sexy and messy and on going and you can’t slap a filter on it and post about it on Instagram. But we have to do it. We have to. No one else can do this for us. Let’s not just stop at denouncing racism because that should be the easiest thing to denounce basically ever. But rather let’s actually DO THE WORK of reconciliation.
It’s starts with you and it starts with me. Inside our homes. Around our dinner tables. Sitting on our kitchen floors (I have a spot on a stool in our kitchen where if Dustin finds me there he knows we are about to discuss racism and he just sits right down on the kitchen floor and we hash it out for sometimes hours, I am not kidding you). It starts right here. So basic.
Dismantling racism sounds so very big, and it is, but it also isn’t. Start where you are. We didn’t start by meeting with our Mayor and our Chief of Police to discuss racism in our city. LOL no. We started by buying one book, reading it and then talking about it. And then guess what? We just kept doing that. For years. And then we got a little bit brave and started talking about racism with our families. And I was so nervous. I didn’t know how to talk about it well or what exactly to say. And so we stumbled through years of awkward conversations where I ended up getting loud and angry and then having to come back around and say, “Listen sorry I’m still trying to figure out how to talk about this. Let’s keep going.” We have to start by dismantling racism in our own hearts and in our own homes before we go anywhere else. Confess, repent, wrestle, tell the truth, forgive. And then continue doing that. I am raising black children and I still have racial biases that I have to check daily. Dustin and I still have really hard conversations about race. We are still bringing it up at dinner tables and making people squirm and it really never gets any easier we’ve just gotten more confident. Talk about in your friend groups and with your co workers.
So, if you find yourself white and overwhelmed by the events of this weekend let’s talk about where to go from here.
Diversify Your Bookshelf
Here is a list of some of our favorites. I have given this list out before a billion times. This list is not exhaustive and if you asked someone else they may suggest another book. Cool buy that one. But seriously just buy one, read it and talk about it with someone. If you don’t have anyone to talk about it with that may be something you need to evaluate yourself but you may call me to talk about it and I do not enjoy talking on the phone. I screen my own husband’s calls. Again, this is just a place to start. JUST START SOMEWHERE. The first book I ever bought was “How To Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston and I was afraid to read it in public because I didn’t know what people would think. THAT IS OKAY. Buy the book anyway.
Just Mercy, Brian Stevenson
Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, Toure
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
The Beast Side- D. Watkins
How To Black- Baratunde Thurston
The Autobiography of Malcom X
Between The World And Me- Ta-Nehisi Coates
Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Same Kind Of Different As Me- Ron Hall & Denver Moore
Negroland- Margo Jefferson
The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”- Beverly Daniel Tatum
Black Like Me- John Howard Griffin
Hillbilly Elegy- J.D. Vancy
Diversify Your Kids Bookshelf.
When God Made You- Matthew Paul Turner
Last Stop On Market Street- Matt De La Pena
Whoever You Are- Mem Fox
Peace is an Offering- Annette Le Box
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon- Patty Lovell
The Skin You Live In- Michael J Tyler
Ten Little Finger And Ten Little Toes- Mem Fox
He’s Got The Whole Word In His Hands- Kadir Nelson
The Peace Book- Todd Parr
The Family Book- Todd Parr
Same, Same But Different- Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw
What I Like About Me!
It’s Okay To Be Different- Todd Parr
Diversify What Your Listening To And Watching
13th, it’s on Netflix I know you have Netflix
Sho Baraka’s album The Narrative
Diversify Who You Follow on Social Media
Huffpost Black Voices
Equal Justice Initiative
Reformed African American Network
Southern Poverty Law Center
This is just a start. The lists are endless. There will forever be books to read and stories to listen to. There will always be the work of having hard conversations and holding each other accountable. We will never just arrive I don’t think. Let’s do the work and let’s do it well. In the name of Jesus. In the name of love. In the name of our brothers and sisters. Let’s go.