Many of us have been wondering how to respond to the brazen show of white supremacy (and the hatred that goes with it) that appeared in Charlottesville, VA last weekend. Such blatant hatred is abhorrent and runs counter to everything I believe as one who strives to live as Jesus did. White supremacists must be challenged and confronted. My first reaction was one of righteous indignation! If such bullies use violence to terrorize and dehumanize others, then use violence to stop them. Hit them back. Strike fear into them. Isn't brutality the only thing they understand?
As I've sat with my anger and hatred toward them, I've realized that if that's my only response, I have allowed them to victimize me. I have allowed them to dictate how I respond to someone I don't like, or someone who is very different from me, with values, and opinions that are diametrically opposed to mine. They turn me into a fear and hate monger. I refuse to give them that power. I refuse to perpetuate the culture of hate.
As I've sat with my anger, praying and seeking a response that fits with who I claim to be and who I want to be, I have also realized that as a person who enjoys white privilege, I have been clueless about the racism that has been on-going right under my nose. Yes, I have supported the black lives matter movement. Yes, I have preached on Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow and researched the history of racism in Oregon. But I believed we were making slow steady progress: building bridges and understanding between whites and people of color. Charlottesville shocked me out of that.
I have decided to shift my attention. I have decided to look for opportunities to respond by being present with people who are also seeking to confront hatred and racism. Instead of pretending that everything is okay, I want to have the courage and toughness to pay attention to the signs that say "everything isn't okay."
In the past 24 hours I made two choices: I attended the Washington County Chapter of PFLAG and had a wonderful time square dancing with the Rose City Ramblers. I also sat with members of the LGBTQ community as they shared their reactions to the growing culture of brazen hatred. Many are disappointed, discouraged and afraid. Will white supremacy groups take more aggressive action in targeting them? I could not fix or take away their concerns. But, I could sit with them and show them that they have allies.
And this morning, Jeanne and I decided to respond to an invitation from the PDX NAACP to attend a press conference. We had no idea what to expect. We certainly did NOT expect to appear before cameras. Our purpose was to bring a white, clergy presence - to hear a black women's experience of racism. But God works in mysterious ways. Shortly after we arrived, we were invited to be seated along with other faith leaders. We expected to be on the periphery: we got a Divine Shove to be more "front and center."
I hope you'll take the time to listen to Demetria Hester's story. It was so horrible I had trouble believing it could be true. But I swim in the water of white privilege. Such privilege blinds me to the realities that people of color face everyday.