(This post is one in a series on race titled “But Some of Us Are Brave.” The series includes posts from a diverse group of writers from our community. It takes a considerable amount of transparency and vulnerability for the contributors to this series to pen these posts and voice their experiences. We appreciate their courage, and we hope their willingness to be brave will spark some authentic community conversation on this sensitive and important topic. We hope you will read these posts thoughtfully and join the conversation by responding honestly and respectfully, and by sharing them with your friends and acquaintances. — ABT )
I just want to say one thing. It’s very simple and I’m not supposed to say it. I am racist. Most of the time I don’t know I’m racist and I don’t mean to be racist, but I am. I wouldn’t know much about my own racism if it weren’t for friends of color leading me and teaching me. Friends like Pastor Delvin Atchison of Antioch Baptist Church in Waco. Like my friend Luis and like my friend DeShauna.
You see, White people, like myself, need our brothers and sisters of color to teach us about racism. We are blinded to so many things by our power and our privilege. We don’t think about race every day because we don’t have to, but our brothers and sisters don’t have a choice. They understand race and racism in a way that I never can, because for them it is a lived experience, a daily struggle.
If we hope to overcome our racism and find peace and justice in cities like Ferguson, then White people must begin by confessing. We are racist. I am racist. Racism is real.
In the civil rights movement, people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Septima Clark and many more brave, unnamed souls stood up against the racist laws and treatment they received in the South. They stood together, but they were in one sense alone. They stood up without the support of their White brothers and sisters, without those who held the seats of power. They stood on their own to demand their rights and demand justice. However, it wasn’t until White people stood in solidarity with African-Americans that the nation took notice. The images of firehoses and dogs being turned on peaceful protestors galvanized White Americans to go to the South and stand with their brothers and sisters for their rights and for justice. Then when a White minister from the north was killed there was a national outcry that helped pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s not right that the death of one White man mattered more than all the deaths of Black people that came before it, but it was a reality of life in those times that the solidarity of White people with the civil rights movement helped changes to the system come about more quickly.
The hashtag and slogan #blacklivesmatter that has emerged from the experience and protests in Ferguson and elsewhere reflects the fact that the reality of life during the civil rights era continues today. We have come so far and yet still have so far to go. I do think passing laws and regulations for police officers related to racial profiling, excessive force and other issues can have a huge impact on the treatment of people of color. It is an important step, like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Yet no law or regulation will remove racism and prejudice from the hearts of human beings.
This is why the movement needs the confession of White people willing to stand with African-Americans and acknowledge our own complicity in the racism and systems that continue the legacies of slavery, colonization and White oppression. Without that solidarity those in power will continue to enforce the status quo and ignore the destructiveness of the systems that perpetuate racism. The hashtag reminds us that we White people must confess that White lives still matter more than Black lives.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the Black community needs a White savior to ride in and solve its problems. That “White savior” complex has caused more harm than good since the Voting Rights Act was passed. As people of privilege and power from the dominant culture, we White people must be careful that our solidarity and activism begins with confession and a lot of listening. When we speak truth to power it must come from an intimate understanding and relationship with those who face the struggle against racism and oppression every day. So please stand with our brothers and sisters of color by admitting and confessing that we are racist, that we don’t know or understand our own racism and that we need our brothers and sisters of color to teach us and lead us forward if we hope to find any peace and justice.
Lucas Land is an eco-theologian, urban farmer, writer and activist. He is avoiding growing up by constantly learning and trying new things. He is currently working toward a certificate in permaculture design. He was Urban Gardening Intern at World Hunger Relief, Inc. He worked on water and agriculture issues in Bolivia with Mennonite Central Committee. He also founded the sustainable landscaping business Edible Lawns here in Waco. He lives with his wife, three children and flock of chickens in the Sanger Heights Neighborhood in North Waco.
This article was originally published on Lucas’ blog, What Would Jesus Eat?, http://www.lucasmland.com/2014/12/01/solidarity-with-ferguson-i-am-racist/