Nobody’s Calling You a Racist (and 5 Action Points)

Black Lives Matter.

It’s a movement that started a couple years ago. People have all kinds of opinions and reactions to it, especially in light of recent events.

I’ve been having my fair share of conversations. Trying to figure out how to navigate it all as a white female who has no idea what it’s like to be a black person in America. A white female who has the luxury of turning off social media and the news and thus, turning off the issue.

The idea of racism is the central topic in these conversations and something like this is usually said:

I just don’t come across it.

As a white female, I don’t run up against prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone because of their race.

But here’s the thing.

Unless that prejudice, discrimination, antagonism is loud and visible, why would I run up against it?

So many of us hear “racism” and we picture the curmudgeonly great uncle who uses derogatory words for certain people groups, or those white supremacists with swastikas tattooed on their arms.

But that’s not the full scope of the word. It’s not even close.

Racism isn’t just about name-calling or overt discrimination.

It’s about a value system.

And as a whole, society doesn’t place the same value on black lives as it does white ones.

Case in point:

The statistic that’s being thrown around like its own version of a firearm, almost always (at least that I can see) by white people taking offense to #blacklivesmatter, as if the hashtag is accusing a particular person of being racist.

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I don’t even know if this statistic is true.

Whether it’s true isn’t even the point.

The point is that this statistic is used sanctimoniously, as if to say, “I rest my case.” As if this should be the big mic drop moment wherein “the other side” is silenced and discredited and made out to be wrong and foolish.

See, this statistic says. Nobody’s racist.

And yet, this, right here, along with the casualty with which its posted is highly problematic.

That statistic shouldn’t make anybody feel sanctimonious.

That statistic and the casualness with which its posted is one of the reasons why the #blacklivesmatter movement exists.

People are posting these statistics as if those lives don’t matter.

Can we be real for a minute?

If a white man drove up into a predominantly white neighborhood and opened fire, it would be all over the news.

All. Over.

When this happens in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods, nobody says boo. It’s not newsworthy. Because, you know. “Thugs will be thugs.” (Don’t even get me started on that word … )

With this mentality, how can we argue that black lives matter as much as white lives?

Something is broken.

Something is wrong.

Something isn’t right.

That statistic shouldn’t be used to silence the black community. That statistic should cause anybody who holds life in high regard to lock arms with the black community. It should give anybody who holds life in high regard a thirst to understand.

What is going on? Why is this happening?

If we truly believe that skin color is nothing more than melanin level, and we truly believe every person is intrinsically valued because of Imago Dei, then WHY doesn’t that statistic move us to action?

Some of you might be thinking, what action? What can I possibly do as a white person who is largely unaffected by all of this? It’s a question I’m wrestling with. A question I’ve heard many of my friends wrestling with, too. Here’s where I’ve landed so far:

  • Listen and listen carefully. Not to other white people. Listen to our fellow black image bearers who understand in a way a white person never will. Check your Twitter and Facebook feeds. I highly respect Trip Lee. Follow him and see who he’s retweeting. You’ll find some really compelling, Christ-centered voices who are part of the black community.
  • Say something. Not an opinion. Lord knows we have too many of those flying around the social media sphere. Now’s not the time to add to that particular noise. Now is the time to lock arms and speak love. It can be as simple as, “I’m listening. And I’m standing with you.”
  • Speak truth. When a family member, friend, or acquaintance says something that sounds/feels wrong–when their words or attitude devalue life, any life–push back. Point it out. Respectfully and in love.
  • Pray. For healing. For justice. For restoration. For love to win.

I think this is a good place to start.

* Please know, I’m nervous about this post. I’m nervous about stepping into these waters, because there’s so much I don’t know and don’t understand. I feel a little bit like someone with no kids trying to talk on parenting. If you have beautiful brown skin like my daughter, please chime in. If I’ve said something that doesn’t sit right, please chime in. I want to understand better.

11 thoughts on “Nobody’s Calling You a Racist (and 5 Action Points)

  1. Jennifer Rumberger

    Hey Katie, great post! If people would talk AND listen more, it can only help.

    I just wanted to share on a point you mentioned. I live in a suburb of Detroit, where we do hear about the urban crime and black killings every day (albeit on the local news, not national), so I think it can depend on where you live. But I also wanted to share that the people of Detroit are really trying to not let what is happening around the US happen here. The citizens and police are doing their best to work together and bring Detroit back to what it was in the past. Yes, there is a LOT of work to do, but they are trying. And alot of where it starts is in the communities. Leaders are stepping up and forming neighborhood watches, clean ups, etc and churches are looking at ways to minister to the communities in different ways since urban culture is very different than the suburbs or rural areas. And that’s what I think is more of a difference, culture not skin-color. IMHO

    So along with prayer and conversation, I encourage others to also volunteer. Help with neighborhood clean ups, food distribution, VBS or summer activities for kids, etc.

    I guess I’m starting to meander now, so I will close. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Fantastic post, Katie. Thank you for writing and sharing it!

  3. THANK YOU, Katie for sharing! i posted on Friday and i was nervous too! but we can’t keep silent. you are so right, we do have to listen, to each other, on all sides. actually, we need to not >have< "sides" but come together as one!

  4. I love this. Thank you for sharing. I think it’s so important to be informed and figure out what we can do and how we can influence things for the better, rather than ignoring the issue.

    1. amen sister.

  5. Rachael Merritt

    I’m going to recommend “My Grandfather’s Son” by Clarence Thomas and Condi’s autobiography named after herself. Both of these books give good examples and emotions on racism. At one time Clarence Thomas was what he called ” An angry black man.” He had been taught black crime was high due to whites. He became a lawyer and learned it wasn’t true. Cobdi’s family took a trip from Alabama to D.C, They had to be well prepared with food because when she was young her skin color wasn’t welcome in restaurants. I was stunned that was still going on. Even Thomas experienced racism because he was blacker than other blacks. I won’t ever be able to feel what these two did, but these books gave me a good glimpse into the difficulties. I was a target of racism when living as a minority in a place in MD. It was scary and not pleasant, and I wasn’t given the chance for them to see anything but my skin color. I truly believe the answer lies in teaching our children to love…and love like Jesus. My daughter has adopted cousins from several countries with several skin colors. She doesn’t even notice the color, and she is twelve! We can learn a lot through the love of a child. Nice article!

    1. Thanks for the book recommendation Rachael! That sounds like an eye opening read. And amen about Jesus. He’s our hope.

  6. This is great, Katie. I espeeeeecially love the point about listening. I am convinced that the digital age we live in is slowly stripping away our ability to actually, truly, hard core listen as a culture. Listening takes concentrated effort…and listening to the right people even more.

    Originally, I had two more super long paragraphs written here but then realized I was getting super soap boxy. But the gist of the paragraphs was that another way to take action is to find local outreaches that are already entrenched and integrated in our communities serving marginalized people–I think that’s a huge and amazing opportunity for us to BE the church and to grow in understanding! And through that, we’ll become exposed to those things that, like you said, perhaps we just don’t come across in our everyday lives. We will encounter what prejudice actually looks like in a post-Jim Crow age. We will start recognizing root causes of racism…or, depending on where we’re getting involved, other things like homelessness or addiction or abuse or chronic poverty or…the list could go on. We will encounter our own privilege and be forced to wrestle with that…which is a good, good thing. As a white woman, I may never entirely understand what a black woman faces. A man may never understand the ongoing discrimination some women face. A wealthy suburban housewife may never understand what a low-income single parent faces. But we can all try. We can find practical ways to serve. And when necessary, we can stand up for our neighbors. Finding a local organization already doing these things is a wonderful way to start.

    And now I’m getting soap boxy again. Grr. But anyway, LOVE love love this post!

    1. Thank you for this, Melissa. Really good important stuff.

  7. De

    Your post is great Katie!
    As someone who seriously doesn’t know the right words to say about all the issues going on, this was a great post! We need to sit back and listen.

    1. Thank you, De. I’m listening with you. It definitely is hard (and awkward) to know where to step. We can never go wrong when we listen and love


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