Racism is real. Racism exists. Racisms works to the benefit of my white life. Racisms is embedded in me.
Those words are very uncomfortable for white people to say, or read, or acknowledge… However, its’ very acceptance could be considered the beginning of transformative knowledge; a type of knowledge that could create a space for dialogues that are honest and vulnerable; filled with genuine apology and a humble desire to see restoration begin.
According to Foucault, transformative knowledge is disturbing by nature, as it ruffles “the smoothness of our habits, rattles our certainties, disorganizes and reorganizes our understanding, shakes our complacency, [and] unhinges us from secure moorings” (Chambon, 1999, p. 53, para. 4).
It is a knowledge that comes through the process of deconstructing and undoing the taken-for-granted ways of knowing, that construct mainstream society and dominant discourse (Chambon, 1999; John 1994). Individuals who take up its cause find themselves to be chronically suspicious of their interactions with the world; questioning their power, how they received it, and how they maintain it (Rossiter, 2001; Pease, 2002).
As a white woman, my responsibility is to be chronically suspicious of my power, and to actively undermine it. To do so, I must begin from a place that admits a history of white dominance. My witness, although not earned, although something I was born into, does represent a history and DOES hold a privledge that changes the way I experience the world, the spaces I am welcome in, and my interactions with other social beings.
I cannot begin to understand the pain that is being experienced around the world right now because of the white power that I benefit from. I can’t imagine siting with my black child and having to explain to them why the world treats them differently. I will never know the chronic fear that a woman or man of colour experiences in the same spaces that I occupy with total comfort.
But- I want to say: Racism is real. Racism exists. Racisms works to the benefit of my white life. Racisms is embedded in me. BUT IM NOT OK WITH IT.
I recognize that this statement may make a lot of white people uncomfortable because, “much like race and racism, [the subject of whiteness] produces tensions and anxieties when discussed because it forces recognition of privilege and dominance and has a bearing on how one is positioned” (Razack, 2005, p 97, para 1). BUT I think it is ok, and high time, for some white people to feel uncomfortable… Actually, I think we should press into these conversations REGARDLESS of how uncomfortable it makes us feel.
I want to thank movements like #BlackLivesMatter for making me uncomfortable; but I simultaneously want to apologize for that statement… because I recognize that it is entrenched with power- as I have the ability to choose whether or not I AM uncomfortable… So more simply put: I am not innocent. You are right- there is a serious issue here. Racism is real. Racism exists. Racisms works to the benefit of my white life. Racisms is embedded in me. And I am a witness to the injustice that is occurring. And: this is not ok.
Even more frustrating, it that there is no easy answer, or great solution that I can come up with. This last week (and lets be honest, all of history) is filled with the devastating reality of just how human we all are. As a Christian, my only option (or only stable choice and great honour) is to look to the inspired Word of God (the Bible), as a source of hope for the restoration of all mankind. Our humanity is broken- yet my confidence is in a Kingdom that I have yet to fully see; a Kingdom that I am striving to build every day as someone who believes in Christ. The same Kingdom that we refer to when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The truth is that the Kingdom of God exists without division, and actively participates in breaking down the walls of racism, oppression, and injustice between the Jew and non-Jew, black and white, rich and poor, and all the other socially constructed binaries that exist. The Kingdom of God has a leadership that is based on humility. Where those who hold the greatest power, humble themselves and lift up any who could be ‘beneath’ or ‘bellow’. The mutually exclusive reality of POWER in the form of HUMILITY as demonstrated on the cross. Where justice and mercy are both fulfilled, and where the most misunderstood discourse- one of an unconditional, radical, and illogical love becomes totally and completely fulfilled. Where GRACE abounds, truth sets free, and PEACE dominates fear.
In a world filled with racism, sexism, ageism, (SO MANY ‘isms’)… a world filled with the capacity of humans functioning in the worst of our humanity; I declare ever so loudly: THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. Racism is real. Racism exists. MY GOD IS NOT OK WITH THIS. MY SOUL ACHES. YET THERE IS HOPE.
“The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.
Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.
That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
SO WHAT NOW?
I want to invite you to join me in pushing into this uncomfortable dialogue; to challenge mainstream discourse, and have our complacency shaken. To stop arguing about which ‘lives matter’- and begin LISTENING and STAND IN SOLIDARITY…
As believers, I think we need to be deeply considerate of our role as ambassadors of a Kingdom full of justice, mercy, grace, and love, here on earth- NOW… With words and actions that are seasoned with salt.
With love and a heavy, devastated heart,
Chambon, A. (1999). Foucault’s approach: Making the familiar visible. In Reading Foucault for Social Work (pp. 51-81). New York: Columbia University Press.
John, L. (1994). Borrowed Knowledge in social work: An introduction to Post-structuralism and postmodernity. In Essays on Postmodernism and Social Work (pp. 49-60). Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press.
Pease, B. (2002). Rethinking empowerment: A postmodern reappraisal for emancipatory Practice. British Journal of Social Work, 32, 135-147.
Razack, N. (2005). “Bodies on the Move”: Spatialized Locations, Identities, and Nationality in International Work. Social Justice, 32(4), 87-104.
Rossiter, A. (2001). Innocence Lost and Suspicion Found: Do we Educate for or Against Social Work? Critical Social Work, 6(1), 1-10.