In my years as a distance runner, I have logged thousands of miles. Never once did I go for a run thinking that my skin color was a threat to anyone. Never. I ran without a care in the world, believing I would come home after my run.
So today, I ran 2.23 miles in memory and in solidarity with Ahmaud Arbery. Yesterday I posted about his murder and the injustice surrounding that took place. Tomorrow I will probably post about something else, and I can run in my neighborhood again, not thinking about what it’s like being black in America.
You see, if you are like me, a white, middle-aged man (or just white), we can walk away never to think about this event again or feel the anger we feel now. This ability to walk away is white privilege. It is a privilege my black brothers and sisters don’t have.
People of color carry this fear with them every day, every time they go for a run, drive in their car, go to school, walk down the road. They can’t walk away from this issue race because whether we know it or not, they carry this with them every day.
I don’t have to carry this every day because as a white person,
I can choose to walk away.
But, I don’t want to walk away again.
Do you remember the outrage we (white Americans) had last time when an unarmed black man was killed? How long was it before we forgot, and we chose to walk away, either unknowingly or knowingly?
I don’t want to walk away again.
How do we, as white Americans, not walk away again?
1) Educate yourself. Listen to people of color, hear their anguish, hear their fear, hear their anger, hear their frustration. Listen not to explain away, but to empathize and understand the best you can. Build relationships with people who look different from you, not so that you can say you have a token black friend, but because you really care about the safety and welfare of that person. Proximity to injustice changes the way we think, feel, and view the world. Read books about racism in the United States, the history of race, and how it still affects our country today. Here are some suggestions for good books to read (What are some you have read?)
– The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
– The Cross and the Lynching Tree – James Cone
– I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown
– American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass – Douglas Massey
– The Color of Compromise – Jamar Tisby
– Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
2) Communicate what you are learning with your family. The first way we transform our country in regards to racism begins in our own homes. Talk about racism and the current events of racism and how our country has treated African-Americans. Discuss what you would do if you saw a person of color being treated unjustly. How would you engage the moment?
Use teachable moments to point out white privilege, injustice, and where justice does happen. Watch movies or documentaries (13th is a great documentary to watch as well as Just Mercy) about race as a family and discuss it together.
3) Confront Racism. When we hear racist language or even biases, we need to confront it, name it, and talk about it. By confronting, this doesn’t always mean we shout at people or even debate people on Facebook. But it is through relationships and conversations out of love that we must confront it. Yet, if necessary, we may need to be loud for people to hear us. One thing is sure we cannot remain silent. Silence allows racism to continue and grow.
4) Be a follower and advocate. We need to recognize that racism is not just personal, how a person sees and treats other people, it is also systemic. Racism is in our laws, the execution of our laws and can be found in all levels of government. Work with people of color to tear down systemic racism in your community, churches, towns, states, and country. Be followers of those leaders of color who are already working to unravel these systems. Don’t be a bystander, do something.
It is good to voice your anger at what happened to Ahmaud Arbery. It is good to run those 2.23 miles in memory and solidarity. But don’t let it end there. Do the work to free our world, our country of racism.
Walk humbly with God
What else can we do?