What’s a White Girl to do When Black Churches are Burning?

Privileged shock is a complicated emotion. That’s the feeling that White people get when we hear that another Black church has burned. We are horrified at the hate, and yet we know that our shock does not come with the fear that accompanies the horror of our friends and neighbors whose skin is darker than ours.  We know that we are angry, but we know that we aren’t ever going to feel what our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ feel.  We know that we are outraged, but we aren’t really worried about our church burning down.

I have read a LOT of mystery novels in my day, so perhaps I could put what I’ve learned from Kinsey Milhone and Stephanie Plum to use and leave home to go sleuth out the offenders and bring them to justice. But short of that (as I’m not sure the church would give me that much time off and I think they’ve already got some good people on it), what is a White girl to do when Black churches are burning?

First, I can acknowledge my own white privilege. The privilege of never having to worry that someone might hurt me or harass me or prevent me from entering because of the color of my skin.  People are forced to dislike me because I say something I shouldn’t have or because I  laugh at something that wasn’t supposed to be funny or because my theology is too progressive, not because my skin is the wrong color.

I can listen to my 14-year-old daughter and her friends who come in all shapes, sizes, economic backgrounds and skin color.  They’re really pretty smart.

I can continue to work with the pastor at our nearby historically African-American Presbyterian church to find ways for our churches to partner and worship and work together.

I can let other African-American clergy in my community know that our church stands with them and is available to help in any way we can, even though they may have to tell us what that is. We know. Please be patient with us.

I can call the confederate flag what it is–a racist symbol. And to those who insist it’s about preserving heritage and not race, I ask, “Why would you want preserve a symbol that causes a large group of people in our country significant and deeply rooted hurt? Is heritage preservation worth people’s pain?”

In the Presbyterian tradition of valuing education, I can read and educate myself on issues of race. I’m starting on this list and think it can keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

I can give money to help the burned churches rebuild through the Rebuild the Churches Fund. support the families of victims who were killed in the Charleston church shooting via  the Presbytery of Charleston Atlantic at 2421 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414-4601.

I can lean on the long standing Christian tradition of lament. I can demand that God put a stop to this. That God quit allowing God’s faithful people to be persecuted in this way. And then confess that God is God, and that I am not. I can reaffirm that even when we don’t understand, our faith and our trust is in the One in whose sight we are all precious.

And then, of course, I can stop sitting around making lists and actually go and do something.




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