If I’m Tired of White People…
Lord knows white people are just plum wearing me out. And if someone as white as me is tired of white people, people of color must be so weary, I can’t even imagine how they’re still standing.
Just this week (within walking distance of my apartment) a white woman called the police on a black man who simply asked her to follow the rule and leash her dog. This was in New York City. The biggest melting pot there ever was. How can this woman live in the city and be that fearful of men who have dark skin? How does she even navigate through life in the big city?
By the way, the man she called the police on was a bird watcher. A bird watcher. How racist do you have to be to find someone who seeks out feathery friends threatening?
And now another black man has died shouting that he couldn’t breathe while a white police officer had his knee on the dying man’s neck. The man’s name was George Floyd. The four officers involved have been terminated. Criminal charges have yet to be filed.
Being black shouldn’t take away your right to bird watch or to breathe.
We have to do something.
I don’t know what to do.
I can listen and learn when someone calls me out and tells me to check my privilege.
I can protest and join community groups and exercise my right to vote–every time.
I can be intentional about not living and working in a bubble where everyone looks and thinks like I do.
I can be brutally honest about my own biases and prejudices and work to change them.
I can call out racism when I see it–but let’s be real. Any racism I actually observe is less than half-a-smidgen of what’s actually happening.
I can lift up, support and promote people of color–but not in ways I’ve just decided will be helpful. I want to be smart enough to know that I don’t know. I can listen to what people and communities tell me is needed.
I can read books by people who don’t look like me or live like me.
I can write letters (I write excellent letters) to congress people and mayors and police chiefs.
What I can’t do is change hearts. Only God can do that. And I, for one, wish They would hurry up about it.
In the meantime, I’ve taken a few lines from Psalm 51 which is written in the first person singular (create in ME a clean heart) and changed it into a communal prayer. I think it’s a good (though perhaps lengthy) mantra for where we find ourselves.
Change our hearts, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in us a willing spirit.
Only God can change hearts, but we can lead people to God. Even people who think they’ve already found God, but only a decidedly white God who hates all the same people they do.
We have to lead people to the God who sent the One who insisted that we love one another. Period. We have to lead by our words, our deeds and our radical hospitality.
We must reach out to people we don’t like. To people who wear us out. Even to people who make us want to change our own skin color lest be we be associated with behavior that makes our skin crawl and our stomachs churn.
May we find ways to share the Good News so that those who are afraid of bird watchers and would stop people from breathing can hear.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.