WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?

I wasn’t going to post this.

Then I read this great article in the New Yorker where Katy Waldman talks about Robin DiAngelo’s new book, White Fragility. We have a propensity to capitulate or avoid talking about race because the social cost is too high…“as if the mention of racism were more offensive than the fact or practice of it.”

It set me thinking about life in our very white Midwestern city.

Betsy and I had a meeting with a white businessman recently. He explained that he wasn’t worried about getting or losing us as clients because he trusts the Lord to provide. After the meeting, we tried to go to a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall for lunch. We stuck our heads in and saw a kitchen of brown people cooking for a dining room full of white people. The line for a table was too long, so we left. In the crowded parking lot was a middle-aged white man laying hands on and praying for a younger white guy. They were almost blocking cars, but with eyes clenched tight, traffic flow was the last thing on their minds. They were finishing as we pulled out. The solicitous triumphalism on the older guy’s face as he made eye contact with us seemed to say, “I kicked the devil’s butt for that young fella, and I’ll do it for you too. Just ask.” We drove downtown to a trendy restaurant for lunch. The white employees were all wearing Blue Lives Matter t-shirts in a show of support for the police.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, in isolation. Business owners should be able to serve their clients from a position of humility and faith. Christians should be able to tend to each other’s spiritual needs and express their beliefs publicly without interference. Restaurants should be able to raise money to support local police departments. Nothing to see here. But bundled together they speak to a dominant white, conservative, masculine, evangelical culture that enjoys a historically entrenched sense of permission, presumption, and entitlement in our community. It’s white supremacy. We are terrified to talk about it.

Any progress we make in our community will only be cosmetic until that changes. Until people of color, immigrants and refugees, non-heterosexual people, non-Christians, and progressives are not only tolerated but valued and encouraged, we will become, at best, a community that’s like the Christian who sees himself as a postmodern multicultural hero because he got a tattoo, went on a mission trip to Papua New Guinea, and occasionally drinks craft beer.

I’m not sure how to change that. What about you?

**In an attempt to combat trolling and drive-thru/drive-by political discourse, I will ignore or delete comments that show no evidence of having read the content I’ve written and linked.**

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2 thoughts on “WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?

  1. Betsy and Brett,
    I’m not sure the people of Springfield are terrified to talk about the “dominant white, conservative, masculine, evangelical culture that enjoys a historically entrenched sense of permission, presumption, and entitlement.”
    I think they are a little terrified to talk about it described as “white supremacy” and a lot terrified to talk about your explicit conclusion that there is any reason for it to change.
    I believe most think the “dominant white … ” structure is, to them, objectively the best society to have, and not only because it preserves the status quo. It seems to me people who are advantaged by the dominant culture are terrified by the fact of the demographic inevitability of its demise and dismissive of the view I share about the desirability of this change. To those of us who benefit from the dominant culture, upheld through the centuries by consolidation of wealth/power and the use of violence, it is often difficult to see the truth of “none of us is free until all of us are free.”
    Shorter version:
    You say you’re not sure how to change Springfield.
    Most Springfieldians think (in my opinion), why on earth would we want to change.
    I share your interest in solutions. I think we’ve got to continue to present the historical truth of this nation’s cultural, economic, and military success reaching its greatest heights when the enlightened promise of the American idea of liberty and freedom has been extended to the broadest swath of people.

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    1. Yeah, by fear I mean anger…for many.

      It’s fair to say most in SGF don’t want that equation to change, but they don’t want to talk about these issues either. Yes, it manifests as frustration, ridicule, etc., but I maintain that’s all driven by a fear of cultural displacement. But, even a lot of liberals don’t want to talk about it. For good reason. The (we) talk a big game, then segregate ourselves just as much as anyone else.

      What’s frustrating to me is the only options that seem to be available are we ignore racial issues, we angrily defy conversations about race, or we leave (the Big Sort). Forty years ago, 26% of us lived in “landslide counties.” Now, over 60% of us do. The sorting will be the death of us.

      Oh, well. The Lord will provide.

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