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?
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