White power. I hate those two words together. They represent racism at its most vile. These words evoke images of violence, intimidation, and hate. I would love to reject these words when used together.
Unfortunately I can’t for the stark reality that I, throughout my life have benefited from “white power.” We don’t like to think that. And those of us who do, have substituted a less offensive sounding term, “privilege.” Or, “white privilege.” Many don’t like this expression either, because we don’t really want to face up to the idea that we have benefited from a “privileged” place in society.
Some of us might even vociferously reject this idea. I once rejected this idea. I once thought that my struggles growing up (and I had a few) negated any idea that I was privileged. I’ve since learned differently. But how I got to this place – whether I was privileged or not – is not really important for today.
What is critically important for today is the recognition that I do indeed have privilege today. As a white, middle class woman I am privileged… I have power. The most obvious illustration of that today is that I could choose to ignore the plight of our country today and I’d be largely unaffected. That is power. Many of my fellow Americans do not have that power. Many of my fellow Americans (black, brown, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, and other religions) are being threatened today, not because they’ve done anything wrong, but because they are not white “Christian.”
This is abhorrent to me both as a person of faith and as an American. I wept as I read statements of despair (and genuine fear) from people affected by the president’s saying “many sides” contributed to the violence in Charlottesville and his doubling down by saying that some “very fine people” were marching with the Nazis and other white supremacists.
I would love to be able to ignore this. To say to myself, “this doesn’t affect me.” But I can’t do that. So what do I do?
- Continue to love my neighbor, realizing that this may mean speaking against my neighbor.
- Continue to use my voice (and my power) to oppose those who espouse white supremacy.
- Continue to pray… for strength… and for fellow Christians that we have the strength to follow the teachings of Jesus throughout the gospels and especially in Matthew 25:
…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…
I (we) must be ready to physically come to the defense of our sisters and brothers should the time arise. The other day a person who’s commentary I follow posted a lament. She is a Jew and is alarmed at the attack on Jews. She notes that her people have had to be ready for these attacks for thousands of years. She notes that the desire to attack Jews never seems to go away. I wished I could have responded by telling her she was wrong, but I couldn’t. Instead, I wrote, “I am so sorry and I vow that I will never turn my back.”
May all decent people who have the power vow to do the same.