How can white people work toward racial justice right now?
I love being asked this question; there is a certain eagerness and curiosity behind such a question, that it is not to be dismissed or taken lightly.
I also hate being asked this question; the eagerness almost always follows a national news story and is sure to fade away by the next week’s news cycle.
I remember being at this curious place in 2012-13 when I set out on my own learning journey, which I’m still on.
Being asked to ignite and nurture a holy curiosity is both a great privilege and a great challenge.
So, in response to this important question, I have featured here what I hope will be helpful for those who are still new to this conversation and for those who are curious about how to turn your anger into action.
It’s by no means a complete list, but it should help you get started.
We don’t know what we don’t know. But ignorance can no longer be an excuse for inaction.
We have access to an unlimited number of valuable resources for self-education. Use them.
Take initiative for your own learning. Diversify your media and educational sources.
Listen to the experiences of people of color, listening to learn rather than to respond. Believe, acknowledge and affirm the legitimacy of the experiences that are shared with you.
Recognize that education is action.
American evangelical Christian culture tends to disproportionately value tangible acts of service over the intangible and intellectual. Because of this, we often skip the step of critical learning about the injustices affecting those whom we seek to help.
Both are important pieces to a life of Christian service, but without contextual and cultural knowledge and awareness, our actions of service may do more harm than good.
Educate yourself, then educate your people. This is Activism 101.
- Pay attention.
As you learn and engage in the work of anti-racism, pay close attention to your own thoughts and feelings, rather than avoiding or suppressing them. Take your time to process new information and experiences.
Self-awareness will help you to identify harmful attitudes, beliefs and assumptions about others that you need to unlearn. The goal is not to feel bad, but to help you become better equipped to love your neighbors.
Resist falling victim to guilt, shame or fear. These are not helpful and can make you defensive, centering your own self and preventing empathy.
- Get uncomfortable.
They say that ignorance is bliss. And I tend to agree.
The logic is that if we don’t dialogue about race and racism or learn about race and racism, and if we unfollow those who “make everything about race,” then we won’t have to be inconvenienced by the discomfort of our privileged participation in an inherently racist society.
As connected as we are, it’s easier than ever to tailor our news feeds and sources to avoid reading about the things that make us sad, angry or uncomfortable.
We can’t address problems we can’t see or won’t acknowledge.
- Engage anyway.
One could give a lot of reasons why one shouldn’t engage in the hard conversations surrounding race. I can think of plenty for myself.
But if we wait for complete understanding, for comfort and confidence, then we might never break our silence.
In the words of Ijeoma Oluo, “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist.”
Perfectionism will paralyze. Fear will silence. Bravery builds bridges.
- Become an influencer.
Consider where you have the most influence. At home? In your workplace? What about your Bible study group or the book club? Your social media platforms?
Wherever that influence is – the places you have established trust and respect – is precisely where your anti-racism work must begin.
Each of us has a certain level of power, privilege and influence. So, ask yourself, “How can I use my influence to create conversations, educational opportunities and awareness around injustices against my neighbors?”
- Make peace.
As followers of Christ, we have been called to be makers of peace, not keepers of it (Matthew 5:9). This is a call to action and resistance, not to passivity and acceptance.
Peacekeepers avoid conflict, while peacemakers end conflict.
We are called to actively participate in the work of reconciliation among God’s people (2 Corinthians 5).
Peacemaking can be hard and uncomfortable work for some of us, but we must ruthlessly commit to truth-telling and be willing to risk our own comfort to pursue peace and reconciliation.
But let me make one thing clear: Actively pursuing peace looks a lot like actively pursuing justice.
So this should be our daily prayer: “Lord, use me in the undoing of injustice.”
A writer, podcaster and peacemaker based in Waco, Texas.