I’m what you call a “processor.”
While although I can deliver wit and off the cuff comments, I often do better when I have time to sit in thought about something
I’ve been processing the events in Charlottesville, VA for the past week.
Having an outlet such as a blog forces me to ask myself this question every time I begin rapping my fingers across the keyboard: “What am I adding to this topic /conversation?”
In the context of Charlottesville, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?
Many others have said what I feel. Zack Hunt, John Pavlovitz, Diana Butler Bass, the dean and faculty at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and even late night talk show host and comedian Jimmy Fallon.
And while I may not agree with everything those mentioned above have said, I agree with their assessment. The Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi’s, KKK members, and all other white supremacy groups that showed up in Charlottesville this past weekend are disgusting and wrong. They are manifestations of hate that I, as a faith leader within a community, cannot not sit quietly and not address. If there is a divisible line, this is worth being divisible over.
As for Antifa and other counter protesters in Charlottesville that weekend, I believe they raised their voices against hate in a moment in which it was desperately needed. I know many might disagree in this statement. I have seen comments all over social media saying counter-protesters were just as much a problem as the white supremacist groups. To that I would say; we can debate the tactics used by counter-protesters if you’d like, but we cannot debate whether or not action should have been taken in confronting a group of fascist, bigoted, racists.
Late last night while my wife slept soundly in the next room, I watched the VICE News piece on Charlottesville. What I saw went far beyond the racism I have heard and experienced growing up in the South. That’s not to say it wasn’t always there, but this was a more radical dormant rendition that I had never been exposed to personally. Let me be clear, the individuals in this video are not misunderstood. They are not themselves part of an oppressive system which targets poor whites into thinking that the only thing they have left to hang their prideful hats on is to know they are better than then the black folk who live on the other side of town. No, what I watched wasn’t that. The spokesmen and leaders of this white supremacy movement were wicked and without remorse as seen in their language surrounding any other ethnic group besides their own. They are not looking to dialogue with those who oppose them. They are not looking to come across table and grieve differences.
They are looking to burn the table and all those sitting around it.
They are looking to eradicate the other side because the other side is less than them.
This is why I can’t remain silent. Yet, what is it that I will say? To whom will I say it?
For this purpose I want to speak to my people directly; white folk who claim to follow Jesus.
Trying to speak for any other group is pretentious at best and arrogant at worst.
I’ve read article after article and watched video after video, and as white male I don’t believe I have the right to tell others how to feel. That’s what got us in this mess in the first place.
I can’t imagine what African-American men and women in the south feel when walking past Confederate statues honoring soldiers and generals who fought to keep the business of slavery alive.
I can’t imagine what African-American men and women feel when the Black Lives Matter movement is referred to by elected officials as a terrorist group.
I can’t imagine what those claiming Jewish heritage think when they see Nazi flags flying beside our nation’s stars and stripes.
I can’t imagine what any minority group in the United States feels when they see the privilege being doled out time and time again to people who don’t look like them.
And there are more examples. While perhaps not on the forefront of this incident particularly, they are being shouldered by other courageous groups daily.
But I’m not talking to or for them; I’m talking to white people right now.
I was glad to see “us” show up to confront the horrendous individuals who attempted to spread a message of superiority. “We” added our collective voice to the voices of others in condemning such asinine claims. I saw “us” locked arm in arm with other groups marching in solidarity.
I also saw good intended people be pushed into committing acts of violence themselves.
*Disclaimer: Let me be clear, I am not comparing the actions and motives of the counter protesters to the white supremacy crowd. One is clearly a reaction to the other.
What I want to say to my white brother and sisters is…we got to do better than that.
When I think of protesting it’s hard for me not to think of MLK. Dr. King and other Civil Rights leaders embodied a spirit of unwavering perseverance in the face of hatred. I’ve read the accounts dealing with the preparation Dr. King and others went through in order to ready themselves for marches and sit-ins. Dr. King was a believer in non-violence, and it showed in his actions. His belief and faith held his head up while keeping his fist down. From my understanding, Dr. King recognized there would be violence when he spoke out and marched but it would not be committed by him and his people. This kind of display is the stuff Jesus was speaking of when he referenced the Kingdom of God. Dr. King’s ability to not give the other side what they in turn gave him is what made King not only influential for decades to come, but it made him right. You see there was a determination about what he did that surpassed the stubborn mindset of those fighting to keep segregation alive. Dr. King would say in his work Stride Toward Freedom, “It is still one of the tragedies of human history that the ‘children of darkness’ are frequently more determined and zealous than the ‘children of light’.”
Dear white people,
If we are to show up and protest against hate in all its forms, we must have the desire to be more determined and zealous in our approach than those on the other side of the protesting line. What does that look like? We don’t show up to out fight, out scream, or out hate. We show up to demonstrate love and compassion in a way that when these opposing individuals go back to their homes they are not beaten physically but instead in spirit. We will need to stand firm in showing that peace and love are stronger and resonate more in the human condition than hate and divisiveness. What will be the outcome? I honestly don’t know. There will be pain and suffering. There will be losses and defeats. There will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth.
And I tell you with glorious certainty it will be worth it.
For something could happen not only to those we oppose, but to ourselves in the process. A fellow radical Baptist preacher, Will D. Campbell, understood the importance of dealing with those who sought division in many different ways. Campbell was a Civil Right leader who both marched with MLK and would later be moved by his faith to act compassionately towards those he had marched against; the racists. Lawrence Wright in a Rolling Stone article had this to share about his time with Campbell.
“In 1969, on the night before Bob Jones, the Grand Dragon of the North Carolina KKK was shipped off to federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, for contempt of Congress, Campbell was there in the Dragon's Den to celebrate communion with a bottle of bourbon. Later, Campbell talked with James Earl Ray, the man who had murdered Campbell's friend Martin Luther King. When people asked if he really expected to save the souls of such men, Campbell allowed that that would be presumptuous: "They might, however, save mine."
For those of us who profess faith, this is where the radical message of the Gospels gets played out in the here and now. We need to act out this message like those who have come before us.
I wish I could personally tell you that I’m there. That I am spiritual mature and disciplined enough to stay the course and remain loving in my protest against racism. However, I know I still have work to do in that area.
That’s why I know Campbell was on to something. We have to be in constant contemplation about how we show up and demonstrate. We must not ignore what is going on. Instead we must keep confronting not only those who stand against us but confront ourselves and the preconceived notions that we are already "right." Instead of succumbing to hate let’s allow the love we claim to posses have the profound impact we believe it can.