Talking about racism is… complex…

My social networks have gotten complex since the non-indictments of Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo. They have gotten complex because I have dived into the world of institutionalized racism head-first. Before the non-indictment, I preached a sermon series called “Turn Signals” as pulpit supply here in Houston. After the non-indictment, I joined protestors here in Houston at MacGregor Park, where the group flooded the streets and blocked the intersections of Old Spanish Trail and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The first Sunday of Advent, delivered a sermon called “Before Hope…” In this sermon, I tried to use the doom and gloom of the texts for that day to link our broken society to those of Ancient Israel. And after the non-indictment came from Staten Island, I protested again, this time out in front of the Houston Police Department.

What these movements have done for me is complex. My narrative as a white man in this world has changed. The conversations I used to have about race have morphed. The way I look at this system has been altered even more.

And I want to talk to you about that process. I want to talk about how I, as a white man, seek and yearn for the justice that the black community needs and deserves. I want to talk to you about how my privilege has hindered me and also helped me. I want to talk to you about what I think the proper role of an ally is and is not. This is a big, big subject and I am not going to get everything right. That is not possible for a straight, white, upper-middle class man to do. What I am seeking to do is just help myself, and hopefully you, understand what white privilege is in this unjust and skewed world.

First, I want to start this this video. Do not worry, it is not long.

Have you watched it? Good. Let us start there, then. Building a house is a great analogy. Ms. Ramsey hits that nail on the head (get it?). It is important for us as white people to show up at these rallies. It is important for all of us who believe in justice. Show up in gear, or in this case a sign or two, and be present. But, and this is important, know that this is not our place to grab a bullhorn. It is not our place to chant, “I Can’t Breathe!” It is not our place to chant, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” It is not our place because we will never have to say those things. Instead, be there, present, and let people know that Black Lives Matter.

Ms. Ramsey’s next idea is critical too. Take those blinders off. We are not allowed to shout those things because we will never have to do it. I am not going to be choked to death by the police. I am not going to be shot by the police. I will not be pulled over because of the color of my skin. That is my privilege.We have to understand, as white people, what has been given to us in order to properly stand with the black community.

If you were to go to a protest, the best thing you could do is listen. Stand in silence as the black community roars forward those shouts. Form a protective ring around a “Die-In” and watch the pain of that community as they demonstrate their loss. Listen to what they have to go through and see those emotions they feel. I think this covers the “Support” in Ms. Ramsey’s video as well.

Moving along from that video, I want to talk about something that has come up quite a bit in my social media circles: “All Lives Matter.” First off, I would like to address this statement a little harshly with the comeback, “No shit.” Of course all lives matter. And if someone said this any other day of the week, I would cheer that right along with them. But that’s not why people are saying, “All Lives Matter.” This is being said because of the supposed divisiveness of “Black Lives Matter.” And I kind of understand the intent. The people chanting “All Lives Matter” see “Black Lives Matter” as an effort to separate communities. But that is not what it is. Instead, it is an effort to gain recognition for a community, so that they can be a part of the community. “Black Lives Matter” is not separating a community from the larger group. Instead, it is standing up to the community that has already ostracized the black community and saying, “HEY! We are important, too! You cannot brush us aside any longer!”

Put in a more simple manner: When someone yells, “All Lives Matter!” they are disrupting the narrative. This would be the equivalent of a Roman soldier approaching Jesus and saying, “Why are you only preaching to the poor and destitute? WE ARE ALSO HERE!” This takes us right back to the listening. If you are yelling, “All Lives Matter,” you are not listening to the narrative of the black community. Yes, it is that simple. As Shaun King (@ShaunKing) said on Twitter, it is important to look at how the black persons that were recently killed by police were treated after they were killed. Michael Brown lay in the street for 4.5 hours. Akai Gurley suffered, asking for help, while the police looked on, doing nothing. Eric Garner lay on the sidewalk for seven minutes, unconscious on his way to death, before the police called an ambulance. Tamir Rice, as shown in the video, received no first aid from Cleveland Police, despite officers saying they provided first aid, until an FBI officer who happened to be in the area arrived on scene. “Black Lives Matter” is important to this narrative, because in this time and age, the opposite seems to be the law of the land. Respect that narrative.

In the same vein, there has been a hashtag floating around Twitter and Facebook: #CrimingWhileWhite. I have used this hashtag. I have seen it used by many other people. On the positive side of its use, it provides a narrative that points out the stark difference between the treatment that white people and black people receive under the guise of law and order. It has probably opened the eyes of white folks around the country. I do not use this hashtag anymore, though. Let me tell you why.

Many people in the black community see it as an affront to the suffering they constantly have to endure. #CrimingWhileWhite points out privilege that the black community is sick and tired of hearing. “Oh, you can get away with that? That’s nice! Meanwhile, my brother was shot dead for doing the exact same thing! THANKS!” If what we say, however well-intentioned, becomes hurtful to any of the community that we are trying to help, then we need to stop, listen, and ask what can be done that would be better.

This is hard work, y’all. It is hard to take those blinders off and see the injustice around us. It is hard to get up and into the streets and demand change. It is hard to demand that change because we, as white people, will never face those problems. But listen to that last sentence. We will never face those problems, and that is unfair. That is why we have to stand up and say something. That is why we have to listen and support and be present. This shit is hard work. But it will never be as hard as burying your child who was shot without justification.


I am grateful for a group of friends who volunteered to read drafts of this post. When I stared putting all of these thoughts together, I was about to take a path that I believe I would have come to regret. This group of friends prevented me from making a decision that would have alienated other friends. So to BS (ha), DA, DW, KJ, MH, and SR, many, many thanks!

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