Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice?
“I’m sorry for being white!” His comment glowed from the computer screen with such weight that for a moment it was as if it was etched there permanently. What, you may wonder, was the context of this comment? It was written on the Facebook wall of one of my congregants. It was written by her father in response to her trying to explain why Ferguson has been so painful for so many in the African-American community. I was truly in disbelief. He was once a Southern Baptist pastor.
What I wanted to write back, but didn’t is “Are you?” Are you sorry for being white? Or are you sick of having the privilege of your whiteness surfaced and challenged by the plight of my (our) collective “blackness?” Are you tired of “us” pointing out the obvious inequalities of our society? Should I, as a Creole, mixed-race, African American, Evangelical leader sit quietly by, not saying a word about what has transpired in Ferguson and many other cities so that your white daughter would not feel compelled to speak out and the comfort of your reality would remain.
This comment is filled with the type of sarcastic, defensive vitriol that has populated the Twitter timelines, Instagram feeds, and Facebook posts of so many white evangelicals. And it seems to capture the mindset of the majority. Note, I said majority, not all. I make that point to ensure that I (with my white wife, tri-racial children, and transcultural church) won’t be labeled here, as I have been in other places, a “racist,” “race-baiter,” or “divisive.”
This comment captures the very reason why many African Americans feel so alone in this, and why men like my friend and mentor Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile have had to call out our camp for being saved on silent. This comment, and others that seem to quickly jump to the defense of officer Wilson with disregard for the fact that a human life has been taken, creates a struggle in me that I must diligently work against: the belief that my white brothers and sisters simply don’t care about the African-American narrative in this country or they don’t believe it has enough value to be acknowledged.