Lately, I’ve been baptized by the stories of people who are very different than me. I understand that the privileges that I haven’t earned and have enjoyed, many people of color have not. Their lived bodily experience is radically different from mine. Sure, I have my issues, but very few of them have to do with me just being me in my body, and other’s reaction to that.
There is a lot of stupidity you go through as a white person attempting to “get” people who are “not white”.
DENIAL–You try and rationalize: “I have black friends!” or “People of color are just as racist as I am! And they do the same thing as me!”
ANGER–You get mad or defensive AKA White Fragility, “It wasn’t ME, who did that to YOU.” “It’s not fair!” or “Everything is fair. It’s your own fault your in your situation.”
BARGAIN–You confess: “Yes, I def have some implicit bias, I will do my best not to behave in a biased fashion…” “I will do this or that or write a blog post so that I can make it better…”
DEPRESSION–You feel bad and helpless because you did something racist/biased AGAIN AKA White Guilt. Or you did something to help, but it didn’t help…
Unhealthy ACCEPTANCE/more DEPRESSION–“I give up. I don’t know what to do.”
And we white people just rotate through these over and over. We think that feeling bad is enough to help or avoid the situation of what is real racism in our society and systems. What I’ve learned recently from reading Austin Channing Brown’s book I’m Still Here is that most people of color know what white people are thinking and going through WAAAAAAAY before we (white people) do. They see our issues with racism and whiteness coming miles away (e.g. Trump’s election). They know our arguments, feelings, and defenses, before we even have a clue they exist. They were thinking about it before we even thought of thinking about it. (One of the benefits of privilege–Ignorance.)
As I was reading Brown’s book, she read my white mind:
Me, in my brain, “I know! I’ll do this! That will make it better.”
Brown, in her book, “Yeah, thanks. Seen/heard it before, and doesn’t really help.”
That. Over and Over.
Unintentionally, I’ve found myself reading a lot of POC memoirs. I’ve read Trever Noah, Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, Austin Channing Brown… I’ve watched 13th and read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I went to the Why Christian Conference and heard the stories of women who live in Korean bodies, Black bodies, Trans bodies, Indian bodies, Potowatomi bodies, Bi Bodies, Gay bodies, Chinese bodies, Broken bodies… There is probably more that I’ve read or heard that I’ve already forgot.
I’ve found myself grappling with what real acceptance means for me as a white girl, and the most apt metaphor I can think of is baptism. I’ve been baptized in these stories. How can I go forward the same?
After going through all the stages, getting our white issues kind of figured out (repentance), seeing the light, what do we do? We get baptized. To learn about the lived experience and stories of your neighbors and let it wash over you. Let it cover and stick to you, so that you cannot go forward the same.
The Jesus way was never supposed to be easy or privileged. It takes effort in your baptism. You have to read. You have to listen. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to let go of your trust in yourself and the people who look like you and think like you, and you trust the Spirit and those on the margins, those who do not look like you, the LGBT community, the poor, and people of color to guide you into, under, and through dark, muddy waters.