Black Dignity and The Year of Truth

Some truths hit us hard. In this part of Grace Cathedral’s Year of Truth we’re focusing on the truth about others and, as part of that, I’m reading I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.

I recommend it very highly, but it’s not an easy read for those of us who live with white privilege. Brown talks about her everyday reality as a black woman in majority white environments, including the church, and the barriers that are erected, both consciously and semi-consciously, to keep her in her place. Sometimes admired as exotic, more often underestimated and patronized, but never the norm and rarely wholly seen or understood she speaks of her anger and frustration with white fragility and self-justification. She also speaks of the fear that is a constant companion:

“We fear the overreactions of white people who clutch their purses in elevators and lock their doors when we walk by… We fear that any public imperfections of our children will lead to extra-judicial, deadly consequences. Even when our babies aren’t perfect, when they are rude or disrespectful, even when they make mistakes or fail, even when their sixteen-year-old brains tell them to do risky, stupid things, we still want them to live. We want them to make it to another day.”

Fear and anger are hard and exhausting companions to live with throughout a lifetime, so what can we do to change that reality? If we’re a person of color, speak out when we feel safe enough to do so; if we’re white, actively listen and be prepared to change. And remember this is a white problem and we who are white are the ones who need to change.

Some truths are not easy to hear – but they are often the ones that we most need to be open to if we are to grow personally and spiritually. Listen to the truths that challenge you, that question your privilege, that allow you to see the world from a different perspective – and allow your heart and mind to expand even when it hurts. Speaking the truth of racism in this nation is the only way that we will find the path to justice and equality and allow us to create a new truth for America.

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