Tag Archive | justice

What We Inherit: White Supremacy

For several years people have mentioned how much I look like my mother. I never thought I looked like my mother. She had brown eyes, I have blue. I have freckles, she had none. I certainly hear my mother’s voice in my own … in the phrases I use, my tendency to mumble incomplete thoughts, and an occasional exclamation to the person driving (my husband), “You don’t want to go that way!” (An inside family joke – a story for another time.) But, since I got my hair cut short a couple of months ago, every time I look in the mirror, there’s my mother. Can’t get away from what we inherit in looks, and difficult to run from the mannerisms, phrases, and other characteristics we are either born with or pick up from those who birthed us and/or raised us.

We inherit many things that are invisible to us, until and unless we intentionally seek to see the invisible. White supremacy is like this. Everyone of us living in the United States of America inherited the systems of white supremacy that are in the DNA of our founding. Whether one is actually a White Supremacist, actively engaged in promoting the idea that people who believe they are white (of western European descent) are better than people of other ethnicities, or one is actively working to build an equitable, just, multicultural country, we are swimming and functioning in the waters of white supremacy.

I’m currently reading “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg. For anyone still living under the illusion that the U.S. was intended as a class-free society, that illusion will quickly melt away. America offered an opportunity for England to rid itself of the poor, the criminal, the homeless, and the “unworthy.” Our founders were not saints who saw all humans as equal. Most of those who protested slavery did so because of the belief that having a slave system made white people lazy, not because it was wrong to enslave people, or because they saw people who were not white as equals. And this is what we in the United States have all inherited: a system that was based on the premise that some people are better than others, some white people (descendants of wealthy, educated Englishmen) are better than other white people, and all white people are better than people who are not white.

Just like the face I see in the mirror will always remind me of my mother, it will also reminds me of the system of white supremacy in which I swim. This is important for all white folks to see … and especially liberal white folks. We can often fall in to the trap of thinking that because we envision an equitable society where we see no race, or because we aren’t overt racists, that we aren’t part of the system of white supremacy. This is how we become complicit and perpetuating systems of white supremacy. I recommend this spiritual practice for people who pass as white: In order to increase your awareness, each day wake up and ask, “How will my life be easier today because I am white?” Then, at the end of the day reflect on all the encounters in the day in which you were aware that you are white, and the advantages that provided. Awareness is just the beginning. The next step is to challenge yourself to step away from those advantages, decline the offer (or don’t apply in the first place), hand the microphone to a person of color, listen more than talking, actively challenge your white privilege.

December 2016

November has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for most of us at UUCG. In the aftermath of the presidential election, many of you have expressed a wide range of emotions, most very difficult to hold. Some have told me you feel called to action in ways you never have before. The racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia we all knew was present in our country has been exposed, affirmed, and even empowered in ways that leave many of us very fearful. A local high school in Suwanee was vandalized with racial slurs and homophobic threats, with the name of our President-elect boldly painted in the middle of the epithets. We are hearing about such incidents, and worse, all around the country.

I anticipate that those of us who are skilled in creating community, connecting with new people, and building bridges will be called upon in the coming months, if not years. And, those of us who are not comfortable with these skills might learn! As some feel empowered to hate more openly, we must rise up and love more boldly. Our faith calls us stand, roll, and rise up on the side of love.

As I write this, there is an imminent threat to the people of the Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Unless powerful people find a way to prevent it, there is a strong probability that hundreds of people will be seriously harmed, or killed, in the efforts to remove people from the camp, and we may see yet another gross injustice towards the indigenous people of this land. I am grateful for this congregation’s support in sending me to Standing Rock, and I pray a peaceful and fair resolution will emerge.

With all this, and so much more, going on in our country, I am finding it difficult to wrap my mind around being away on vacation, study leave, and sabbatical January through July. I have realized how much strength and hope I draw from your presence in my life. I am grateful for this time for renewal and reflection, and I will continue to be working for a more just and loving world while I am away. I am so fortunate to serve such a generous, courageous, and compassionate congregation.

Please come to the Sabbatical Send-Off Party on Sunday, December 11, following the Congregational Meeting. There will be music, dancing, some games to play, and some gifts to be given. It’s a hiking theme, so feel free to wear your hiking clothes to church that day!

On December 18, Paige Varner will lead the service, and I will be there to receive a Journey Blessing during the service (a modified Ritual of Leaving).

I will lead two more services after that: The Christmas Eve service will include lots of wonderful music, and a story for the times. The Christmas Morning service will include “fun” holiday songs and a beloved Christmas story. We’ll have muffins, scones, hot cocoa and coffee waiting for you! Christmas is a time to remember that every child is a blessing, and every being has worth, and is worthy of dignity.

I’ll be sending updates while I’m away, and I’ll be lurking on Facebook now and then, but not engaging. I love you all; I will miss you while I am gone, and I will be SO glad to be back!

With much love…
Reverend Jan