White silence is standing by doing and saying nothing while a white police officer forces a black teen girl down to the ground. White silence is rhetoric without real effort to foster change. White silence is saying that injustice is an outrage while secretly thinking, “Wow, glad I am white and not______.” Because that’s how silence works. It achieves absolutely nothing.
I am white and I have been silent. Because my family is white, because my kids are white, we are on the parameter of the struggle. We watch from the sidelines as our black neighbors are marginalized, mistreated, abused, and made a spectacle by those who should be protecting them. And we shake our heads and say, “Shame, shame.” We write our blogs, and update our statuses, making videos viral while our black neighbors clamor to find their voice that will ring out above the rhetoric. I pray that they will be heard.
But not only must they be heard, but we must as well.
And not just the white general public.
But the church.
I live in Memphis. My church is predominantly white in a neighborhood that is diverse in every way- ethnicity, worldview, age, background, household structure, etc. I don’t think my church is mostly white because we are trying to be mostly white. I think we are white because that is what we know to be. Most of our leadership is white. Most of us are privileged in some sense. We just don’t understand the black dilemma. I don’t understand the black dilemma. I am not faulting us. It is just how it is.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I was at a church not too long ago that was mostly white. They had a neighborhood black church join them for a joint worship service one Sunday. Instead of intermingling the congregations, the black church sat on one side of the sanctuary while most of the white church sat on the other. It was strange. And sad.
I mean this is the CHURCH after all? We are brothers and sisters, right?!
Here’s the thing. If white people, old white people and young white people (let’s get real here) are arguing over music styles and can’t agree on how worship services should be conducted, then how on earth do we expect whites and blacks to worship at all together? I guess if black people looked and acted white then maybe white people who secretly smile upon the Jim Crow laws of yesteryear would welcome them. If Jesus put on blue jeans and a t-shirt and walked through a typical white church in Memphis, I wonder how many white people would confuse him as an “outsider” or as a project to help or “fix.” Not as one of us.
What if this Jesus actually called us to love one another? And he did. The “one another,” by the way, is not one just like YOU, but another- another Christian (white, black, Asian, Arab, Latino, etc.). Because before we can love them we must love us first.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:35
I don’t have all of the answers. I only have one- Jesus. He wasn’t silent. He got angry. He wept. He died for the ungodly. He died for all of us- white, black- all peoples.
I think the only way to break white silence is to listen to our black brothers and sisters. And not only listen, but intermingle our lives together- break bread together, serve and be served by one another, hear their stories, share our stories, as well as our white ignorance and naiveté. Sure we can picket, and write blogs, and say we’re mad, but Christian, the loudest way we can speak for justice ultimately will be in our pews.
Let’s pray and work towards this.