5 Baby Steps for the White Moderate

Minneapolis is still high from celebrating an extraordinary Vikings win against the Saints, as we should be. It was the first game I watched all season because I didn’t feel right supporting the NFL this year specifically because of the backlash against Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest. But I also am human, wanted to watch the game, and feel like I could support my city, even though they didn’t support Kaepernick.

I saw this post that really struck me, so I reposted it, even though it’s salty and will poke at many of my social media friends, which I guess was the point.

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Colin Kaepernick was never commenting on veterans. That is probably the most frustrating argument for me to consider and dialogue about. Dr. King said, “Riot is the language of the unheard.”

How this statement defined my teenage years- slamming doors, refusing dinner, and screaming words in anger. I didn’t feel understood at all, and it came out in severely, ugly forms.

So….what is the right way to feel heard?

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When I taught 11th grade, we read the historical American document, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. King.

We analyze and think about many of the paragraphs, but the one that convicts me time and time again as I read is this:

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

So, who is today’s white moderate? Honestly? It might be those of us who think it’s okay to celebrate Dr. King one day a year by posting something on social media, but criticize equality efforts the other 364 days. It might be those of us who are unwilling to actually examine our biases or ask honest questions about who taught us what we believe about people with different skin colors than our own.

The white moderate isn’t Trump. It’s some of my colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Sometimes, it’s me.

So, what is a baby step for the white moderate? How do we interrupt this? Here are some easy ideas that don’t require any form of protest and that I’m actively trying to do:

  1. Watch the show “Black-ish”. It’s on Hulu and ABC on Tuesday nights. Get comfortable with the characters, storyline, and skin colors of the Johnson family.
  2. Read a book by an author of color. It doesn’t even have to be non-fiction!
  3. Brainstorm someone you know who seems to be racially conscious and interested in the topic of racial tension in the United States. Go get coffee with them and practice talking out loud about race.
  4. Have a family movie night where you take the time to intentionally watch a film starring black actors.
  5. Journal or think intentionally about the first time you realized what your race was. How old were you? What happened?

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