White Sisters, Let’s Sort Through the Trash

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Jody Fernando -Trash Sorting5

“White Ladies, the white community is our space and our responsibility. Our sisters of color have to exist in a world that is even harder on them because they are women and also because they are not white. As a woman we should get this on a deep level. We, after all, exist in a man’s world. Instead of pitting us against each other, shouldn’t we join ranks in empathy?” —Abby Norman

In the shadow of the shootings of more innocent black men last week, Abby Norman issued a challenge to pick up our own trash and deal with the garbage of white supremacy in our midst.

It’s not fun.

It’s stinky.

It can leave our hands a bit of a mess.

While many of us have experienced this reality living as a woman in a man’s world, we know a whole lot less about doing it as a white person in a non-white world. We champion female equality, quote statistics about glass ceilings, and shout our hard-earned rights from the rooftops; but when it comes to race, we’re often shamefully ignorant. We fail to apply the lessons we’ve learned from our own emancipation to the emancipation of others. It’s the Fall all over again, and we’re left holding the garbage bag of our own self-centeredness.

Until we begin to allow the categories society dictates to intersect, we won’t be able to fully grasp the issues at hand. Last week, innocent black men AND policemen were shot. BOTH  are tragedies. Society wants to sort us into neat camps of “us vs them.” As women, we must not fall prey to this lie. We do not live in an either-or world, but a both-and world. We are women AND we are white. Fragmenting our identities and ignoring the color of our skin because of ignorance or shame has dire implications for our relationships. To be part of redemption and restoration, we must live our identities as whole beings, fully aware of the image we bear.

After we acknowledge the presence of our trash, the question becomes what we will do with it. Will we toss it quickly, too sensitive to sort through the mess to see what’s really there? Or will we take the time to spread it out and understand how it got there in the first place? For white women, sorting out the intersectionality of our identities in light of the current racial climate requires deep heart work.

Here’s what we need to do:

Understand whiteness and privilege. Being white doesn’t mean we understand what it means to be white. In fact, it may actually prevent us from understanding it if we’ve always lived in the majority. To truly understand, we need to learn the history of many peoples and how white people have wielded their power in damaging ways. We need to be in relationship with people who trust us enough to tell us what they really think. We need to read and listen beyond our own perspectives and consider why others may think differently than we do.

Teach our children a new way. If black parents must teach their sons about the harshness of police brutality targeted at them, then white parents must teach our children about the injustice of this reality. Sit your children (as age allows) in front of the news and let them see. Do not shield them from the brokenness of this world, but offer a new vision right along with the pain of the old ways. In order to understand restoration, they must first understand what it means to live in a broken world.

Pay attention to relationships and check passions. Understanding racial inequality has helped me understand how little I understand about other types of injustice. It has led me to listen more closely in conversations about ability, economic class, and religious differences. I often find myself realizing that I’ve dismissed or misunderstood someone unintentionally because I lacked understanding of their experience. When this happens, I must ask myself if I’ve prioritized the details of my own identity over someone else’s experience.

Listen more than we speak. When I watched the news break on the Dallas shootings as the only white person in the room, I spent most of the time listening. While I was heartbroken at the unfolding of such events, I also knew that the feelings of the others in the room were far more important than my own. There would be things that I would instinctively interpret through white eyes that wouldn’t be helpful in the situation. Listening allowed me to see through others eyes instead of only seeing through my own.

Look for the core issues instead of taking sides. Ultimately, the faithful know that we must see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. When we hold the world’s pain with tenderness instead of dismissiveness, with lament instead of blame, with humility instead of pride, we will see the issues as God sees them: filled with compassion, righteous anger, and relentless hope for restoration.

________

Dear SheLovelys:

  • What would you add to this list?
  • What will you prioritize?
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Jody Fernando
I spend many of my moments analyzing college essays, debating the use of semi-colons, or swimming in email; but in real life, I most enjoy sitting by my fireplace with a good poem, sitting near the sea, or going on a walk with loved ones. Sometimes, I write about intercultural life on my blog Between Worlds. I also recently published a book titled "Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race,and Faith."
Jody Fernando
Jody Fernando

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