My friends are weeping and roiling with rage because a 500 year old violence refuses to stop executing Black lives.
“There are two ways,” said the writers of the Didache, the earliest known discipleship text of the early church, “a way of life and a way of death. And there is a great difference between the two ways.”
Whiteness is this nation’s great way of death, parading as a way of life.
Whiteness is an identity invented over generations that began forming in the late Middle Ages and came to maturity among colonizers from England who were slaughtering Indigenous communities to expropriate lands and enslaving Africans to grow wealthy. Whiteness is an identity born from the sin of violence. Whiteness created the idea of races and hacked the gorgeous diversity of billions of peoples fashioned in the image of God into a cascading ladder of worthlessness, at the bottom of which was Blackness, to justify—indeed, to baptize—death dealing violence and privatize the right to abundant life.
This is why racism in this country cannot be ended by dealing with a handful of racist cops, or racist politicians, or racist business leaders. Racism isn’t the root problem. It’s simply the fruit of a whole lineage of humans taught to be white, and whiteness is an anti-Christ way of being in relationship. Whiteness is ruled by fear and so it wields death. Whiteness worships Mammon, loves individualism above communion, seeks its own good, and builds walls to exclude strangers. Whiteness is anti-Christ.
Whiteness is very real, and it cannot simply be exited by saying so. It is a Principality and Power that possesses souls and roams over the face of the earth seeking to kill and destroy. (Can you hear the language of scripture I am using, Christians? Can you begin to imagine this thing we have called whiteness inside of these words?)
Whiteness must be resisted and its violence renounced. It must be put to death. It must be crucified. Because shalom cannot breathe in its choke hold (see this incredible speech by Dr. Willie Jennings beginning at 8:45min).
Whiteness is put to death by anti-racism.
On one level, Paul tells us we must die to our false selves in order to come alive in Christ. We need an anti-racist discipleship which recognizes that to follow Christ as someone raised white means to empty ourselves, to give away our riches, to take the last seat, to wash feet, to carry crosses, to put enmity to death, to bear fruits of the Spirit that undo the entitlements of whiteness, to turn cheeks — and all the while not expect the oppressed to do likewise, but rather glory when they are lifted up to the seats of honor. Is this not what Jesus taught? Can we not learn to imagine these practices in light of undoing the racism of white supremacy so deeply embedded in us? We need a spirituality of anti-racism that forms new souls, new ways of imagining the self so that justice, and someday community, is made possible.
On another level, Jesus proclaims that he is Lord and therefore Caesar is not; the Kingdom of God is come and the Empire of Rome is broken. Jesus unrolls the scroll and declares good news to the poor, liberation for the oppressed, and freedom for captives. The work of anti-racism is the praxis of liberation from social structures that oppress — structures that have been built by whiteness (by people who believe they are white and who believe their whiteness is supreme) to enrich itself through the violences of extraction and exploitation on black and brown bodies. Putting whiteness to death means tearing down the political economy and society whiteness built, and getting to work on the new creation where Black lives can flourish.
And in between these levels, we find the work of striving toward anti-racism in our families, our churches, our workplaces, our friendships, and each everyday interaction.
Friends, I have a very long way to go. I fail constantly to simply step into what I’ve already been taught. As I heard Christena Cleveland teach years ago, our role as white people is to Listen, Believe, and Follow. Now is the time to center Black leadership (particularly women) showing us the way to liberation, to believe what they are telling us, and to follow in solidarity to build a world that finally reflects the truth that Black Lives Matter.
If you’re looking for places to begin this work, here are a few:
- For the platform put forward by the Movement for Black Lives
- For a People’s Bailout that puts communities over stock markets
- For Campaign Zero’s policy plan to end police violence
- For the passage of Congressional Bill H.R.40 to establish a “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans”
If you don’t know who your elected representatives are or how to contact them (from sheriffs and council members; to state reps and Attorney Generals; to your Congress people) you can begin here.
- Prison and police abolition reading list
- Readings, activities, podcasts, articles and more organized by how you may currently be feeling about racism and your personal knowledge
- My anti-racist reading list for those seeking to reconstruct their theological imaginations
- Talking to children about race and Raising White Kids
- Movement for Black Lives & Black Lives Matter
- Equal Justice Initiative
- National Bail Fund Network
- Campaign Zero
- Look up your local Black Pages to support black-owned businesses
- Local black led organizations
- Groups supporting protestors on the front lines in your area
- Give of your time and talents to these and other groups