Dear White Women,
A couple days ago, my two young sons stood in the kitchen, fighting over a toy from a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I have a strong desire to feed my children healthy, vegetable-filled meals. But every once in a while, the McDonald’s drive-thru is just what the doctor ordered.
Back in the confines of our urban-suburban home, I chastised myself for pulling into the parking lot in the first place. Had I not ordered my two-year-old a four-piece chicken nugget meal, he wouldn’t have gotten a cheap plastic dinosaur. Had the coveted Tyrannosaurus Rex not entered his life, the four-year old wouldn’t have felt the need to play with the exact toy his brother wanted to play with at the same time. Had the Golden Arches not reigned as the place of supreme happiness for a brief minute or two in my mind, surely, peace would have reigned in our house.
I could go on, but I think you get the point: berating myself for my role in their inability to be peacemakers does little good, neither for them, nor for myself. Instead, they have to seek a higher road. They have to learn how to get along with one another, even when and if and as they disagree. They have to seek unity with each other, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes at a time.
If I can be frank, we — as white women — are at a similar place in our lives. One has to be living under a rock not to feel the impact of the recent election in our families and in our communities, in our places of worship, and in our country. Perhaps, more than ever before, the weight of division falls heavy upon us.
Instead of Christ the Great Unifier knitting us together in spirit and in soul, deeply held beliefs and convictions of policy, party, and persons pull us apart.
We passively seek to change the minds of those who don’t agree with us by reposting “correct” articles on Facebook. We vehemently shout at strangers on Twitter when they twist the ways and the words of Jesus into something so unlike our version and vision of Christianity. We avoid sitting next to our liberal, justice-minded uncle at Easter dinner, because we don’t want to get into another conversation with the man whose electric car sports a Hillary sticker on the back bumper. We plaster smiles on our faces. We don’t rock the boat. And maybe I’m the one living under a rock now, but we don’t dare question our role in the division.
Election polls, of course, don’t lie. According to various reports, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump in November, including an overwhelming 81 percent of evangelicals. But what do these results communicate about the evangelical faith? What do reports and statistics alike say not only about our power and influence, but also about our blind spots and growing edges? And how do we respond, when our evangelical brothers and sisters of color feel betrayed by the values of white evangelicalism?
Like you, my skin is white. Maybe like you, I’ve called the United States home since the day I was born. I’ve known nothing and nowhere else. Perhaps like you, the middle-class environment I was born into afforded me the right to a quality education: excellent public schools in my formative years, a private undergraduate education, and even seminary in my late twenties.
Ten years ago, had you looked at my life and called me privileged, I would have laughed in your face. Privileged, me? Hardly. I paid my way through school. More often than not, my clothes came from consignment stores and hand-me-down bags of generous friends (long before shopping at the second-hand store was cool). Privilege hardly rang true as a qualifier in my book, mostly because I never lived with buckets of money. Plus, I was born a woman (complete with breasts and a vagina and even a brain to boot) in a world that still requires a fight for gender equality. My life felt far from advantaged, to say the least. Like many conservative white voters, I rejected notions of privilege simply because bank accounts were sometimes in the red.
But then the man who would eventually become my partner for life came onto the scene — and he was a man who also happened to be born with skin that was a delectable shade of chocolate brown. Perhaps, then, the inevitable occurred: when we step into intimate relationship with people who don’t look like us, act like us, or even vote like us, change begins to flow through the blocked channels of our lives.
For me, racial and economic systems of inequality, the same ones I’d ignorantly labeled as liberal rhetoric in my youth, took on new meaning when I began to listen to the stories of his life, when my heart began to imagine what it would have been like to have been born with skin darker than my own. Slowly, I also began to see a new side of Christ, a side I hadn’t encountered in my evangelical church existence.
Up until then, Jesus was a rather one-dimensional figure: he died for my sins, but through the resurrected Christ we lowly creatures are given access to God. We can have a personal relationship with the king of the universe. In an effort to please this God, I toted the Four Spiritual Laws and preached this message at youth camps during the summer. But I didn’t dare ask how my beliefs might equate to the God of the marginalized and the oppressed. I didn’t dare think about how, as my friend Alia Joy writes, “God is for the ones the world’s gaze skims over, the ones who never belong or get invited.”
In my whiteness, I had created God in my own image. God was a god who voted as Jesus would have voted, a god who was self-sufficient, and really rather American in nature. God was a god who cared about the things I cared about, a god who didn’t believe in the structural sins of broken systems of injustice. Really, God was a god who was a lot like me.
What, then, can I say to us?
As white women, we stand at the crossroads of power and privilege. Now, more than ever, we have the unique opportunity to enter into conversation and listen to one another. We have the freedom to examine the inclusivity, the acceptance, and the diversity found in the teachings of Jesus. And we have the permission to believe, from the bottom of our hearts, that all people — men and women, black and white, queer and straight, able-bodied and disabled, immigrant, refugee and citizen, those who have been victims of sexual assault and abuse, and millions of others, just like us — have the ability to be the change we wish to see in this world.
Maybe then, just as I seem to practice on an hourly basis, we’ll learn how to get along with one another, even when we disagree. But maybe, as we seek unity with one another, we’ll also find that we’ve been changed, one by the other.
Then, we’ll enter into conversations of race. We’ll enter into the rhetoric of social and racial justice. We’ll seek to elevate the voices of those we’ve ignored and suppressed in our privilege and in our ignorance.
And maybe, we’ll end up better, stronger, more authentic humans at the end of it.
Another white lady (just like you)
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. Passionate about issues of racial and social justice, she’s delighted to offer her eBook “5 Ways to Step Into Conversations of Color” to new email subscribers. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.