Written by Carrie Davis.
I had been trying to learn more about race relations before I signed up for the seminar, “The Antidote to Anti-Blackness: Increasing Your Black IQ” by JC Thomas, which was hosted by the University offices of church relations and the provost. Mostly, I was reading books like “The Hate U Give” (Thomas) and “Between the World and Me” (Ta-Nehisi Coates). Resources by Black artists are excellent tools of empathy, and they have taught me so much about the Black experience. However, with every book, I couldn’t shake this pervasive quietness. Even in my private reading log, I wrote how unworthy I felt to comment. How could I, someone who does not suffer from these experiences, say anything about them in any meaningful way? So I said nothing, afraid of unintentionally doing harm.
But in the first lecture, JC said this: “If this ship goes down, we’re all going down with it.” Though not outright hateful, my silence hurts our progress as a nation; it is akin to twiddling my thumbs while we take on more water.
If we want to dismantle racism — and by God, as Christians, as humans, I hope we want that, then we need all hands on deck.
The privilege which I thought disqualified me from speaking out is precisely what makes it my responsibility to speak out. The truth is, I benefit from racism; the system is designed to give my words, my very life, more value — yes, I said it. Yes, it is uncomfortable. But like JC says, get comfortable being uncomfortable, or we won’t get anywhere. The fact that my “White” words get unfair attention makes my silence all the more problematic. So, I’m done with that.
Reader, if you’re becoming defensive, I hope you, too, are done with that. JC said he refuses to argue; he walks away because he knows no one will benefit in that situation. I have no interest in arguing, either, so if you’re rearing for a debate, stop reading.
But if you’ve been like me, wanting to help but not quite sure where to start, here are the steps I’m taking.
First, educate yourself. I look forward to the rest of the seminar. I am exceedingly grateful for JC’s willingness to come to Harding to speak to us. But, hello? He shouldn’t have to. A poignant moment of the seminar was in that first lecture when JC admitted to weariness and a feeling of burdened responsibility to educate people who won’t educate themselves. We have a beautiful example in him who still came to teach us in love. But we need to do better. Knowledge on race relations, white fragility, the Black experience, racism and more already exists. Stop waiting for someone to hand it over — go out and get your own hands on it. Attend seminars, join important conversations, get books/audiobooks by Black authors (I recommend the above listed), listen to podcasts, visit a museum — anything. Take every opportunity you can to learn.
And second, put that knowledge to use. Speak up. Stop standing around on the top deck watching as this ship called America sinks into the waves. The knowledge you obtain should — and will, if you’re paying attention — enrage you. The experiences our Black neighbors have in this country are heartbreaking and horrible. Standing aside is not an option. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you’ve got skin in the game.
JC shared a verse with us at the end of one of his lectures: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8b). Catch that? We are required to act.