If you’ve ever spent time around old country folk, you know how they’ll spend 5 minutes getting the date and weather right for a story. “It was spring…no wait, it was June, because that was when my daughter…no wait, that would have been in ’71 because…”
I’ve been thinking about what and how we remember. How we frame the history we know and the history that happens in front of our eyes, and once set, how difficult it is to change that framing. How unlike country farmers we are, in that a lot of us don’t really care to get the details right, because for so many people, it doesn’t matter.
Think about the news of the last two years. In general, white and black people remember this time very differently. Black people see a long list of deaths at the hands of the police as murders. Lynchings. White people wonder why black people just won’t stop aiming guns at the police.
I have seen so many people confused as to why white society is upset with Colin Kaepernick, and it’s because white people don’t think there is anything to protest. And by his actions, they think, he is legitimizing this ‘false narrative’ of police brutality.
I was at a meeting last night where they were discussing the history and legacy of The South and slavery, and there were some people there who talked about The Lost Cause and The War Between the States. But I noticed there were others who stood up and said, “this is just my opinion, but I think the war was fought over slavery”.
How did something that is historical fact get turned into merely an opinion? This is just my opinion, but I think grass is green. This is just my opinion but Keith Lamont Scott was holding a book. This is just my opinion, but Ferguson cops violated people’s civil rights. This is just my opinion, but cops lie.
And here’s the thing with historical narratives. They take time to form. They necessarily take time. But white people have short memories, especially when they view time linearly as they do. Something happened and then it’s over, this is how I want to remember it, case closed.
White people with short memories will sit in judgment on the Ferguson and Baltimore protests while they’re happening, and then move on. They never learn that the Department of Justice investigated and found that they were both guilty of civil rights violations.
Most white people do not know, to this day, that the protests of Ferguson and Baltimore were legitimate and founded on historical truth, because they stopped looking. They stopped caring. They had their narrative that they liked, and that was all that mattered.
And now this week, we see two more deaths. More protests, and again, already two different narratives. By this point (and honestly it always has been), it is willful ignorance on the part of white people to so quickly accept the narrative they prefer over seeking out the facts, the long history, and the experiences by black people.
*Just this week* video has emerged from 2011 showing a cop planting a gun on someone he killed. Gun rights and policing in America has a long, intertwined history with anti-blackness and white supremacy. That is not just my opinion.
It is time for white people – white christians especially – to move beyond the narrative they have been given and prefer. (Also – why do they prefer this narrative???) It is time for white christians to stop merely being sad that people are killed; it is time for them to stop clucking their tongues in disapproval at burned buildings and cars, and instead look at the way their lives, their votes, and their opinions aid and abet white supremacy. (And then change them, obviously.)
And if any of this has been upsetting to you, ask yourself why and sit with that for awhile. Acknowledging and changing the narrative of white superiority you’ve been given can be painful. There is nothing pleasant about this.
But people are being slaughtered and too many white christians are still saying “yeah, but….”
Too many white christians are policing black grief.
Too many white christians ignore that the riot is the cry of the unheard.
Too many white christians are choosing to be unempathetic.
Choosing to prioritize their white safety.
Choosing the simplicity of white supremacy over the complexity of history.
Too many white christians are choosing to live a life directly opposite to what Jesus taught and then condemn others for not doing the same.
But if you are on board with all of this, and you want to learn more, because there is always more to learn, here are a few resources:
Read and watch your way through:
Find your local branch of Showing Up for Racial Justice