I am very clear about who I am and how I show up in the world. I carry major parts of my identity with me.
I am black.
I am a woman.
These are two realities that are inescapable – not that I’d want to be anyone other than who I have been created to be. These two realities mean something in every space I inhabit. They are visible and I believe that this is what makes conversations about race and gender slightly different than conversations about other issues of injustice. This is another way that I have learned to embrace my shadow.
The color of my skin and my gender orientation have statistically been shown to be characteristics that impact how I’m paid, how I’m educated, how law enforcement officers relate to me, how I receive medical treatment and a myriad of other issues. I could go into more detail about how my gender and race impact my vocation in the church, but I’ll save that for another post.
I’m also very aware of how my gender and race impact my relationships with black men. There is a long history of the destruction of the black family, the destruction of the relationships between black men and women. It has continued to be a reality and recently, two young poets shared their amazing poem, “To Be Black and Woman and Alive”, which describes in vivid detail my existence and the existence of many of my sisters.
So I say all of this to say, I am very clear about who I am and how I show up in the world AND what that means.
I was recently ranting to a dear friend about the current state of affairs of race and the now constant requests I get to lead discussions or workshops or give advice to white people who are well meaning and want to know what they can do about racism. I was going on and on about how I’m tired of teaching and suggesting and providing information for people. At some point, my friend interrupted me and asked, “Roze, what do you want from white people?” In a very exasperated voice I said, “I want people not to be racists and I don’t want to have to teach them!” To this my friend replied, “People genuinely don’t know what to do.”
I sighed at this response. And then something happened. My friend forced me to articulate what I wanted from white folks. And this is where my understanding of who I am and how I show up in the world and what this means actually comes into play.
No matter what job I’ve had in ministry, my race and gender are lenses through which I see EVERYTHING. This means that no matter the context, I am going to speak up for issues of injustice, especially as they relate to race and gender, because it deals with who I am. To not do so would be to deny the person that God created me to be and to do a disservice to the cause. I embody this reality and I have no choice but to make sure that every decision, every experience, every plan that is created keep gender and race at the forefront.
So what do I want white people to do? What do I expect of allies and what the Rev. Broderick Greer calls accomplices? I want you to view everything you do through the lens of race. Ask yourself these questions:
How do your plans seek to accomplish the goal of eradicating racism?
How is your programming helping white people become aware of their privilege?
How do the resources and opportunities you provide encourage white people to publicly stand up against injustice and call out racism?
How do experiences you create and plan truly accompany people of color?
How are you raising your children to understand the reality that people of color and white people live in two different worlds?
What do you tell yourself when you find yourself at all white tables?
Do you only engage with other white people personally or do you make it a point to cultivate intimate relationships that are mutual and reciprocal with people of color?
Do you take it upon yourself to learn about issues of racial injustice or do you expect others to teach you?
What would it look like if every waking moment called you into a deeper awareness and created the inescapable reality that being committed to eradicate racism, or any other -ism, is one’s life’s work?
I know it sounds like a lot of work. And this is what I do every day and have done every moment of my life.
So, are you willing to join me and others in the struggle? Are you willing to claim who you are and how you show up in the world and grapple with what this means? Are you willing to embrace your shadow?