Tag Archives: Racism

White Clown fish Swimming in Water

A White Woman Speaks About Race

The release of videos of George Floyd and Ahmoud Arbury’s murders and Breonna Taylor’s death at the hands of police, combined with the systemic racism made evident by the Coronavirus Pandemic, has finally convulsed the U.S. in outrage. It’s time for a giant leap forward as a country.

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus wept when he heard his friend, Lazarus, had died (John 11:35). Those words, “Jesus wept,” echoed in my heart over and over as I watched the videos of Floyd’s death, demonstrations against police brutality, and violence by civilians and police. I wanted to do something to make things better but sat numb with tears on my cheeks, instead.

Also echoing in my heart was the part of what Christians call “Palm Sunday” in which Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and, according to the Gospel of Luke, says, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace: But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). It seemed to me that Jesus was weeping with us, as well. Oh, that we knew the things that make for peace.

The Impact of Privilege

I write this as a white American woman privileged by the color of my skin in ways that I am still trying to understand even after years of growth. White privilege is so ubiquitous that calling it to our attention is like trying to get a fish to notice the water in which it swims. Changing metaphors, understanding how privilege works is like peeling layer after layer of an onion.

White privilege affects every dimension of life–for good and ill– from the time a person of any race is born in this country. George Floyd’s murder and the Coronavirus Pandemic are an inflection point challenging us to look in the mirror so that we might see the inequality reflected there and our participation in it.

One example of my privilege is my freedom from fear that I–or a partner, friend, or family member–will be harassed, beaten, or killed while doing the ordinary things of life such as going to the grocery, jogging through the neighborhood, sitting in a car with friends, or sleeping one’s own bed. I don’t worry whether the males in my family will return home alive each time I tell them goodbye. No African American in this country shares that privilege.

Police Car Lights by Scott Davidson

Another example: When I see flashing red and blue lights behind me, I worry about the cost of a traffic ticket but not if I’ll be killed. No African American shares that privilege, either, no matter their age, education, or social status. College professors, members of Congress, corporate C.E.O’s, and firefighters have been questioned and harassed by police officers solely because their race made them seem “suspicious” to white folk.

George Floyd’s murder triggered the protests of the past two weeks, but the power and size of the protests are rooted in four centuries of systemic racism. From economics to criminal justice, health care to pollution, education to employment, politics to internet access, systemic racism affects every dimension of American life.

The United States of America can only be its best self when we address the systemic racism and unconscious biases that pervade it. If we are to become a more perfect union and the country the world needs us to be, we must set aside the patterns of privilege and systemic racism in which we swim.

Moving beyond tears

The day after the Trump Administration cleared a peaceful protest in Lafayette Park with tear gas and rubber bullets so the President could hold up a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, for a campaign photo, I opened my own Bible re-read the stories surrounding Jesus’ tears in John 11:35 and Luke 19:42.

This time, I noticed that the stories don’t stop with Jesus’ tears. Jesus’ grief moves him to action in both. He dries his tears and goes to work. Jesus raises Lazarus to life, telling bystanders to unwrap Lazarus’ bindings of death. They do. Lazarus lives.

Jesus leaves the Mount of Olives after his words to Jerusalem and rides into the city. He drives money changers from the temple, heals the sick, confronts oppressive power, and teaches a message of love. He is killed for being a threat to established power.

No less than Jesus was, we are called by God to dry our tears, channel our anger and grief, and focus our energy on doing that which brings life, creates justice, and makes for peace,

White folk like me need to educate ourselves about racism, systemic racism, and privilege; and our role in them. We need to do this without asking people of color to teach us. It is not their burden to educate us. It’s our responsibility to listen, learn, and act; our responsibility to be humble, pry our fingers from power, and with our siblings of color create a country where all God’s children live truly free.

Staying home during the pandemic doesn’t have to mean being passive. To my white brothers, sisters, and siblings, in particular, there are actions we can take against systemic racism even as we follow health guidelines and stay safe during the pandemic.

Anti-Racism Actions During Quarantine


The Impact of Systemic Racism and White Privilege
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in The Age of Color Blindness, by Michelle Alexander
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin
The 1619 Project by Nicole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times (here)
Taylor Branch’s 3-part history of the King Years: Parting the Waters (1954-’63), Pillar of Fire (1963-’65), and At Canaan’s Edge (1965-’68)
Changing Ourselves, Our Workplace, Community, and Country
How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
Thrive: The Facilitator’s Guide to Radically Inclusive Meetings by Mark Smutny
Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces, by Karen Caitlin
Poetry and Prose
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel, by Zora Neale Hurston
Book Lists and Links
Vroman’s Bookstore of Pasadena Anti-racism Reading List (for adults, youth, and children)
-Third Place Books of Seattle Anti-Racism Audiobook List
Black-Owned Bookstores on libro.fm can be found on this Instagram post.


Just Mercy (Movie)
Harriet (Movie)
Selma (Movie)
Mississippi Burning (Movie)
BlacKkKlansman (Movie)

Write and Telephone

-Several states (primarily in the South) have removed people from voting roles to affect election results. Many of these people first learn about their removal when they try to vote. Join the Reclaim Our Vote Postcard Campaign (here) to notify these voters in time for them to clarify and restore their status. ROV has already contacted over 1.5 million voters.
-Register with Indivisible (here) and/or Black Lives Matter (here) for up-to-date writing, calling, and in-person campaigns.
-Additional links to websites, organizations, and resources for change

White People: Weep. Listen. Learn. Act.

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Join the Frogs with Me

It’s almost time for the frogs in the wetlands beside our house to awaken from their winter lethargy and announce their presence.  Our time to awaken has come, too.

As much as I hate publicly calling someone racist, the time has come.  President Trump is racist in thought, word and deed.  He is not the first such occupant of the White House.  Eight Presidents owned slaves while in office.  Woodrow Wilson screened the KKK movie, Birth of a Nation in the White House.  Franklin Roosevelt turned away a ship of 900 Jews fleeing Europe because he didn’t want more Jews in the U.S.*  Richard Nixon used his racist Southern Strategy to become President and Ronald Reagan trumpeted the Welfare Queen.  Until 1965, our immigration policies were written to exclude nearly all immigrants from everywhere but Northern and Western Europe.  Some, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, were particularly heinous.

Scratch below the surface and America’s systemic racism is still visible.  That has become abundantly clear in the past two years.  Those racist currents have again become dangerous as President Trump fans the flames of nationalism, White Supremacy and Christian exceptionalism.

Why do I say President Trump is racist and in thought, word and deed?  He proudly denigrates people of color and Muslims.  His vile comments encourage xenophobia, greed and hate.  His words give succor to those who burn mosques, deface synagogues, and destroy black churches.  His policies against Latinos and Muslim majority countries are break families apart and terrorize U.S. residents.  His comments and actions are considered so derogatory and racist around the world that they endanger our diplomats and military personnel.

Some White folk say the President ought to be free to speak the way they, themselves, do at home and in pubs, as if their racism is O.K. and his ought to be, as well.  But when President Trump uses vile language to speak of Africa, Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras,  or racist language about people here at home, there is much more at stake.  His words carry the full power of the United States, for good or ill.

This is not a game.  It is not innocent.  It is not harmless.  It is life and death.  It is nothing less than the future of our country and the world at stake.

Like the frogs beyond my garden, it’s time for us to raise our voices and start moving.  Citizens have moved this nation towards its ideals in the past.  We can do it again.  We must do it again.

Two citizen movements in U.S. history inspire and prod me to action:  “citizen spies” in Los Angeles and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and ’60’s.

As the KKK and neo-Nazi groups grew in power across the U.S. in the 1930’s, a handful of  citizens in Los Angeles thwarted White supremacists’ plans to torch Boyle Heights and its residents with flame throwers mounted on pickup trucks.  They also disrupted plans to  murder Jewish movie stars and businessmen, and to seize armories across the Los Angeles Basin.  With courage and determination, they acted on their values.

I draw strength, too, from the young Blacks of the Civil Rights Movement who sat in White sections of lunch counters in the South; Black and White Freedom Riders who were beaten and jailed as they registered Blacks to vote; and Black citizens who risked their lives standing up for one another and trying to claim their right to work, love, worship, vote and travel unhindered.  With bravery and determination, they acted on their belief in the ideals of America.

Most of the people who have bent the arc of America’s history towards justice were ordinary people like you and I.  They gave time and energy, skills and expertise, compassion, hospitality and life experience–sometimes even their jobs, homes, and life.

Now it’s our time and turn:  Our time to be courageous and creative.  Our turn to reclaim America from those who tarnish it anew with racism, injustice and greed.

If you’re looking for ideas, here are a few to choose from.  Voice your concerns and beliefs to family, friends, coworkers and members of your church/synagogue/mosque.  Challenge their comments and jokes.  Join Daily Action Text Alerts to participate in coordinated phone calls to Congress.  Contribute money to the NAACP, ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center.  Volunteer with groups that protect immigrants.  Pray.  March.  Run for office.  Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Learn about White Privilege, systemic racism and how change occurs.  Listen humbly to the experiences of people whose race is different from yours and learn.  Look in the mirror with honesty, and change.  Be creative and courageous.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”


*At least one quarter of the Jews on the German ocean liner, St. Louis, died in the Holocaust after returning to Europe from the Port of Miami.
**The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 removed limitations of previous policies and, with a more generous quota system, instead based immigration on merit and family connections.
***“Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America,” by Steven J. Ross, Professor of History at USC.