I am a proud descendent of German and Italian immigrants. My family came here after the Civil War. I could say (like many do) my family had nothing to do with slavery, and until recent generations we were poor. Therefore I must be standing free from white privilege.
Because when my Grandparents came here they were running towards freedom. However, my black brothers and sisters’ ancestors–at the same time in our history–were fleeing this country to find freedom.
I benefit from white supremacy. The white supremacy that marked this country then, and the white supremacy that is thriving in our country today. Not because I am a white supremacist, but because the system we live in favors descendants from Europe.
I didn’t create this system, those who did are long dead, and they left it to their descendants to either maintain or destroy. But we don’t destroy it–we actively maintain and at times applaud it.
I keep hearing people make statements about “not hating Germans because of the Holocaust.” In Germany, the holocaust is deeply, deeply remembered. Outside of every home a Jewish person was taken from there is a gold plaque with their name and the camp they died in. Germany preserves the camps they killed in, they hang pictures of the victims, and you cannot turn a corner without a mention of WW2 or the Holocaust. It is also illegal to be a Nazi there. Many in Germany say this is not enough, and still see white supremacy thriving there as well.
We celebrate the slave owners and memorialize their names, not the enslaved. This is not only in the south it is the north as well. Where is the memorial listing the names of enslaved people from each town and city, and how they died? Where is the memorial in each city where enslaved people were held, remembering this dark past?
Even worse, we change the word “slave” in our textbooks to “workers.” Some schools are now skipping it entirely while other curriculums claim most slaves “were treated well.” As if a person can treat someone well they are holding captive as a slave. Should we remember slavery? Yes, and as a nation, we should remember the horror of it. Not just that we ended it, and pat ourselves on the back.
Some may say the Holocaust is remembered because it was far worse than racism in the US. 6 million Jews were killed in the holocaust, it is estimated that 13 million black people were killed from slavery in the US. That does not include the 3,400+ recorded lynchings since, and the deep problems with police brutality and racism. This does not include the horrors inflicted on Native Americans, Latinx, and the many other non-white people in our nation’s history. White Americans have a very real problem that needs to be addressed.
If we continue to ignore our past it will continue to manifest in new ways, again, and again. If we continue to pretend, as a nation, specifically white people, that the sins of slavery are gone, we will repeat (as we already are) the sins of our ancestors.
Today we are witnessing the deep and real consequences of avoiding the dark realities of racism in our country and culture. Martin Luther King looked at the riots around him in the 1960s and said this is the sound of the unheard.
And yet White America’s response to the growing protests is, “they shouldn’t be so angry.” When our response, especially as Christians, should be, “I see this injustice and I am angry with you.”
Jeremiah 6 depicts God angry at the injustice of oppression calling out those in power saying “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. They acted shamefully, they committed an abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush.”
White America has a long history of ignoring the wounds of Black Americans and demanding peace without seeking justice. We refuse to blush at our participation in the white supremacy we benefit from.
As we perpetually ignore the wound of white supremacy in America we repeatedly agitate it and inflame it.
It is time to remember, it is time to stand with our Black brothers and sisters and declare Black Lives Matter
(This post was written in 2017 and has been updated to reflect recent events)