On Being White and Grieving for Charleston

Last Thursday morning, I awoke to the news that 9 people lost their lives to a terrorist attack within the walls of their own church in Charleston. I was sad to learn that yet again, a mass shooting had destroyed the lives of at least 9 families. America the beautiful. My first reaction, was one of sadness. But my second reaction was something along the lines of, "Here we go again." It was stunning that a public shooting barely garnered a response from me because it has become so commonplace in our country. Something is wrong with that scenario.

I went to bed that night, not feeling wholly affected and awoke the next day conducting business as usual. It wasn't until around 8:30am Friday morning that the reality sunk in. I locked myself within the confines of our small, lactation room at work and clicked on a viral video of Jon Stewart's monologue addressing the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As I listened to his words, I began to cry. The crying turned to weeping, and the weeping turned to sobbing. I cried as I pumped. I cried as I placed my bottle in the refrigerator and walked out to my car. I cried as I got into the driver's seat. And I cried as I drove to my 9am meeting.

I felt overwhelming sadness at the thought of raising my son in a country that is killing its own people. I felt anger that I shared the same label of "American" as the people who are claiming their lives are worth more than their neighbor's because of something as superficial as skin color. I felt despair that every time it seems like our country might be making progress toward love, kindness and equality, some mass tragedy occurs that drives us two steps back. I felt sick, as a mother, thinking about what it must be like to be raising black daughters and sons in this day and age. Having to teach your beautiful, pure-hearted children to be cautious of law enforcement, to prepare themselves to be hurt, teased, and/or ostracized, not because of who they are, but because of how they look. How do you prepare a beautiful, loving, innocent child for this cruel world?

I felt all these things: sadness, anger, despair. And then I felt something else. I felt guilt. I didn't feel that these thoughts of sadness, anger, despair were justified. Because I have no idea what it's like to be a black person in this country. I felt guilt, because for whatever heartbreak I was experiencing, my black brothers and sisters must have felt that tenfold. And when I thought about feeling guilty, I felt guiltier. Why did I feel guilty? If my brothers and sisters in Christ are being targeted, within their house of worship, nay- within THE BODY OF CHRIST, how was I not justified in feeling sadness? I should be outraged. I should be shocked. I should be heartwrenchingly devastated.

And therein lies the problem. I am white, and I have no idea how to respond to racial conflict. In my heart of hearts, I know that every person on this world, was lovingly and intentionally created by a benevolent God. Every person is equal in the eyes of their Creator. Every person is worthy of love, and life, and kindness. Yet, I have been raised in a generation that blindly proclaims equality and acceptance. We are so focused on these two tenets, that we fail to identify the institutionalized racism that is all around us. We are living in an era in which discrimination is no longer tolerated, and so rather than having segregated schools and drinking fountains and instances of identifiable racism, we have racism that lurks within the deep, dark, depths of people's hearts and is invisible to the naked eye. We have racism that targets people who "fit the description." We have racism in hiring practices. We have racism in school funding. We have racism all around us, yet even the most well-intentioned of us, don't see it. Or if we do see it, we fail to speak up for lack of the right terminology, or political correctness.

Which leaves me here today, in an emotional cocktail of heartbreak, a fear to speak up, a frustration that racist behaviors are not always easy for me to spot, and a complete and utter melancholy for the friends and families of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lance.

I have debated whether or not to publish this post, because the truth is, I don't have the right words. But ultimately, I decided that the harm from not posting it was worse than the harm that comes from posting it. I don't want to continue to sweep the sickening plague that is racial injustice under our nation's collective rug. I don't want to be yet another white "ally" that remains silent, rather than speaking up when I witness the ugly sin of racism. I pray that in writing this, I am conveying a message of humility. I have much to learn, and much to take responsibility for as I acknowledge that I am a part of the problem. I ask for your prayers and I pray that together, we might all join in love to work toward equality, once and for all.

1 comment:

  1. Kaity, I think getting your true heartfelt thoughts and raw emotions out there is great. I think a tragedy like this is felt among so many communities. Thank you for sharing.