I woke up . . .

I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. to news of Charlottesville. The Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, Rev. Traci Blackmon, posted last night about members of the KKK surrounding a church where she and other clergy gathered to pray and praise. With torches.

Her post pushed me to research last night’s events of my own accord. I turned on the news. It was all talk about Trump and NK–not even a brief mention from major news outlets about the Alt Right’s gathering this weekend, nor coverage about the terrorism inflicted on the University of Virginia’s campus last night. This means something. I went back to my feed and looked for articles on the events from people I trust to know what’s what.

Turns out that white nationalists of many a (hateful) variety are gathering this weekend to oppose the decision by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. There’s a “Unite the Right” rally planned for today with thousands expected in attendance. Apparently this is the second time in months that Charlottesville has been at the center of white supremacist death dealing and counter-protest.

First things first: May God BLESS in infinitely abundant ways all those who have shown up in resistance. May God especially bless those leading the resistance and putting their bodies on the line in defense of life. May God use all of this to continue God’s work of exposing the Truth of this nation’s Original Sin and to ultimately lead us to repair and redemption for the history that must be confronted lest it continue to play itself out. May those sewing hate be stopped and changed for good for good for good. In Jesus name, I ask this all. Amen.

Secondly, I watched about two minutes of the video where white (mostly) men were carrying torches and chanting “You will not replace us.” I want those of us who are white to really sit with that phrase being enunciated with such vitriol, such vehemence, and such conviction from OUR PEOPLE. I know how seductive it is to watch that video and think “I’m not like that; they don’t speak for me.” But that kind of disassociation is white flight of the ideological and spiritual variety. A bunch of our people think they are being replaced. And they are lighting things on fire, taking to the streets, and terrorizing people because of this conviction.

The ultimate irony here is that *we* replaced us. Let me say that again: WE REPLACED US. To know the history of people of european descent in North America is to know that we replaced our ethnicities with religion and economy. We decided that we were white instead of German or English or Polish or French or Italian or Irish. We decided capitalism was all we needed as a collective reality. And so our ancestors decided to forsake their actual heritages of land, clothing, song, language(s), foods, etc. (Of course because we did this we can’t understand why nobody else will; no other group of people in the history of the world has been as willing to forsake their very being for economic advancement as the sons, daughters and queerlings of colonizer Europe) White people came here and opted for supremacy by forsaking our actuality. And now, in a pretty short amount of time, historically speaking, we’ve got a bunch of angry white men screaming their fear of being replaced.

This is historical ignorance with the highest impunity. This is what happens when something builds its supremacy on lies. This is the anxiety of having no damn roots yet being at the top of the tree when a storm comes. This is the internal erosion that accompanies whiteness. And it’s being made public right now.

White anti-racist activist, author and subversive southerner Anne Braden once wrote: “The battle is and always has been a battle for the hearts and minds of white people in this country. The fight against racism is OUR issue. It’s not something that we are called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because, really in truth, they do.”

White people, those thousands of people descending on Charlottesville today are OUR people whether we claim them or not. We share descendancy, heritage, socialization and skin-privilege in a way that links us to them for better and for worse. Who will step up and claim that connection and inheritance today in a way that leads to racial justice? I want to know if seeing white supremacists emerge publicly in this way is enough for some of us to enter the fight for the hearts and minds of white people in this country.

Is it you? Do you need more support to step up and step in? My inbox is open. I’m not perfect. I’m still learning every day. But I am here and I am willing to come alongside you in connecting to POC accountable white anti-racist movement.1936611_10156396235650164_3881485230486931162_n

Rev. Emily Joye is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a facilitator for Allies for Change and White Men as Full Diversity Partners and trainer for The Center for Diversity and Innovation. She is the daughter of Martha Lynn Tamburrano, the wife of Kate Staib, and the proud momma of Maddie (16), Aurora (5) and Isaiah (3). She currently lives in Battle Creek MI but considers herself a Californian in body and spirit. She enjoys writing, painting, cooking, collaging and resisting fascism in her spare time.

2 Responses to “I woke up . . .”
  1. Pat McClendon says:

    Thank you for your open, thoughtful and on point insight. As an African American from a small town, I am at a loss to start a dialogue with white Americans in my community. Each one I talk with sees racism and bigotry on an individual level and says, “it is not me”. They transfer their individual views to Trump or others and project that they couldn’t possibly mean that. How do we help people move to seeing the collective evil. Would love to know your thoughts.

    • rhizomejoye says:

      Hey Pat. The work is legion and so hard. I do think some methods of bringing white people in have proven more successful than others over time. I’m wondering about the context you’re in (geography and demographics and political landscape) and what kind of relationship/s you have with the white people you’re engaging. Thanks for using my writing as a point of connection and further conversation.

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