On White discomfort

Crazy Faith Ministries

I recently gave a presentation at a seminary on feelings much of the Black community feels in light of the election of Donald Trump.

The audience was ethnically and racially mixed. This place being a seminary, training people for the Christian ministry, I felt it appropriate to be honest and forthright in explaining the feelings and the difficulty in not being able to find much comfort in religion, at least not yet.

The biggest issue for me, I explained, was not that the president-elect has presented himself as racist, sexist and misogynistic. The issue was and still is that so many people support him anyway. Naively, I thought his words, his vitriol, hatred and bigotry would turn people off. I thought that people would be appalled when he said Mexicans were rapists and that they were bringing crime into the United States. I thought they would recoil at the thought of a Muslim registry or at the thought of a wall being built on the southern (southwest) border of the United States. I thought the fact that he bragged about sexually assaulting women would make people sick to their stomachs. I was naive, and I was wrong.

I said that I had trouble talking to, relating to, White people – at least for now – because I don’t know where they stand. That is the honest truth.

I did not say that I believed that everyone who voted for the president-elect was or is racist, because I do not believe that. I believe that the president-elect is racist, however, and I believe he is arrogantly so.

I explained how we in this country have a problem because we will not admit our racism. We will not admit the hold that White supremacy has on us and has always had on us as a nation. I said that we are, in the words of the Rev. William Barber, experiencing a Third Reconstruction. Every time in our history, I said, when Black people got ahead, there was White backlash, first after the first Reconstruction following the Civil War; second, after the Civil Rights era … and now.

It was insulting to many White people, I said, that a Black man had been elected to the presidency – not once, but twice, and that this Black man was living in the White House. Many people, I explained, were heartbroken after Barack Obama was elected and vowed to make him a “one term president.” When they failed in 2012 to defeat him, they merely worked to obstruct everything he did.

I explained that we have a problem in this nation, because our two most sacred documents – the United States Constitution and the Christian Bible – endorse and support racism and White supremacy. Racism and sexism were written into the Constitution, and the words of the Bible leave themselves open to interpretation.

That being the case, I said, we have basically two Gods, the God of the oppressed and the God of the oppressor. We have one Bible with two groups of people – the oppressed and the oppressors – interpreting the same sets of words in dialectically different ways.

Religion, I said, White evangelical religion in particular, has interpreted the words of the Bible in such a way as to have made God one who sanctioned White supremacy, racism, sexism and slavery.

That is not the God I was taught, I explained. My mother taught me that the Bible, specifically the words of Jesus, teaches us to love even our enemies. She taught me that as I sat as a child and watched white “Christians” put dogs and firehoses on women and children who were fighting for their human and civil rights.

I concluded my presentation by saying that I am looking for reconciliation and for a God, which is the God of all. I said that God wired us all, no matter who we are, what race, religion or ethnicity, for compassion and love. The chasm between White people and people of color, religiously based, is unacceptable, and hinders racial “healing.”

The president-elect pushed his bigoted and divisive rhetoric, and evangelical Christians endorsed him. It made me sick and, I said, it made many people sick. Many people of color are afraid, and more than might admit are clinically depressed because of exposure of America’s racism. We are sick and depressed because the most powerful man in the world seems to endorse hatred, and he has empowered arrogant racists to burst forth.

In telling the story of little Ruby Bridges, who sat in a schoolroom all by herself for a whole year because of American racism, I said that that sort of thing ought never to have happened, and that the racism that allowed that is still with us today.

And because of what I said, some White people, and maybe some Black, walked away “offended” because they said I had said all White people who voted for Trump were racist – which I never did.

It saddened me because that mindset prevents them from hearing the pain of a group of people that has been scraped raw by the words of the president-elect.

White working men were angry, I get it, but people of color have been angry and afraid and have struggled against racism – individual and institutional – for generations. Nobody has seemed to care, and in fact, too many Whites have pooh-poohed the notion that racism even exists.

The chasm is wide.

I was reminded of it as I got the feedback about the offended Whites.

But I decided something. I decided that I cannot and will not give a sugar-coated message just to make sure White feelings are taken care of. We are way past that. We are in need for truth to be spoken and admitted so that finally, in this country, we can really move toward healing.

Without exposure of the ugly truth, and the sharing of what people of color are feeling, we will merely continue to spin our wheels. Countries which merely spin their wheels eventually lose power.

My intention is not to hurt anyone, but in my gut, I feel that we need to be honest and up front. The president-elect has tapped into the feelings of the “Rust Belt,” of the White working men of America. That is good. He has been hailed as “telling it like it is” for that group of people.

Well, we on the other side of the oppressor’s God need to “tell it like it is,” too, and if someone is offended, then so be it. We are looking for full rights as American citizens, and sooner or later, that has to become a reality. We have worked too long and too hard to be hushed because saying our truth might offend some people.

Enough of that.

And yes, I have omitted saying the name of the president-elect in this article. At this point, I simply am unable to do so.

Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, and is also communications consultant for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Inc. She is available for preaching and teaching. Contact her at revsuekim@sbcgloba.net.

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