I love this book. “dear white peacemakers” is an honest, complex, anti-racist, deeply spiritual book. Osheta Moore gives us a beautiful opportunity here to sit at her feet and learn. She pastored me in these pages. I am grateful.
I also believe this is a book for both black and white people. Since I am white, I will keep in my lane and share my thoughts and my perspective...but it seems to me we can all benefit from her perspective, her experiences, her pain, her anger, her choices, and her wisdom. I am a white peacemaker, in my heart, and in the way I want to live my life. I need her words and they help me!
She writes in the beginning of the chapters with letters to people like me...and on page 51 she says,
I worry, friend, that you’re building a legalistic practice of ‘read this, say this, protest here,’ which is always shame-laden and hustle-bound. Belovedness, however, undoes our striving and proving, and if there is one thing white supremacy reinforces, it is a scarcity mindset of identity and worth. This is partly why you’re exhausted, my friend. You’re constantly proving your worth and unsure how to measure your efficacy. Instead, the only thing you should be focused on is owning your Belovedness, proclaiming my Belovedness, and working to become the Beloved Community.
I wrote WHEW in the margin right there...because exactly that. Belovedness is quite a shift from condemnation and endless striving. So many white people tend to be reactive around the concepts of whiteness—white privilege, white supremacy, white fragility. We become defensive. I wonder why? Something inside must protect our identity as not bad...so we either dig in and work for change (as she says above) or we get defensive and deny we are part of the problem. Belovedness is quite a different source of motivation than shame, reactivity, and working to the point of complete exhaustion. Maybe I should not try to speak for all white people and just speak for myself!
I have long felt ill equipped. I didn’t have words, just a gut sense of the wrongness of it all. I knew black and brown people were treated differently. I knew I wanted to be part of a solution. I had no idea where to begin. When Rodney King was beaten by police in 1991, we lived about a mile away from where it happened in Pacoima, just north of Los Angeles. Four officers were charged with use of excessive force...they very nearly killed him, though he was trying to cooperate. They were all acquitted. It was a very real jolt that they could get away with what they did, even when there was video evidence of it all. The whole thing was filmed by the parent of one of our son’s friends. We were horrified.
As protests and tensions escalated, I was driving home from work, got off the freeway, and found myself in the middle of a very angry protest. I drove slowly through a large crowd of black people who were shouting at everyone driving by. I remember it like it was yesterday. I wanted to say I’m with you...but I didn’t know how to be with them. I didn’t know how to tell them who I was on the inside. I felt too white. Too likely to be categorized as supportive of the white police officers. I felt angry, sad, helpless, complicit...I felt like part of the problem, and I wanted to be part of the solution. The very last thing I felt was Belovedness.
There have of course been more and worse incidents before and since 1991. Back then I tried learning more by asking my black friends. I was that white person. It took a long time for me to realize that I needed to learn on my own. If I wanted to be part of the solution, I needed a deeper understanding of it all. So, I started reading...there are so many books! And listening to people who did not look like me. I sought out black voices to teach me, but I left my friends alone! They were already exhausted. This January book, this one is grace upon grace...a black woman who is willing to extend to me, a white woman, with patience, honesty, clarity, and a charge. The charge is sticking with me, and I’m determined to answer it with yes. YES. More on that in a minute.
On page 273 Ms. Moore has some powerful words:
I’m angry about racism and the lasting influence of white supremacy. So. Very.
Angry. I’m angry at every act of violence toward Black and Brown people. I’m
Angry at biases and microaggressions. I’m angry at the fear that keeps White
Peacemakers quiet. I’m angry that we’re influenced by scarcity that keeps us from taking risks that might result in healing. I’m incredibly angry. But my anger doesn’t give me permission to sin. It doesn’t give me permission to take it out on White people. It doesn’t give me permission to mistreat and believe the worst about them. It just doesn’t. My anger is not holy like God’s—I cannot always trust it to burn up all that is dross and leave only the gold. So, my job as a Black Peacemaker, a peacemaker committed to anti-racism, is to be for every single image bearer in this fight and to take all these big feelings of mine—all my anger, all my fear, all my sadness, all my perceived smallness—and give it to God.
As an often angry, Enneagram 1 person, I appreciate this. I’m learning too that my anger doesn’t give me permission for a lot of things. I need to bring it to God. I need to feel it, process it, not let it come out sideways...but there are a lot of things to not do with it.
So, her question that I have taken as a charge, I have taken as a specific call to action. She says, “The question is, then, White Peacemakers, are you willing to suffer to make sure we live in a world that never forgets our imago Dei?”
Yes. YES. What suffering means will continue to unfold, and I often feel like it isn’t REALLY suffering. It may mean hard conversations with people I love. It may mean giving money to organizations working to fight racism (there are so many really good ones.) It may mean taking to the streets to protest. I’m not sure...but I am willing to step into whatever suffering looks like, because my black brothers and sisters are exactly that, my sisters, and my brothers. We are all made in God’s image. We are all family. When they suffer, I suffer.
Thank you Osheta.