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White Awake

I have so many thoughts.

My first thought is for all of my white friends: please read the book. Please step back and be willing to consider, what does it mean to be white? Of course, it is essential for us to not just step back and to not just consider...but to do what Daniel Hill does—be honest as we look. It’s easy to frame our whiteness in the best possible light. It’s easy to let our blind spots stay just out of sight. It’s easy to create us and them paradigms. It’s easy to let our guilt and possibly shame as things begin to come clear cause us to sink back into the safe white shadows. One key starting point is to honestly ask ourselves – how white is my world? Who am I listening to: pastors, authors, teachers, mentors, social media, friends...? This was where Daniel Hill began his journey.

From there he talks about stages we go through on our way to really seeing racism for what it is: Encounter, Denial, Disorientation, Shame, Self-Righteousness, Awakening and Active Participation. “...encounter is the first stage of our cultural identity journey. If we are to be liberated from blindness and to move toward greater levels of awakening, we must find a way to see the deeper meaning behind our daily encounters with race.” (pg. 49)

My second thought is also for my white friends: if this “cultural identity journey,” as Hill calls it, feels unnecessary and burdensome, would you be willing to talk? I want to listen and be a safe place to process and ask questions. This is a conversation motivated by love. I don’t necessarily have answers, but I have come to recognize my blindness and I’m growing toward “active participation” and it has been a beautiful journey I wouldn’t trade for anything. If you don’t really want to have a conversation about this, then I’ll go back to my first thought: Please consider reading the book.

My third thought is that the transformational journey of following Jesus, the truth of the gospel, the commandment to love God and to love my neighbor, the teachings of the “Sermon on the Mount” ...all of it, requires me to wrestle with the reality of systemic racism in this country, and my own whiteness. It distresses me that so many have chosen a posture of defensiveness, denial, and distortion. Rather than repent and learn we choose to blame the very people who need us to engage, understand and change, and subsequently work for change. It feels to me that those who seek to follow Jesus would logically be the first to call out and name racism and injustice (within us and/or in our world). I get a bit boggled that we would rather vilify and misrepresent “CRT” and say we are “colorblind” and call anti-racism work liberal and not the gospel, than really look in the mirror at who we are and how we live and how the systems in our country work and have worked.

It leads me to ask why? Why be defensive? Why not choose instead to listen? Why not do the harder thing of learning and repenting? I’ll close with this paragraph from Daniel Hill (pg. 139). I have appreciated his posture through the years. I've learned a lot about being humble from him...and hope you find his words both hope giving and compelling:

That’s why repentance is such great news for the hungry heart. Once you realize you’re sick, you stop trying to act healthy. And you go on the search for the cure. When you discover that the cure was already searching for you, an explosion of gratitude makes sense. That’s why I regularly and comfortably repent for the sins of white Christians—both for mine and for the sins of my community. It isn’t because I think I’m better than everybody else or that I’m trying to prove that some bad white Christians out there need to be chastised. No, I repent all the time because I believe I’m surrounded by the sickness of racism. I see the sickness in the ideology of white supremacy and have no doubt that it has infected me. I see the sickness in the narrative of racial difference and have no doubt it has infected me. I see the sickness of systemic racism and have no doubt that I contribute to it in ways I’m not aware of. I’m surrounded by sickness, and I am sick. I am in need of the great Physician. It’s the only hope I have to be healthy.

Amen amen.

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