A missive written after a recent session of Sacred Conversations to End Racism

Posted by permission of Susan Nathiel 

The question you asked was why white people do not get it – or not seem to really take in the history and the reality of the massive racism in this country for over 400 years.   Renee Harrison talked about shame, which is definitely part of it. 

For me, taking in the reality of hundreds of years of violence and cruelty and dehumanization of millions of Black people, — my reaction has been like waves coming in on the shore, farther and farther with each tide.  Horror, shock, trying to minimize some of it somehow – then deep deep grief and paralysis and depression, and then grasping that these were “my people ” doing all this. My ancestors.  White people just like me. The shame and guilt is relentless – even as I know it’s not helpful in doing anti-racism work,  but I think white people need to sit with it for some time. 

Then there was seeing how complicit I am, how much I have benefitted and still benefit, how embedded I am in white supremacy thinking and being.

At that point I started to feel really fragmented. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore. Like my whole life was a confusing lie, opposite from what I thought.  I was lied to from childhood, about who I was and who other people were and what it all meant. My personality – is it me or is it what I was taught about being white? My values – some of them are just white. What do I really believe? What’s me and what’s this toxic poison I swallowed for decades? 

I was beyond “I feel ashamed” or “I feel guilty>’ I was in “I don’t even know who I am anymore” territory. My reflex was to try to find my grounding, find myself again – but I couldn’t. It was frightening, like being in free fall. 

I came up with a kind of extreme scenario that might give you an idea of what I mean. It’s a little gory but I hope you understand.

Suppose you found out that you had blacked out – for some reason – and found out that you had gone out on the street with an ax and beheaded some random person.

Would you feel “I feel guilty” or “I feel ashamed?”  No.  you’d feel 

WHO AM I ???!!!  You would feel the ground under your feet just melted. You wouldn’t even know what’s up and what’s down.  You knew who you were – but this action you took is a million miles from who you ever thought you were.  

That’s kind of the feeling.  Who am I?  Saturated in white supremacy thinking my whole life.  Complicit in everything I detest and condemn.  And not just one or two incidents – but 400 years of being monstrous to millions of children, women, men, families.   

I imagine you’ve asked that question lots of other times and gotten various answers. Does this add any new dimension?  I know there are more conscious ways white people resist taking reality in, but for me these seismic shifts in my identity are still the most profound ways I’ve experienced confronting reality.  I’m more re-integrated now than when all this started to hit me, but it’s changed me permanently. There’s no going back. 

Thanks for listening


Preaching to White People About White Supremacy: Some Don’ts and More Don’ts

By Rev. Karyn Carlo Ph.D., Board Member of WomanPreach, Inc. www. womanpreach.org
Collaborator, Nurturing Justice

The Womanpreach! Nation is all about finding our voices for prophetic preaching.

Among the most critical tasks of prophetic preaching today is preaching to white people about white supremacy. As a white woman working with womanists I often hear the phrase “ go get your cousins”
meaning some of my white “ relatives” are acting up with some racist nonsense and I, as their “ cousin” need to correct them. The problem is that most of my cousins don’t want to get got. To be honest I don’t always want to get got either. It is hard on the white ego. It hurts our white feelings and we have been trained from a young age that our feelings matter – even more than black lives. My cousins and I do not wear white hoods or generally associate with Nazis and may even have voted for President
Obama so we don’t identify as white supremacists. After all we are liberals and liberals can’t be white supremacists. Except we can and we are. No one who is born white in a white supremacist world such as ours can escape being deeply affected by our nation’s foundational sin, often unconsciously. Like all sin, we need to first face it. White people need to face the discomfort (and really that is all it is not the crisis
we make it out to be) of realizing that all white people perpetrate white supremacy, if not actively then by default. We need to hear that, like sin itself, white supremacy cannot be overcome in our lifetimes solely by our own efforts. We rely on God’s grace. Nonetheless we are still responsible for doing our best and very few of us (me and my cousins) really are doing our best. That is why we need prophetic preaching about white supremacy. We may not want it and you may not get a bunch of amens (or whatever else we culturally do to express appreciation) for mentioning it. In fact if my own experience preaching to white people about white supremacy is any indication, count on resistance. Big time. My cousins will fight you. Nonetheless, white people NEED to hear about the evils of white supremacy and prophetic preachers of all races need to preach about it both in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.

How? I am not sure. I am still trying to work it out. The most I can tell you at this point in my journey to go get my cousins and to go myself is what NOT to do. So here is my ever growing list of don’ts and more
don’ts when it comes to preaching to white people about white supremacy:

  1. Don’t rely solely on fact data. Of course white supremacy relies on lies and those lies need to be corrected. We have all been seriously miseducated and are in need of re-education regarding the formation of white supremacy. However facts alone, most of which can be found via Google, are not enough. There needs to be a reason to WANT to pull our fingers out of our ears, stop singing lalala, and listen to a new, more truthful rendering of history than what we have heard before. That means making it personal. To be able to make it personal you, the preacher, need to first search your own soul. How has your own life been affected by the sin of white supremacy? Start there.
  2. Don’t forget to work on yourself first. If you are white this work will include the layer by layer never-ending deconstruction of the internalized sense of race- based superiority we are inevitably afflicted with due to life as white in a white supremacist society. If you are black or brown a huge part of your work will be to deconstruct the internalized inferiority that comes from being designated “less than” in a white supremacist society. This work will never end but it must at least be begun and shared with others as the heart and foundation of the antiracist project.
  3. Don’t “ speak truth to power” as if power didn’t know. As a social justice activist, I often hear the admonition to “ speak truth to power. “ The more I engage in antiracist work however the less useful I find this admonition to be. Power does not lack information. Those who play major roles in maintaining systems of white supremacy know the truth. That is why they manipulate it so well. We do not need to educate white supremacists about white supremacy. They already wrote the book. The task of the prophet is to call for the destruction of oppressive systems not to tell them what they already know.
  4. Don’t put peace ahead of justice. In the midst of white discomfort and fragility expect to hear the word “ peace” a lot. Be careful with this. Ask yourself if these cries for peace are based on cries for justice. Usually they are not.
  5. Don’t strive for unity over truth. Another word you are likely to hear from well meaning liberals is “ unity” as if this was the ultimate goal. Consider instead what it is we need to unify with. White supremacy is very unified, unified in its evil. Reconciliation has its moment but it cannot be rushed. Without justice at its foundation unity only perpetrates evil.
  6. Don’t depend on amens. Prophetic preaching is not the same as popular preaching. Just tell the truth as best as you know it. As we say at Womanpreach! trust God’s voice in your mouth.

Wake Up!

by Kris Watson

It is reported that the most recent white supremacist terrorist who gunned down 11 African descendent people, killing 10 of them, was inspired by a similar killer in New Zealand. I call bullshit. Not that there is not  enough global racism for it to be true, but let’s face it, this 18-year-old terrorist was inspired right here at home. This boy was nurtured in the home, in the community, in the church and in the schools. Without a doubt he never has had a relationship with a person of color. He had to travel to find us. No doubt he has been fed lies by Mother Tucker Carlson, and others. There can be no doubt that his inferior education was based on the myth of White American exceptionalism.   

We have to wake up to the reality that we are in the midst of a civil war. A brand of evil that had been laying just beneath the surface but bubbling up in the last decade or two. And we have mostly fallen asleep in Babylon. Wake up! We are in civil war. White Male patriarchy insists on having its way. They will control the bodies of women, they will not be outnumbered by people of color, they will perpetuate the systemic and personal injustices that have fed their fragile egos for centuries.  

Wake up! If we fail to resist, spiritual death is certain. If white women continue to cooperate with the narrative of white skinned supremacy, we will have the nation filled with legislators who will fully execute and implement laws designed to subjugate them and people of color. If white men of good conscience do not rise up and reject the false narrative that there is a hierarchy of human value based on skin color, there will be little hope.  

Black people must resist in a panoply of ways: Engage in immediate practices of self-care and healing of the ongoing trauma. Educate, agitate, advocate, refuse to be in bondage to the racialized capitalism that has dominated our colonized minds. Decolonize your minds. Now.

#nurturingjustice #decolonizeyourmind #educationmatters #byanymeansnecessary

Dear White People… The Problem With Allies

What shall we call white people who care about racial justice? Is “allies” a good name? I feel uneasy about this term and the reality behind it, that reality being that, for us, the struggle may ( or may not) be real but it is always optional in a way that can never be optional for black or brown people. 

Our motives may vary. Some may engage in the work because it seems like a “good” thing to do and we do need to think of ourselves as good people, not racist, among the “woke” etc.. But at the end of the day allies still have the option of opting out. We can return to a comfortable whiteness any time and often do whenever the going gets rough and the cost is too high. Allies are truly fair weather friends.

So what is the alternative? I think it is to be found in a deeper level of introspection leading to a deeper and more existential commitment to the work. That is, we need to realize the truth of what James Weldon Johnson said in 1917 upon viewing the burned body of Ell Persons. ” the truth flashed over me that in large measure the race question involves the saving of black America’s body and white America’s soul.”

Dear white people, our very souls are on the line! I am often accused of self hate when it comes to why I do the work of racial justice. Nothing could be further from the truth.  I love myself and, even knowing I can never fully emancipate myself from the chains that being born white into a white supremacist world have placed on my consciousness, I believe my soul is worth saving. I am not an ally who goes home after a few acts of performative solidarity.  I am simply a woman doing whatever I can to save my own soul, trusting God’s grace to do the rest.

Go to her Blog page: Dear White People: The Problem With Allies | Fixin To Preach (karyncarlo.net)

Rev. Karyn Carlo Ph.D.

is a retired police Captain who, having witnessed many forms of systemic racism and injustice, chose to become a Liberation Theologian. An ordained American Baptist minister, she earned her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at Union Theological Seminary where she studied under the tutelage of the late Dr. James Cone, widely recognized as the father of Black Liberation Theology.  Dr. Carlo currently serves as a global theological educator teaching as guest professor in seminaries in Burma and Liberia.   As a woman of white European descent, she is passionate about doing the work of dismantling the systemic white supremacy that destroys us all and working toward a more just way of being.

My best friend… is not Black

By Pat Dolin (Used by permission of author)

Racism was the breast milk and maybe it was not lactose but bigotry that made me sick Teased because I didn’t understand. I lived in the north or west so didn’t see how ‘they’ were. I never could learn, it never made sense, but my family of Origin kept trying to insist

A history of shame , a life of privilege But wait, my best friend —- is Not Black

Let me keep learning my privilege, add my voice to the resistance for I am one with the world.

And I stood before you a new member of the NAACP and waited for directions, to learn and to see. How I can walk beside you and be helpful and free

But wait, my best friend …..is Not Black

Do I say I am with you when I’ve never known what it’s like being afraid because of the color of my skin?

Is it more privilege that I stand up and speak of the pain of my struggles of family love/hate and shame?
Making it about me in my white privileged skin and having thought the excuse of, ” I’ve known prejudice being a woman and fat” and using my privilege to extract – extract what and from whom—I’m sorry, I can’t.

If I could remove this DNA surgically and heal and be whole.
But around me while I’m healing, while I’m learning,
The bodies continue to fall. Black bodies, brown bodies, unloved, unwanted, feared and hated. Blamed for making others with pale skin feel the shame, burn with the guilt and be reminded of the DNA of a withered, sickly soul.

My white sisters and brothers, don’t you feel the disease? It was your breast milk also. We got the milk of not kindness but hate and fear and this land of milk and honey turned rancid, and the sweetness of the honey provided a pseudo sweetness to mask the bitterness of raping, degrading, hanging, beating and killing black bodies- gentle souls full of life, full of God, full of love.

But wait, my best friend…..is not Black

Step outside, outside the door, outside the body, alone with our damaged, burned, shriveled souls. See the souls of others and together nurture, heal, love, caress, feed
How similar the wounds are, deep reminders of the souls’ desire to thrive, and the soul becomes light, unbroken, essence, God’s image in us always.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Rev. Kris Watson

I was 11 years old when my maternal grandfather died. His name was Rev. James M. Hinton. He was a hero of the civil rights movement in the South.

Hinton, James Miles | South Carolina Encyclopedia (scencyclopedia.org) 

“Clergyman, businessman, civil rights leader. Hinton was born on October 28, 1891, in Gates County, North Carolina, to parents who died when was three years old. He was reared by an aunt in New York City, where he attended the Bible Teacher’s Training School and worked as a postal clerk. During World War I, Hinton was drafted into the U.S. Army and earned the rank of lieutenant. After the war he began a successful business career with the black-owned Pilgrim Health and Life Insurance Company based in Augusta, Georgia. In 1939 he established a home in Columbia, South Carolina. On his arrival he rapidly earned a reputation as a businessman, minister, and leading civil rights figure.

Hinton’s move to Columbia proved a key factor in shaping the future course of the black struggle for racial equality across the Palmetto State. Elected to serve as the president of an ailing National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branch in Columbia shortly after his arrival in 1939, Hinton embraced the role of outspoken civil rights activist only reluctantly. As president of the Columbia branch, Hinton opposed the creation of the South Carolina NAACP State Conference of Branches in the fall of 1939. But as the demands for forceful civil rights leadership grew, Hinton assumed the duties of state conference president, holding the position from 1941 through 1958. During his tenure as state conference president, Hinton led the exponential expansion of the NAACP in South Carolina, taking the struggle for black civil rights into the cities, towns, cotton fields, and rural county churches of South Carolina. “I have never in my life heard anybody speak like he could speak,” explained one NAACP official. “When he got through speaking [the people] were ready to go, to do whatever was necessary” to secure their rights. The fights to win equal salaries for black teachers and to vote in the all-white Democratic Party primary were waged and achieved under his leadership. Perhaps more than any single leader in South Carolina, Hinton was also responsible for turning the tide against the Jim Crow doctrine of “separate but equal.” Historians credit him with inspiring Clarendon County residents to sue for equal educational opportunities, leading to a suit included in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education. Certainly, Hinton had begun demanding that NAACP members take a forceful stand against the doctrine of, in his words, “separate but never equal,” by the fall of 1947. As a forceful advocate of racial equality, Hinton placed his own life and business career on the line. In April 1949 he was abducted in Augusta, beaten, and left facedown in the countryside for daring to champion the cause of racial equality. In January 1956, at the height of the white backlash to Brown, Hinton’s Columbia home was struck by gunfire.” Hinton, James Miles | South Carolina Encyclopedia (scencyclopedia.org) 

On Thursday night, NJ hosted Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith in a discussion he entitled “Perspectives of Hope for a Redeemed Future” You can view it on our website.

As Dr. Smith shared his wisdom with us, I reflected on my grandfather, our current state of racial affairs in this country, and the work that still lies ahead. I am reflecting on the deep sacrifices that my ancestors made just to be treated as human. I am reflecting on the strength and courage of my people born of necessity. I am reflecting on the stories I heard from my mother about her days with her daddy as he fought the good fight. She would tell me about driving him all through the back woods of the deep south to register people to vote, being chased by the dogs of the KKK all the while. She was just 15 years old. She would recount the stories of crosses being burnt on their lawn on a regular basis. She told the story of how granddaddy was beaten “to within an inch of his life” by the KKK.  She said he was unrecognizable when she went to see him in the hospital. But he refused to stop. 

Dr. Smith is that way. He refuses to stop. He joined us at Nurturing Justice. 90 years of age and still fighting the good fight in the way he can. Encouraging, exhorting, preaching and teaching. Leading by example!  His mind and his passion are sharp. He ain’t in no ways tired!  How dare we claim we are tired?  Dr. Smith remarked to me that we have no choice if we follow the brown-skinned carpenter Jesus. He reminded me that we are not responsible for the outcome of our fight, but the fight. He said Paul never said he had won the fight, but only that he had finished the course. He reminds us that being tired is proof that we have been in the fight. And that is what the call is. This fight for justice, for the elimination of the notion that there is a hierarchy of human value is never over.  

Dr. Smith is the founding member of the Nurturing Justice Council of Elders. I see my grandfather as the chair of the Council of Ancestors watching closely as we continue the work that must be done. 

I aint in no ways tired. #CAN’TSTOPWON’TSTOP.