Dear friend —
None of my kids are throwing up right now, the dishwasher is running, and I don’t have room for any more clean clothes so I can take some time to respond to you with the depth your questions deserve.
I haven’t really read the Black authors you reference because the little bit I’ve read about or from them has not made sense to me as I live in a Black family.
The article I posted does, though. Putting the question of identity politics aside for now, and focusing on white supremacy and its effects — which is why I posted that article, because I want justice and equity for my family. Or even an acknowledgement, just for a start, that our country has functioned in such a way as to diminish my children’s chances for success. Your “but what about identity politics” question felt like a juke that distracted from my point.
My children’s ancestors on Roy’s side were stolen from their country and enslaved. They were not compensated for their labor. I haven’t been able to trace far enough back to know their precise stories, but there are enough slave narratives around for me to feel confident their enslaved condition was bad. If I’m remembering correctly, my side of the family can trace their lineage back to the 900s. On Roy’s side, all we have is “somewhere in Africa” and the fact that native-born Nigerians assume he’s Nigerian until he starts talking.
My side of the family, whenever we came to America (or Canada) were allowed to own property and read, and I’m pretty sure at least the men could vote. I don’t know if you’ve read the black codes enforced during slavery, but unless they were very fortunate, Roy’s family not only couldn’t do those things, but were counted as only 3/5ths of a person.
On my mom’s side of the family, even my grandmother went to college. Roy was the first person in his family to finish college. Let’s not forget that except for HBCUs, most historical white colleges didn’t admit black people for years and years, so his family wasn’t afforded access to the same educational opportunities as mine were.
Both of my grandfathers were allowed to benefit from the GI bill. I don’t know if Roy’s WWII or Korean war era grandfathers served in the military, but as black southerners, they wouldn’t have been able to benefit to the same extent.
And because of redlining and the bank control of lending, if they were given access to loans, they wouldn’t have been able to own houses — and accumulate wealth — in the same places as my white family did. When the first black family did move into my grandmother’s neighborhood, she said they were really nice, but she worried about her property values going down.
In Missouri, black children (this includes my children) are four times as likely to be suspended at school as white children. Black people are more likely to be killed by the police. In our time at St Louis, on our street, I was there when an officer pulled his weapon. Roy was on the street trying to help diffuse a situation which was only a very loud drunk woman fighting with a relative, but if he hadn’t heard or complied quickly enough with the officer’s command, he could have been just another scary dead black man.
I’m just not able to coolly contemplate the fact that my children’s heritage has been ravaged, that my husband’s death at the hands of the folks who are supposed to protect us all is more likely, and then get into so-called objective arguments. It’s real life for me.
Slavery, Jim Crow, Redlining, white flight, school segregation, those are all real, objective things that happen and their effects are REAL. When whoever it was decided it was more important to exploit dark skinned people for their labor instead of treating them as humans — when they gave them an identity of black people and less than and subhuman so they could comfortably treat them as chattel and not people, that was real, and its effects are real today.
All you have to do to know this is listen and believe black people. To me, it’s a pretty simple living out of Philippians 2, and considering the interests of others more than your own. It’s only hard if you have a lot to lose — and a lot of white people (and some black people) have a lot to lose when they consider that they may be personally anti-racist but are complicit in a larger system.
I’m thankful that you did that thing that you noted in your blog post, and any other things that you’ve done as an individual. That dude was clearly an Awful Racist, and the dude that didn’t seem to care a regular Racist. Jesus has paid for their sins. All I was trying to point out was that Awful racists, regular racists, and plain ol’ complicit folks are all part of a broken/wicked system in our country that has systematically devalued black life in this country since 1619. This affects me and my family in ways that make “objectivity” impossible.
I know that identity politics are a part of all this but I just don’t care about it. You are loved and beloved by Jesus and he sees you and I think that should be able to sustain your feeling like you are losing your voice. From the election results, it seems like there are certainly still large groups of people that listen exclusively to white men, so I just…don’t care about that. We’re all sinners and different people oppress folks in different ways but it’s worth looking at who has historically held power and wealth and who still doesn’t have it. And if you think I’m talking about these things too much I’ll just note that having a house in a black neighborhood that you can’t sell at a profit makes one notice these sorts of things at a personal level.
Believe me, this is something I struggle with myself, wanting to have a voice, but also wanting to honor and uplift and listen to the voices of the folks whose experience is more like my children’s than mine will ever be.
That’s what it comes down to for me — I want more and better and safety for my family, and if that means lowering my voice so others can be heard, so justice can be done then I’ll do it, even if it hurts. I’ll note that theoretically, white black queer straight, we are all created by God and thus part of a larger family, not to mention the Black christians with whom you are part of God’s specific redeemed family. What would you do to help your family?