White folks – we need to get past the idea that we need to fix white supremacy for other people – that we can be white saviors coming in to save the brown and black folks in our church. The truth is that we are the ones that are broken. Now don’t get me wrong – White supremacy DEFINITELY needs to be dismantled in order to improve the lives of our brown and black siblings. I just don’t want you to get it twisted. I want you to realize that we too are harmed by white supremacy. That what we need is collective liberation. That we are not the savior. A brown skinned Palestinian Jewish man named Jesus is.
About our brokenness. We are seriously lacking in empathy. When we hear about another black body being shot on the news, we wait “to hear the whole story” before we can lament about the situation. We find some way to justify what was done. We find some way to assign blame to the victim. “Well if he wasn’t walking in the street.” “If he didn’t speak that way to the police.” “Well he shouldn’t have been selling loose cigarettes.” “Well he did have a realistic toy gun in his hand.” Somehow we have become okay with state sanctioned executions in the street. Where oh where is our empathy? White supremacy tells us that objectivity is possible – that emotions shouldn’t play a role in decision making. All too often we get stuck in our heads and we forget about our hearts. We rationalize away some pretty awful things. White supremacy has us do these things.
White supremacy also tells us that we have a right to comfort. In church. White supremacy tells us that we have a right to comfort in church. What?! Jesus was about flipping power structures, lifting up the lowly – he was executed by the state for standing up for his friends. Jesus was intensely political. But we want the church to “not be political”. We want the church to be comfortable. We think talking about race is racist. We wonder if we could just use some words other than “white supremacy”, which after all isn’t really that big of a problem. So without thinking about it, we have created the equation that white comfort is more important than black lives. OUCH. I know – its a shocking realization.
I know – some of you are probably super mad right now. You’re mad because you think I am accusing you of being a white supremacist. You’re mad because you can’t possibly be a white supremacist – you’re a good person – white supremacy tells you that you have to be perfect. You can’t have some flaw like white supremacy or racism. The thing is, white supremacy is not so much about you as an individual as it is about this insidious evil system that we are ALL caught up in and that we ALL suffer from – though in different and unequal ways. The evil genius of white supremacy is that it operates without you noticing or doing anything to keep it in place. It is so deep and entrenched that we don’t even notice it or realize that we have anything to do with it.
It’s going to take a lot to root white supremacy out of church folks and its going to be hard, but we HAVE to do the work. Much harm has been done because we have failed to do the work. (I often wonder what Dylann Roof learned in his church about racism. I wonder if he had pictures of white Jesus hanging in his ELCA congregation. I wonder what role did our denomination play or not play in his formation.) We are going to have to offer each other an ABUNDANCE of grace. We are going to have to be okay with not knowing what we are doing and forging ahead on faith. We are going to have to ask other white folks to give up their comfortable positions because the truth is that white comfort is NOT more important that black lives.
The truth is that we are all the body of Christ together and when part of the body hurts, the whole body should feel it. We shouldn’t wait “to hear the whole story”. We should feel it with our whole heart. As Bishop Eaton said tonight – until white folks care about the death of black lives as if they were their own, nothing is going to change. Can you join me in hoping and praying for the holy spirt to enter our hearts and move us to compassion and to action? Can you join me in calling for the dismantling of white supremacy?
Bio: Shari Seifert lives in Minneapolis with her wife, two sons and the cutest Golden Doodle you have ever seen. She works as a Realtor and is committed to working towards dismantling white supremacy in the ELCA. Shari is currently vice-president of the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ), a member of the Minneapolis Synod racial justice table, her congregation’s Race Equity Committee and Multi-faith Anti-Racism and Healing (MARCH) She is also on the core planning team the Multicultural Youth Leadership Experience (MYLE).