OUR MORAL OBLIGATION to Confront White Supremacy – or — The Eleven Stages of Dismantling White Supremacy (written with white people in mind)
The headlines have been ghastly. Hate crimes are on the rise.
White supremacy groups are growing in strength.
It is a time for people of faith to come together and speak out.
We must begin with the reminder that we are One. This is not just God’s plan; this is the reality of God’s creation.
To exalt one group over another is to deny subordinated groups their full human dignity as children of God.
It is a blasphemy and an injustice.
Confronting white supremacy, though, is an arduous and difficult task for white people, requiring steadfast moral courage and a willingness to take risks.
In that spirit, I offer the following Eleven Stages of Dismantling White Supremacy for whites:
1. Denial –We reject the idea that racism is still present and harming people. We say, we’ve had a black president. How bad could it be?
2. Resistance – once we begin to examine the reality and enormity of racism, however, we often move to resistance. We don’t want to face the fact that white supremacy exists in the United States. It’s a very hard reality to face.
3. Discomfort – After we’ve reflect upon the implications of racism, we often grow uncomfortable. We may begin to wonder if we’ve internalized racism and are part of the problem.
4. Defensiveness – The distress in Stage 3 often leads to defensiveness. We make statements such as “My family didn’t own slaves.” Or “I have friends or family members who are people of color so I am obviously not a racist.”
5. Guilt – Once we have moved beyond defensiveness, it’s only natural to feel some guilt. Guilt because we could be resisting racism more actively.
6. Fear – Then there’s fear. We’re afraid of becoming “that person” – the one who awkwardly interrupts racist comments and jokes.
The one who calls people out, making them uncomfortable and becoming uncomfortable ourselves. The one who might risk friendships, family relationships, even jobs to point out racist words and actions in front of us, promulgated by people we love, people we respect, and people who pay us.
7. Paralysis – At about this point we might find ourselves emotionally immobilized by both helplessness and hopelessness. The enormity of racism, the horrific power of its impacts on people of color, is overwhelming.
8. Anger – When we break through the paralysis we get to anger. Anger at the individual people who hurt other people. Anger that this commitment to work for racial justice is so hard. Anger that every time the country makes two steps forward on racial equality it makes one step back.
9. Sadness— Underneath all of these stages is a deep, abiding sadness. Sadness that white supremacy ever came to pass at all, grief at the suffering endured by people of color.
10. Resignation – Eventually, we get to the place of resignation. We can no longer deny the reality of white supremacy in our country.
11. Commitment – After all of these difficult stages, we finally tap into a willingness to listen and contribute where we can.
Moving through the stages of confronting both the racial structures of society and our place in them is profoundly difficult.
Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, we can’t do it alone.
With God’s unconditional love and guidance as our guides, may this be our work to do together…today, tomorrow and as long as it takes.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Kate Lore is a minister at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend. Her email is [email protected]