Earlier this week my friend Todd posted an article on Facebook written by a friend of his entitled “Silence Makes White People Racist” accompanied with a status that stated, “reading it was like swallowing a hot fork.” I would say his remarks hit the nail on the head.
I pride myself on being someone who is fairly attuned to systemic oppression. Being gay makes me acutely aware of this reality because I experience it daily. I know that, in most states, I may not get a job or could be fired because of my sexual orientation, or a homeowner may not rent me their home. I am not welcome in many churches, synagogues, or (most) mosques. There are a number of countries where I could be justly killed or at best imprisoned. So much for that vacation in Jamaica.
And those are just the ways the system is bent away from LGBTQ people. It doesn’t account for the stares when I walk down the street wearing a shirt that has the word “lesbian” on it or the large number of people I conveniently avoid talking with about a large portion of my life.
But none of that changes the fact that at the end of day I am a racist. I run a non-profit called Level Ground (onlevelground.org) that seeks to bring people together who disagree with each other in regards to faith, gender and sexuality in hopes that in having people meet their “other” we can elevate what has historically been a very malicious conversation. A task that is not all that different from what Taylor is seeking when she encourages white liberals to speak with black Americans not for them.
The reality is, though, it is different. I may be someone who wants to see the world learn to disagree better in regards to gay people but I am also still someone who was silent when the world grieved the death of Trayvon Martin in Zimmerman’s verdict. I am still that white person that moves into black neighborhoods and talks about having black friends growing up all the while failing to stand with my African-American brothers and sisters when the Voting Rights Act was struck down. I am sadly that white person who claims to be so culturally aware and still knowingly benefits from a system that privileges me for being white.
Yes, I am woman. Yes, I am gay. Yes, I am also a racist, not by choice or intent but by the very nature of skin color. And to me, Taylor’s article wasn’t an opportunity for me to justify or parade around all of the ways in which I attempt to be for social justice. Instead, I think her article was a call to repentance.
So I am sorry… for my silence, for my half-hearted attempts to be aware of my whiteness, for falsely claiming to being the same in my oppression, for the infinite ways in which even this article is offensive or misses the boat entirely, and for my utter failure to fully recognize they ways I am a privileged white person.
Teach me. Guide me. I want to listen and learn. Help me stand with instead of stand for the black community. Please always remind me to repent.