As a white person, I have been reluctant to raise my voice in the many conversations about Black Lives Matter. In my own field, as a Gender Justice Specialist I am confident that well-meaning men coming in with their opinions rarely helps anyone. So before you read on, if you want some practical ways of making a difference regarding Black Lives Matter, scroll down to the “WHAT CAN YOU DO?” section where I suggest two brilliant women to support.
Years ago, I was in a Church home group discussing Jesus’ pronouncements on the rich. There was a sense in the group of othering the rich as “those people over there”, and I wanted to challenge the group with the idea that as people living in the West, we are The Rich. What I wanted to say was, “It’s all very well us assuming the rich are someone else, when our status compared to those elsewhere in the world is so much higher; let’s be careful about assuming that Jesus’ words to the rich don’t apply to us.” But what I actually ended up blurting out was, “Well as we’re all white here…” at which point I looked around and realised that of the six people present, only three of us were white. I mumbled on for a while, hoping the floor would swallow me up.
I’ve been delivering training recently, and within it we do a session on intersectionality. One of the things I find white people say when we talk about race is, “Well I don’t see colour, I just see people.” Which is basically the same as me in that church group. Even though I had been working to address male violence and had a good handle on the reality of power dynamics, I hadn’t noticed the impact of race for people who are not white. I didn’t even notice the races of the people in my own church group.
After I left the church group (by the door, given that the floor would not swallow me) I was ashamed of my ignorance. I had totally erased many important elements of the lives of those in the group. Their history and family, the depth and breadth of their identity, and the many challenges they face within a racist society. Me, with my passion for social justice and commitment to make power dynamics visible, was perpetuating the erasure of power differences IN A CONVERSATION ABOUT POWER DIFFERENCES. We must be perpetually vigilant to the ways we are blinded to injustice and oppression, even as we commit to being those who challenge injustice.
Last week, two Christians announced they were writing a book about “Just Leadership”. The authors are white men. I’m sure they think they can do justice to the subject (no pun intended), but the two biggest Western movements for justice in the last few years have been #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. Academic Robin DiAngelo points out in THIS video that,
“I can live my whole life in segregation, in fact if I followed the trajectory that my loving parents laid out for me, in my good neighbourhood and my good school, and my good college, and my good career, in which I would ideally rise to the top, I could easily never have any consistent, ongoing, authentic relationships with people of colour, and not one person who guided me ever conveyed that there was loss… [This shows that] there is no inherent value in the perspectives or experiences of people of colour. If my parents, schools, curriculum, teachers, government saw value in those perspectives, I would be given those perspectives. But I wasn’t given those perspectives.”
All the people involved in the Just Leadership book; the staff working for the publisher, the authors, and whoever encouraged the authors to put a proposal in, did not see that such a book would be less valuable with only white men writing it. This isn’t about tokenism or a need to tick the right demographic boxes. Rather it is recognising that there is great loss in not having the perspectives of black and minoritized people (including women), when we talk about any subject (most particularly on topics related to justice!).
Perhaps there may be a temptation for these authors to simply steal the ideas of consult with the nearest black people they know; however as THIS article points out, that is simply tokenism. It’s not solely about grabbing the nearest person of the right colour or sex and asking their views. There’s plenty of women who don’t believe misogyny exists; do they have the necessary expertise to address gender inequality? It’s unlikely. THIS article suggests another issue with this “consulting” approach; it is exploitative. As Latasha Morrison says within the article, “It’s not the responsibility of the ordinary Black person to educate white people. That, in itself, is oppressive…”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
We need to do better. Taking time to read about race and educate ourselves (WITHOUT exploiting the time, labour and energy of black and minoritized people) is one way. Some books that might be helpful are:
- “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” by Reni Eddo Lodge
- “The Black Christ” by Kelly Brown Douglas
- “Sisters In the Wilderness” by Delores Williams
- “I’m Still Here” by Austin Channing Brown
- “We Need To Talk about Race” by Benjamin Lindsay
- “Ghost Ship” by A.D.A France-Williams
But that is not enough, we need to offer financial support to those who are working to bring change. I would like to invite you to support my dear friends at Next Leadership, who have been working tirelessly for many years within contexts that are both sexist and racist. Rev Dr Kate Coleman and Rev Cham Kaur-Mann are legends, who need our support and encouragement. They run leadership programmes and would particularly like to spend more of their time working with those in the black community. However they need money to do that! If you would be able to support their work, either with a one-off donation or (preferably) give regularly to them, you can do so via bank transfer. Their bank details are:
Account Name: Next Leadership
Sort code: 77-85-10
Account no: 36499668
If you could use “BLM” in the reference when you transfer money, they will then know to ringfence the money for their work within the black community. Also Kate’s book “7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership” is excitingly being republished by Zondervan, and you can find out more about it HERE.