Leah and I have had a rich correspondence as we have both tried to grapple from our different social locations with the power of racism in our lives. The grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown left us both feeling outraged and hamstrung, with the question, what do we do now? And what do we tell our children? Leah has a daughter, Dance (10 years) and two boys, Michael and Gabriel (3 years). I have a daughter, Sylvie (4 years). I asked Leah what she would tell my child, and Leah asked me what I would tell hers.
Kate Foran, November 2014.
Today, we post Leah’s letter and tomorrow we will post Kate‘s.
I am incredibly sorrowful and am slowly climbing to hope after being impacted by the countless murders of Black and Brown people in the U.S. I hate that no matter how smart, brilliant, formally educated, wealthy, or spiritually gifted I, my husband, our children, and other Black and Brown folks might be – we are not valued by the systems and institutions in the U.S. and its territories. I am disappointed every time I hear about white folks that are oblivious to racism intentionally or unintentionally. There are some White folks that benefit from racist systems that will never see our worth. And yet friends like Kate whose eyes are open, who choose to ask themselves the tough questions and answer the call of God to “Go ye therefore” into nations of White folks to encourage their repentance, healing, and intentional lifestyle in Christ. I pray that we continue to seek the Christ to break every shackle so that we plant seeds of liberation instead of complacency.
The following are some seeds I want to plant in the hearts, minds and souls of White children.
THINGS I want to tell White children:
Do not ever be so afraid that you close your eyes. God gave you power to be brave in the face of adversity and crisis. God gave you perfect love so you would love your enemies so much that you hold them accountable and so that you would stand up for people that may or may not look like you. And a sound mind that no matter how the storm rages you would not forget that we were all made in the image of Almighty God! 1Tim 1:7
Go anyway! Go beyond your insecurities, fear, and the unknown and stand up anyway! You have every right to sit quietly after a storm, breathe deeply, forgive the oppressors, and advocate for equal rights equal access/execution of justice.
It will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. But you will see shifts in the paradigm. There will be moments when you can cheer in victory and moments when you will want to runaway and hide! Keep going anyway.
You are not a martyr. You are a person. You are a child of the King of Kings! You are royalty! You are gift to those you come in contact with! You are a direct heir to the treasures of God. Because of those things you need to put on the full armor of God and STAND against principalities and unseen rulers. Institutionalized racism is one of those principalities. YOU are certainly capable but you need to go as God leads you.
It’s ok to not have all the answers or to not be the leader. It’s ok to follow. Indirect and direct messaging will encourage you as a white person to be the “project manager.” There may be times when you are serving alongside leaders that are Black or Brown men and women. They are experts too. You are all experts and deserve to hear and honor each other as you SHUT DOWN principalities and unseen rulers.
Whiteness is not a sin and your Whiteness will afford you opportunities and privileges that you probably would never think twice about. Think about how you can leverage your White privilege to end institutionalized oppression and state violence against marginalized people.
Your gifts will make room for you! There is room for you in the movement against oppression! The gifts God has given you are useful to end oppression! You don’t have to be the leader of a protest. Your artistry might disrupt complacency in others. The songs you write might encourage freedom fighters. Just be sure that whatever you do – you do it to the Glory of God.
Remember all oppression will end! Stay hopeful because when Jesus returns it will end. There will be an end to mourning, protesting, being harassed by racists and bigots. It will all fall apart!
Leah Burgess has spent 12 years working in the anti-sexual violence movement at the local rape crisis level, at Dartmouth College, and presently as a Victim Advocate on the Sex Offender Supervision Unit in CT. She has consistently been challenged to do this work in ways that engage the intersections of Jesus and institutionalized oppression. She is thankful for the level of transparency exercised in her growing friendship with Kate Foran.
Instagram: http://instagram.com/iambleah Twitter: https://twitter.com/iambleah
Kate Foran was formed by the nonviolent resistance and radical hospitality of the Catholic Worker movement, and has been inspired and challenged by other communities of love & struggle (including the Beloved Community Center in North Carolina) whose faith drives their work for social transformation. She serves on the Board of Word and World. She is grateful to Leah Burgess for friendship & for opportunities to practice reconciliation.