Dear White Friends

Day 7/30

Last night in between images of the confederate flag in our Capitol I saw a political ad of our governor promising to never allow Critical Race Theory to be taught in public schools.

We need to talk about racism.

The practice of chattel slavery in the US lasted 246 years, roughly ten generations, twice as long as we’ve been driving cars and ten times as long as we’ve been arguing about racism on the internet. That means some slaves had parents who were slaves, grandparents who were slaves, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents who were slaves, and had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren who would also be slaves.

I don’t know the name of any of my great-great-grandparents. Think of the hopelessness of that kind of timeline.

Then tack on 100 more years of legalized inequality and violence, redlining neighborhoods that prevented home ownership during a time when home values soared, and tax codes weighted more heavily on income than generational assets. The Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Fair Housing Act and school desegregation didn’t pass until the1960s. And that’s when new school districts started popping up in the suburbs.

In 2016 EdBuild published a study titled Faultlines: America’s Most Segregating School District Borders finding the most unequal school district borders measured by dollar spent per student. My state, Alabama, makes the top 25 list five times. My city, Hoover, makes the top 50 twice. Here’s a link.

Certainly this isn’t what Jesus meant by thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

So I feel it’s incumbent upon me to talk about racism for a few reasons (and I may think of more);

1. Official policies that ended only two generations ago still affect black communities. There’s no way it couldn’t. If you disagree I invite you to imagine giving away the cumulative trickle of generational wealth for your children and grandchildren for next 350 years.

2. Prejudice still exists. Please if you take nothing else from this blog, go to and take Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test for yourself. Then imagine all of the micro-interactions and split second subconscious decisions we have daily that betray our polished outer selves in hurtful, sometimes life-altering ways.

I think I was guilty of this just recently. I invited a black friend to join us on the podcast to talk specifically about race. But I did it in a hurry. So when I hadn’t heard back I reread what I wrote. And if I were him I would’ve felt tokenized. It was short and presumptuous. I certainly didn’t mean harm but very well may have caused it. So I wrote a much longer apology. And that brings me to my last reason.

3. It has to be tiresome constantly being asked to A. Teach us white people how racism still affects you, and B. To burden our guilt when we realize it.

In the past when I’ve shared the Faultlines study, knowing most of the folks I’m talking to were not around during white flight, I ask: How do your repent of a sin you didn’t commit? There’s an offering in Leviticus (I knew you were hoping I’d tie this to Leviticus somehow) prescribed for when the community realizes an injustice was committed unintentionally or by former generations. it begins “As soon as the sin becomes known, the community shall bring a young bull as a sin offering.” Obviously we’re not sacrificing a bull, although a steak dinner might be a nice start. The point is it costs something. It isn’t just a handshake. And there are several prescriptions in Leviticus for when someone unintentionally hurts or takes something from another. They all include making restitution. And that’s going to cost somebody something.

When Zacchaeus got right with Jesus his repentance cost him dearly: half of his belongings to the poor, and four times whatever he’d cheated anyone. I don’t see why it should be any cheaper for America. There’s a word for that kind of back payment. But if I write it half of you will turn off your phones.

So white friends I’d like to invite you to talk about racism. I realize you’re afraid of saying something hurtful. You probably will. But silence isn’t a viable alternative anymore. Read books. The two most recent I’ve read on the subject were “Storming the Gates of Hell” by John Archibald and “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown and they were both great. Join Ross and me on the podcast in February when we’re going to take a break from the Psalms and talk about this very subject.

Last night what struck me the most was the silence. Can you imagine a politician a year after Pearl Harbor or 9/11 pretending it didn’t happen? A high school civics teacher friend of mine told me he was forbidden from talking about it by his principal. That’s worse than silence. It’s whitewashing. And it’s the same whitewashing being done with CRT, a study of how systems in the US have put some at a disadvantage. Basically what this blog post has been. But it was turned into a trope of reverse racism.

As if a 600 level graduate course was ever taught in a public school in the state ranked 47th in education.

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