Dear Lilka (10/21/2016)

Last week, someone commented on the introduction that preceded our letters, “I can’t understand where these turmoils (sic) come from.”

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

How can I explain to my white brothers and sisters the importance educating ourselves about history, because remaining uneducated about it devalues the experience of those who went through it? How can I explain we have different worldviews that are rooted in this history? How can I explain, as we unpack it, we must all look at it through the eyes of those who felt the pain of it?

As a white woman, I can say categorically based on my experience in jobs, in health care, in the service industry, women are disadvantaged. Studies have shown we receive less pay for the same job, we receive fewer health care benefits, and we are charged more for many of the same services. If we are disadvantaged we can then say that white men hold an advantage or privilege.

At the same time I can say, based on first person testimony and my own research, people of color are disadvantaged and, correspondingly, white people are automatically privileged.

“In 2015, The Washington Post documented 990 fatal shootings by police, 93 of which involved people who were unarmed. Black men accounted for about 40 percent of the unarmed people fatally shot by police and, when adjusted by population, were seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire.” National study, Washington

For example, as a white person:

I can be certain when I move into a neighborhood, my neighbors will not judge me for my skin color.

I can walk into a store without having people follow me or watch me.

At work, my clothing, hair style or attitude will not be taken as a reflection on my race.

I can argue or lose my temper without someone being afraid of me or using it as an example of my race.

If a police officer pulls me over for a traffic violation, I can be 100% certain I haven’t been singled out for my race. I can also be unafraid I will end up arrested or dead. This is also true for my husband and my sons.

There are white people who will shake their heads at these examples and not believe them. There are skeptics who insist there is no racism, no mass incarceration, no racial profiling, no inherent bias in our justice system whether on the streets or in our courts.

Lilka, how do we begin to help each other bridge these experiences, decrease this skepticism and increase our empathy toward each other? How do we begin to face each other rather than turn our backs, and listen to the pain behind the anger on both sides? How do we communicate with the intent to bridge the vast gap between us?

So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others. (John 13:34-35)