“That’s why I’ve come to believe that a white person’s reaction to the term white supremacy is the most tangible sign of his or her being awake or not. Once white supremacy is understood as the evil and dangerous system it is, the common enemy becomes abundantly clear. The enemy is not each other; this is not white people versus people of color. No, the enemy is white supremacy, and the evil one leverages that system for destructive purposes. It’s a dark and dangerous system, and it must be opposed and dismantled at all costs.” p. 148
This one is pretty straight forward. How we respond to the term white supremacy says a lot about our views of ourselves, our culture, and others. Hill writes a lot about why this is and how we can move from fragility towards resilience.
“Consistent with in-group/out-group behavior, I worked hard to prove that I belonged to this group that I deemed to be awakened to race and active to address it . So I became borderline obsessive about achieving the approval o those whose opinion on race mattered to me. This included just about every person of color I knew and white people I admired who are doing the work of reconciliation and justice.” p. 128-129
This one was especially clarifying for me-I related so much to wanting to show I was on the ”right team”. Hill references Christ’s parable of the Pharisee who assumed his righteousness based on his separation from “other people”-such as the tax collector who humbly pleaded with God for mercy. He talks about how easy it is to identify ourselves with those whom we perceive are enlightened, educated or ‘right’ people and distance ourselves from people who are not in order to bolster our own worthiness. But if Christ is the root of our identity and our worth is unshaken in him, then we are free both to love people we disagree with and to work alongside those we admire doing needed work. One reason Christ was so radical was that he befriended and spent time with the social outcasts. As white people wanting to learn about and dismantle white supremacy, we can forget that today’s social outcasts might include that person making racist comments on Facebook. I’m not saying don’t challenge racism and I certainly don’t mean that boundaries aren’t important; I mean that we don’t have to unfriend everyone who doesn’t think like us just so that we can feel secure in our efforts or our image.
“it’s impossible to have your eyes opened to the history of race in our country without experiencing “psychological discomfort” and “cognitive dissonance”, both terms that Brown uses in her descriptions above. When the feelings come, we can choose how we will process and internally categorize them. […] When we recognize the building blocks of race-the ideology of white supremacy, the narrative of racial difference, ongoing systemic oppression, etc.- we must learn to avoid falling into a shame spiral and instead appropriate the guilt of our discoveries in a way that yields healthy outcomes.” p. 104-105
Shame is something I’ve struggled with deeply my whole life. It’s so helpful to understand that shame is counter-productive and simply not needed. As a Christian, I relinquish my shame to Christ, and that empowers me to move forward when faced with the “psychological discomfort” of learning our nation’s history of racism and the terrible things listed above.
Hill also warns that if we desire to increase diversity among our social groups (friendships, businesses, etc), we must be willing and able to recognize and name white supremacy where we see it. “When our first attempt is to pursue diversity, we risk prioritizing the secondary problem (lack of relationship) over the primary and most threatening problem (white supremacy. […] Transformative revelation allows us to see that the lack of diversity is not and never was the result of a random set of social factors; instead it’s a direct fruit of the legacy of white supremacy.” (p 150)
As white people, this cultural identity journey, as he puts it, is a life-long process of growing in sight, lament, and action.
There is so much in the whole book and in the quotes I’ve chosen that it seems impossible to summarize it or them adequately. Hopefully, you can read the book yourself and be helped along the way of your cultural identity journey, or receive the grace to begin.
As a follower of Christ, this journey for me is rooted in my identity in him: a radical, marginalized, brown-skinned teacher who came to break barriers and affirm that we are all made in the image of God, ultimately suffering and dying for our sin, including the sins of white supremacy.