“The White liberal [or non-racist conservative] must see that the Negro needs not only love, but justice. It is not enough to say, ‘We love Negroes, we have many Negro friends.’ They must demand justice for Negroes. Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all. It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than what one would love for a pet. Love at its best is justice concretized. Love is unconditional. It is not conditional upon one’s staying in [their] place or watering down [their] demands in order to be considered respectable….”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It seems we have a recurring cycle in America: innocent black death followed by hashtag (activism), black pain and tears , white silence (and/or hashtag sharing), no conviction for innocent black death, black outrage, white guilt and whitesplaining, followed by more silence. Afterward life seemingly goes back to the way it was prior to the innocent black death and then the cycle repeats itself.
Hashtags and tears. That seems to be all we can get for black lives these days.
Oh, and Dr. King quotes. Plenty of Dr. King quotes.
That’s because like the good historical revisionists that we are in America, it’s easy for us to pacify the horror of another black life extinguished by quoting a man who was also murdered by gun of white man imbued by racism and white supremacy. The selective amnesia of bourgeoisie blacks and liberal and conservative whites seem to interpret a King with modern politically correct lenses, dismissing the disdain and hatred felt for him during his lifetime.
Stolen from us was the accountability that was looming for America as Dr. King began to turn a corner toward masterfully uncovering the copiously poignant reality that White America will not and cannot accept the full responsibility of what it takes for real justice, equality, and equity in this country.
So while I have your attention, let me properly exegete our guiding text from above found in the Gospel according to King for our current context:
“The hashtag activism ain’t gonna cut it anymore! Social media monologues and posts of “I stand with my black brothers and sisters (siblings, colleagues, friends, or any other choice association)” are not enough to turn the tide of hatred and racism against black people in America. Keep your impressions and infatuations with “Black Magic” as if we are a prized circus act. If you love us, what are you willing to sacrifice, what are you willing to lose in order that the JUSTICE that LOVE requires is satisfied and black lives truly matter.”
And just in case the above was lost in translation, here are the takeaways:
- Hashtag activism is not going to make change. A few posts and quotes will not create the impact needed to persuade a country of its sins against black people.
- If it costs you nothing, it will change nothing! Black people are losing their lives, their families, their jobs, and their sanity trying to survive and convince the world that change needs to happen. White people need to be prepared to lose the same, and in many instances, more, for true justice to prevail.
- Don’t tell me how great black people are, show us! In other words, DONT TALK ABOUT IT, BE ABOUT IT!
White allies constantly ask, “How can I do more? What needs to change?”
Change does not happen without sacrifice. Equality means giving up more of what one has to ensure balance. No longer can the only discomfort white people feel be the discomfort of snarling stares and hateful Facebook rants from their conservative peers and family members. Many can still enjoy the comfort of life, financial security, and relative peace under those circumstances. There aren’t many opportunities taken from you for declaring, “Black Lives Matter!” Black people, for the most part, don’t have that privilege.
For my white Christians allies, consider the story of the young, rich man found in the Gospels. He was a person of stature, with weath and righteous indignation from always doing what was seemingly “right and safe.” Jesus challenges him to take his privilege to a new level: give all you have and come do this work that I do for justice and equality for the poor among you. Disappointed the challenge required a sacrifice larger than he was willing to give, he left.
“Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth [privilege] to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich [privileged] to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23-25, NRSV)
So what will your response be?
What resources and privilege do you have to part with to witness the kindom of God?
What jobs (appointments, assignments, projects, etc.) will you deny so that more qualified black people can have it?
What things are you teaching your children that go against educational norms of racial subjection to ensure your children don’t grow to view Black children and people detrimentally?
What protests in the white communites, businesses, and churches of America will YOU lead to inspire change?
What systems will you BOLDLY use your PRIVILEGE to dismantle for justice and equity? Yes, equity, because without resources there can be no equality. Read King’s take on this if you don’t believe me. White people have left the majority of the toil for justice on the backs of black people for generations.
That can no longer be the case.
That doesn’t mean blacks are no longer in the fight for justice and racial equality. However, our focus should be primarily about the wellbeing of our own communities while whites dismantle the systems they created that hinder equality and equity.
Don’t get it twisted, us bourgouise blacks (I’m including myself) have a lot of work to do, too. And that’s the work we will be doing. What we will not be doing anymore is trying to persuade white people and any other perpetuators of injustice and racism that Black lives matter.
Let me be clear: I have white friends and colleagues who I love and trust, as I’m sure other black people do as well. I was introduced to James Cone’s life-changing Black Liberation Theology by my first white roommate in seminary (I could spend another few days writing about how white theology dominates black churches throughout the world, further perpetuating racism and white supremacy in Christianity, but I will save that for another day). I know the value of these relationships and by no means is this an assault to the love, support, and work you have been doing.
But if you want to know if more can be done, the answer is, “Hell, yeah!”
We are appreciative of each of you for trying your best to support and stand with us. However, we no longer need you to stand alongside or behind. No more white guilt or white apologies. Most of us are tired of those, too! The weight of your guilt is a burden many of us can no longer hold. Your visible action will suffice.
It’s your time to lead.
No more hashtags.