I am outraged. I hesitated posting what I really wanted to say yesterday because my blood was boiling.
The arrest of the white officer, seen pressing his knee to the neck of Mr. George Floyd, a black man who later died, does little to quiet my outrage. I am tired. I’m tired of the senseless killing of black people. But, I am not as weary as black people or, in a broader sense, as people of color, who have had to endure the aggression and violence that racism has produced for centuries at the hands of white people. I’m not as weary as my black brothers and sisters because I do have breath in my lungs. I have the ability to run down the street without concerns of being assaulted. I don’t have to tense up when I am pulled over by the police. I am not as weary because I have white privilege.
I have witnessed both explicit and implicit racism. I’ve been complicit in racism throughout my life. In the face of my outrage, I know that my faith calls me to get active and stay engaged even when it is hard. If the conversation around #blacklivesmatter and the news reporting creates a sense of discomfort, tension or uneasiness in you, I invite you to spend some time talking to Jesus about WHY it bothers you. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your heart to a place of conviction so that we might create God’s kingdom on earth where all people – regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, religion, identity or sexuality – might flourish.
It is not the job of black people to explain the structures of white supremacy, white privilege, racism, police brutality or any of the other byproducts that advances the white standard as the "normative" view. This is white people’s work and our need to engage in this work is urgent. Lives depend on it.
I am asking that every white United Methodist in Missouri but especially our appointed and assigned pastors, paid church staff and lay leaders read a book that has helped me better understand my own sin and complicity to the horrors of racism: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism (2018) by Robin DiAngelo, PhD.
Please read this book. Read it as church, a staff and within small groups. If you’ve finished White Fragility, begin the next book which may give you some ideas on moving from not being racist to antiracist: How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. We will have conversations as a conference later this fall with these two books as our guide. I want Missouri United Methodists to be leaders in transforming their communities into less racist ones. Please join me. Lord in your mercy...
Bishop Bob Farr is episcopal leader of the Missouri Area of The United Methodist Church. This article was originally published in the news section of the Missouri Conference website on June 1, 2020.