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Dear white friend, associate, and churchgoer,

I come to you saying that we have a problem and I am no longer willing to be the catalyst for the solution.

It has taken me many hours of one-on-one conversations, thousands of words spilled out on social media, and even official church time spent co-leading a racial reconciliation bible study to come to the conclusion:

It is wholly unfair to both be a consistent victim of racism and a primary person responsible for its dismantling.

If you love me, do your homework.

The Ask

As a black woman, I will no longer meet up for coffee, dinner, walks, or some other personal interaction where I do the heavy lifting of explaining to you why the societal cancer that is racism, that is as old as the society itself, is bad.

In these draining interactions, I pour out informed, nuanced knowledge gleaned from merely existing in a country hostile to my dark skin, curvy edges, and kinky hair. I present this information in a measured tone, with little emotion, in a way that would not betray that I am deeply, personally affected by racism. I imitate your removed sense of racism’s power.

I also attempt to treat oppression as an abstract concept that at best is a pesky reminder of your ancestor’s mistakes, and at worst is something that only really bad people perpetuate in the dark corners of the internet. I have sugarcoated injustice and minimized pain to coax empathy from skeptical souls.

In return for these majorly taxing emotional lifts, I receive tentative, well-intentioned invitations to have more conversations, where I make the case for my humanity and that of other black and brown people all over again.

The Cost

I used to think my personal energy being poured out repeatedly was sacrificial love, asked of me as a Christ follower.

With this mindset, I have absorbed the micro and macroaggressions alike, asking God to forgive you, for you knew not what you did. For these sacrificial moments, I have been afforded power in predominantly white evangelical spaces. But these spaces have stayed predominantly white and oppression of black and brown bodies in our country has remained an issue. After I poured out so much energy, 81% of you still voted to give immeasurable power to a man who openly hates the people of color you desire to fill your pews for a “multi-ethnic” experience on Sunday morning.

Gratefully taking on the mantle of respectable blackness, l have earned trust through dying to myself in all the wrong ways. I have carried the heavy burden of racism in the church while living in a culture where black bodies like mine are commodified, degraded, violated and ultimately murdered without abandon. “Harmony” in personal relationships used to feel like an appropriate consolation prize.

It is no longer enough. It was never enough.

By accepting the burden of undoing racism, I realize now that I have been complicit in commodifying, degrading, violating, and ultimately murdering my own black body.

By creating and sustaining the momentum of conversations on race and social justice in the church, I and other people of color have centered white comfort over true equity between people groups in our country. These interactions are costly for our health, to the point where we are no longer catalysts for true repentance, but crutches for making sure that societal change moves at the glacial speed of white fragility.

This is why I say: If you love me, do your homework.

Your Task

The American church has always been divided, specifically down racial lines. The concept of racial reconciliation is a fallacy because you cannot reconcile what was never together.

This usually would be the time where I would write down example after example of revered theologians like Jonathan Edwards who upheld and encouraged this divide, but I will not. I could also elaborate on the paradoxical truth that the Bible Belt and the Jim Crow South are synonymous, but I will not. I could do the work of explaining the difference between addressing racism on an individual level versus a systemic level, but I will not.

This information is already out there. There are so many resources that exist. If you are serious about hating and ending racism, you will put in the effort to find them.

If you love me, do your homework.

Read the books, find the articles. Join the online discussion groups like Pass the Mic, that centers the voices of people of color who, like me, are recovering from being both the victims and solvers of racism. Google terms like “white fragility,” “misogynoir,” and “magical negro.”

Build a vocabulary that brings you closer to the level of understanding that your non-white brothers and sisters must have just to survive in a white supremacist society. In the moments when you want to focus energy on personal connections with the brown faces that you know, consider using that energy instead to confront the white faces in power who perpetuate oppression through apathy.

Consider the Beatitudes. What if Jesus tasked those who were poor in spirit and those who mourned with the responsibility of their own deliverance? Ludicrous, right? Your black and brown siblings are poor in spirit as we mourn in a country that devalues our existence. In the name of Jesus and his good news, take up your cross and be a part of bringing the kingdom of God to earth. Bless the oppressed, share their burdens.

If you love us, do your homework.

 

Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Tamara Johnson is an aspirational polymath trapped in a scientist’s body. Forever an ATLien, her love is for nature and cities. Her eyes are being opened by the ways the black church has brought the kingdom of God to earth. After over a decade of being away, she is glad to return to her roots to continue singing the gospel in the key of social justice.

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