Once again race is part of the national conversation this weekend based on comments President Trump made regarding NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. For those of who are white the tendency can be to look away and try and rationalize that the issue can’t be as big as they are making it out to be. Or we can get angry that the players aren’t respecting the flag or our country.
I would recommend the harder option. For white folks like myself, the harder option is to listen and dig deep to find the elements of racism that are all around us. There is a racism that is inherent in the systems around us.
Here’s a video on how systemic racism shows itself:
We can explain away racism and say it isn’t in our community, but it is. We have to own up to our own biases around race. How do I react differently to a black man walking down my street than a white man doing the same thing? I grew up in Indiana in a very white elementary and junior high school. Then we moved to Littleton, Colorado and I attended a very white Arapahoe High School. Then my college experience at Taylor University in Indiana was once again very white. How do these experiences impact me and my views on race?
We live in a county that is 80% white (2010 Census) and our county does have a racist past. Jefferson County was the place of major KKK rallies in the 1920s. Jefferson County grew in the 1960s as Denver Public Schools started busing students and white families fled to our county.
How does the whiteness of Jefferson County and the racism of the past impact our county today?
Our local schools in Edgewater are 80% Latino. We have heard people in the neighborhood call our schools “brown schools.” Our students hear racist comments at sporting events at other schools in the county. Our daughter Anna heard racist comments made toward her Latina friends at a Young Life camp this summer. Edgewater is 45% Latino (2010 Census) but all our City leaders are white. All the Jeffco School Board members are white. How do people of color have a voice in white leadership structures?
We need to start a conversation around race in Jefferson County. How does race impact school choice and education in our county? How many of our teachers and school leaders are people of color? How does race impact what schools are renovated and which ones are not? How do we encourage local and county leaders who aren’t white?
The conversation starts with looking at ourselves and reflecting on our own racial beliefs and prejudices.
Racism is alive and well in the United States and Jefferson County. Let’s start talking about it.
Today I read a statistic that said that 9 in 10 churches are racially segregated. This was striking to me but then I thought about how many of our communities in America are still segregated. I found this map that shows the extreme racial segregation in Chicago and other large cities in the United States. If our neighborhoods and communities are segregated, it is no wonder that our churches are segregated.
But why are we still this segregated in the United States? I watch the horrific videos of police brutality during the civil rights movement and wonder what led people to have such hatred for someone of a different color. Then I see the hatred still present in our communities. Champaign is definitely a segregated city. There have been a string of attacks in our city led by a few black men who target white adults at night. I read the comments on our newspaper’s website and see the intense hatred and racism of some in our city. They demand an armed public to fight off these black teenagers. Did we not learn anything from our past?
But I do have hope for the future. The teenagers I see on a regular basis are looking beyond racial lines. We have a free lunch for local high school students in our church fellowship hall and I see a multi-ethnic gathering that is not segregated. I see my kindergarten daughter getting beyond her uncomfortableness with the black students in her class to now saying they are her best friends. I see our white downtown church that was at one time known as the “country club church” reach out and host the Boys and Girls Club after school program. Hillary and I are feeling a tug to move to the north side of Champaign so our daughters can grow up in a multiethnic neighborhood.
My hope is that our generation can lead a movement to make Dr. King’s dream a reality in our neighborhoods, communities and churches.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
– Martin Luther King