Day 13: Words (A Poem) {31 Days of #WOKE}

My students
found interest
in the difference
between “oppressed” and “repressed.”

Like the time I explained
the word “minority”
to Jaquisha,
who has lived
as a black girl
in a black world
her whole life.

“Pressed down,”
I said.
“Oppressed
means ‘pressed down.’”

Me
not grasping
the meaning.

Them
not knowing they already
understand the meaning
without knowing
the word.

–Leslie Verner (written 2002 while teaching middle school in North Lawndale, Chicago)

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Day 7: Without a Voice {31 Days of #WOKE}

Frustrated by my freedom
and their feigned rights.
Their lynched,
stores burned,
legs weary with marching to an anthem of peace
while rumors of war abound.
Where is Thurgood
and Martin now that
the rhythm of feet fades
to a phantom whisper?
The star rising in the north still illuminates
a page cut from a coloring book,
each line pressed hard with color,
each space filled with the same.
Never a minority,
minorities live in a colorless world
with a colorful culture.
Streets plowed on the northside
never see that sister south
remains buried,
buried.
Like a graveyard without a voice.

 

–Leslie Verner, February 12, 2002 (written while teaching in North Lawndale, Chicago)

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

Image: Senor Codo

 

Day 5: Lent and Prophetic Lament {31 Days of #WOKE}

Lent and Lament

Lament: (verb) 1) to mourn or wail.  2) to express sorrow, mourning or regret. syn: deplore, bewail, bemoan

Lent: the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting.

–Merriam Webster

 

We prefer rejoicing to lament.

Singing with arms raised, spirits lifted and mouths full of praise, our chests heave with happiness after our time of praise and worship. Until “worship” is reframed as confession and lament.

Lament is a lost practice in the evangelical church.

I recently read Soong-Chan Rah’s book chronicling the book of Lamentations in the Bible, called Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. It is an apt read during the season of Lent that is characterized by penitence and fasting.

Lent is intentionally sitting in the dark and doing battle with the demons we find there.

Much like I’m attempting in this series.

Here are a few thought-provoking quotes from the book:

“The depth of pain endemic to racial hostility requires full disclosure for complete healing.” (p. 58)

“Stories of suffering can never be buried when lament is an important and central aspect of the church’s worship life.” (p. 59)

“We do not hear from all of the voices in the North American evangelical context. Instead, we opt for quick and easy answers to complex issues. We want to move to the happier message of success and triumph and cover up the message of those who suffer.” (p. 68)

“There is an underlying belief that American Christians have been the standard-bearers of Christianity for several centuries. There is a sense of being the exceptional church, resulting in the missionary endeavor and vision…But this sense of American exceptionalism and even the sense of exceptionalism for the American church cannot be justified through Scripture.” (p. 94)

“The church has the power to bring healing in a racially fragmented society. That power is not found in an emphasis on strength but in suffering and weakness. The difficult topic of racial reconciliation requires the intersection of celebration and suffering.” (p. 106)

“Lament emerged as an uncomfortable but necessary response to the absence of shalom in the church.” (p. 138)

Have you ever prayed for God to reveal the sin in your life and then sat, waiting? It is terrifying. Because in my experience, God always answers.

I’m embracing this season of Lent as a way of forced exposure.

I’m asking God to illuminate my blind spots and weed out any latent and blatant racism in me. Will you join me in the journey?

Additional Resources:

Join the Facebook group “Prophetic Lament during Lent” that is slowly reading through this book.  The author himself is leading the group, so it looks like a fabulous way to dig deeper into the content of this book.

Listen to this podcast on lament. At the end, many people of color share their personal laments.

SheLoves Magazine recently studied this book. You can read the intro here.

This chart lists out the psalms of lament (at the top).

Listen to Soong Chan Rah on these podcasts:

Seminary Dropout

The Global Church Project

Pass the Mic

*Contains Amazon affiliate links

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

Introduction: 31 Days of #WOKE

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

I’m white, but barely noticed my whiteness until recently.

I’ve always thought white people were boring, actually. Friends from other cultural backgrounds had interesting food, festivals, cultural dress, customs and languages. Those from non-western countries lived communally, cherished family and celebrated holistic living. They did not divide the sacred and secular. They saw the holy in the ordinary, messy, seasons of life.

Like many from the U.S., I’ve been around people of other cultures, religions, languages and ethnicities my entire life. I attended a Jewish preschool, fell for an African American boy in kindergarten, ate fried tomatoes, onions and eggs with my Colombian friend in sixth grade, obsessed about boys with my Jewish friend in seventh grade, had black teachers, had a few African American, Indian and Latino friends in high school, taught in a 100 percent black school in inner city Chicago after college, another racially diverse school and even at a school in Chinatown.

But I also experienced other cultures abroad: I went on short term mission trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, lived in a village in Uganda for six months in college, spent five weeks in Tajikistan, traveled in Europe and Thailand and taught and studied in China for five years.

You’d think I would have known.

But it wasn’t until I moved to a nearly all white area in the U.S.–the last stretch of plains with tumbleweed cartwheeling up against the mighty Rocky Mountains–that I began to see my whiteness. And it was then that I saw all the shadows it casts.

What Does it Mean to be “Woke”?

According to Urban Dictionary, being “woke” means being aware and knowing what’s going on in the community.

Merriam-Webster “Words We’re Watching” describes it like this:

“Stay woke became a watch word in parts of the black community for those who were self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm and striving for something better. But stay woke and woke became part of a wider discussion in 2014, immediately following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The word woke became entwined with the Black Lives Matter movement; instead of just being a word that signaled awareness of injustice or racial tension, it became a word of action. Activists were woke and called on others to stay woke.”

I am on a journey. I have not arrived, nor will I ever be fully “woke.” But I am learning. I am growing. And I am slowly beginning to see.

The first time I ever wrote a piece about race, I wondered if I had a right to speak. I wondered if I knew enough or if I was going to say something stupid, offensive or ignorant. But an African American friend of my husband’s responded to my post in a way that gave me courage. “Thank you,” he wrote. “Because I’m tired. It’s refreshing for this message to come from someone who is not a person of color for once.”

Ijeoma Oluo recently wrote an article entitled, “White People: I Don’t Want You To Understand Me Better, I Want You To Understand Yourselves.” The more we understand our whiteness, the more we can understand how our whiteness affects all the people of color around us.

What Can You Expect in the Series?

Have you ever rewatched an entire movie with commentary from the actors and director on? (I have.) That’s what I’m hoping to do in this series. Mostly, you can expect stories from my life. For each post, I’ll ask myself (and possibly answer) the following questions:

What did I learn about whiteness through this experience?

Are there any blind spots that I missed the first time around?

How can I analyze this experience utilizing the concepts I am learning?

But I’ll also include practical information and resources as well as a few posts from some friends of mine who are people of color.

I’m mostly writing for myself, but you are invited along on this journey. I sincerely welcome your input, comments, links, corresponding stories, questions and even criticism.

When my dad taught me to drive, I sat in the driver’s seat of the parked car as he shuffled around on the outside until he disappeared from my view. He wanted me to understand the devastation of a blind spot. Please help me to discover mine.

Table of Contents

Here are some possible posts that will run every day beginning March 1st, 2017 (check back here each day for an updated link). Most definitely subject to change;-)

1. Introduction

2. The Year I Went All ‘Dangerous Minds’

3. My #Woke Journey {for SheLoves Magazine}

4. Rich, Loud and Carries a Backpack {stereotypes}

5. Lent and Prophetic Lament

6. (Guest Post) “What are you?” by Vannae Savig

7. Without a Voice (poem) 

8. Three of My Favorite Podcasts with Women of Color

9. Uncomfortable Friendships (Part 1)

10. Friendship: The Need to Hear “Me, Too” (Part 2)

11. Resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race

12. Just Mercy

13. Words (a poem)

14. The Culture of Whiteness

15. White in Uganda

16. White in China + 14 Stereotypes Chinese Have about Americans

17. (Guest Post) Moving Towards Different: My Reconciliation Call by Tasha Burgoyne

18. What I Want for My Children

19. How to Engage in Racial Reconciliation When You Live in a White Bubble

20. The Problem with the Wordless Book

21. What Ever Happened to Integration? (Part 1)

22. Following Nikole Hannah-Jones Down the Integration Rabbit Hole (Part 2)

23. The People We See and the People We Don’t

24. (Guest Post) A Letter to My 13-year-old Self by Leah Abraham

25. Divided by Faith (book)

26. The White Savior Complex (thoughts on short, medium and long-term missions)

27. A Lesson Plan for Talking to My Preschooler about Race for the First Time

28. Two Poems//Teaching in Inner City Chicago

29. Transcript of ‘The Race Talk’ with my Kids

30. Talking Race with my Southern Mama (an Interview)

31. Conclusion: This I Know

 

Okay. *deep breath*

Let’s do this.

Be sure to sign up for email updates so you don’t miss a post! And please share if you feel this could benefit someone else.

 

Scared, but excited,

Leslie

A series exploring whiteness and racial perspectives.

80+ MORE Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White People

#GetWoke and #StayWoke

What does it mean to be “woke?”

Many people in the United States are experiencing a second sight, sometimes defined as being “woke.” In The Calling podcast, social justice activist Michelle Higgins says, “Woke-ness is a journey. It is saying ‘I’m done being blind’ or done saying ‘I’m sleeping on the whole truth about my community.'”

Maybe you read, watched and listened through the previous list of resources to educate yourself about race issues.  Or maybe (hopefully) you sat down over a cup of coffee with a friend who is a person of color and listened–really listened–to their story. Your heart is cracking open and you want to learn more.

Here are some additional resources I’ve come across in the last six months since publishing the first list. I listened to the podcasts and read the articles, but am still working my way through the books, though they all come highly recommended. This list is far from exhaustive (and mainly based on recent events, not historical documents), so I hope you will add your own ideas to the comments section of this post. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to find new people to follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Podcasts:

The Calling

Michelle Higgins: “I Am a Worshipper” First and Foremost

How ‘Colorblind’ Christianity Broke Propaganda’s Heart

Jemar Tisby: It’s Never Too Soon to Talk about Race in Your Church 

 

Code Switch: Race and Identity (NPR)–various episodes

 

Epiphany Fellowship (Pastor Eric Mason)

In God We Trust (First sermon after the election)

#Woke Church Series at Epiphany Fellowship:

#WokeChurch

#WokeChurch: It’s Time for the Church to do Something

#WokeChurch–Lamentations 3:1-18   (the pastor provides a time for African Americans in his congregation to lament)

#WokeChurch–Jesus on Justice

 

Facing Ourselves

Are All White People Racist? (No. Well, Kind of. Let Us Explain.)

 

Fresh Air (NPR)

How the Systemic Segregation of Schools is Maintained by ‘Individual Choices’

 

Faith Conversations with Anita Lustrea

Lisa Sharon Harper

On Justice and Reconciliation

 

Faithfully Podcast

Will Christians Ever Get Race Relations Right?

White Christians, the Confederate Flag and the Civil War

Black Lives Matter, the Black Church and the Prosperity Gospel

 

A Mom’s Missionfield

A Sweaty Conversation about Racial Reconciliation: Retha Nichole and Emily Thomas

 

On Being with Krista Tippett

Vincent Harding (Civil Rights leader)–Is America Possible?

Isabel Wilkerson (author of The Warmth of Other Suns)

Mahzarin Banaji–The Mind is a Difference-Seeking Machine (on implicit bias)

Eula Bliss–Let’s Talk about Whiteness (refers to her article, White Debt, for the New York Times Magazine)

 

On Ramp: Two Christians Talk about Race

All of these are fantastic and only about 15 minutes long. So far, Shane Blackshear and Kerri Fisher have broadcasted episodes on privilege, stereotyping, diversity, implicit bias, levels of racism, lasting impacts of Jim Crow & slavery, and white supremacy. Find them all here.

 

Pass the Mic (put on by Reformed African American Network)

Defining White Privilege

Defining Systemic Racism

Roundtable: How to Be a White Ally

(And so many others)

 

Shalom in the City

Megan Tietz (on intentionally sending children to failing schools)

 

Truth’s Table–Coming this spring! (Hosts Michelle Higgins, Dr. C. Edmondson, and Ekemini Uwan)

 

Village Church

Justice and Racial Reconciliation panel (following July 2016 shootings)

 

Video:

Verge Network 7 Part Series on Racial Justice (includes interviews)

What Dark-Skinned People Will Never Tell You (5 min.)

13th Documentary (now on Netflix)

 

What does it mean to be a white ally? Here are 80+ MORE Race Resources for White People

Articles from the Web:

Talking to Our Kids about Race:

Children’s Books to Help Talk about Race with Kids  from an Alabama Public Library

What White Children Need to Know about Race, by Ali Michael and Eleonora Bartoli for the Independent School Magazine

5 Ways Parents Pass Down Prejudice and Racism, by Danielle Slaughter for Huffington Post

18 Children’s Books with Characters of Color, by Joanna Goddard for her blog, A Cup of Jo

55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016, by Mrs. G at Here Wee Read Blog (and another great list from the same site). Follow her on Instagram for more great book ideas.

 

In the Church:

An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church, from the Black Girl in Your Pew, by Ilesha Graham for Huffington Post

Watching 81% of My White Brothers and Sisters Has Broken Something in Me, by Yolanda Pierce at Religion Dispatches

38 Resources to Help Your Church Start Discussing Race Today by Missio Alliance

 

White Fragility:

The Sugar-Coated Language of White Fragility, by Anna Kegler for Huffington Post

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People about Racism, by Dr. Robin Diangelo for The Good Men Project

4 Ways White People Can Process Their Emotions Without Bringing the White Tears, by Jennifer Loubriel of Everyday Feminism

 

The POC Perspective:

Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City, by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times Magazine

A Letter to My Son, by Rev. Otis Moss III for Huffington Post

Lacrae: Humility is the Key to Understanding Race Relations: Guest Essay, by Lecrae for Billboard

My President Was Black, by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Washington Post

30 of the Most Important Articles by People of Color in 2016, by Zeba Blay for Huffington Post

 

Take Action:

6 Things to Do When You Live on White Island,  by Leslie Verner at Scraping Raisins blog

25 SOLUTIONS for Police Brutality, by Shaun King

Life After ‘The New Jim Crow,’ by Brentin Mock of Citylab (an interview with Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness)

5 Actions White Educators Can Take to Help Make Schools Anti-Racist, by Jamie Utt for Everyday Feminism

 

Race and Trump:

Trump Syllabus 2.0 by N.D.B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blaine (an actual syllabus of a course that explores the foundations of “Trumpism”)

 

Websites:

Barefoot Books: Diverse and Inclusive Books

Faith for Justice

Reformed African American American Network (RAAN)

White Allies in Training

Sign up to receive a free weekly newsletter from The New York Times on current racial issues.

[Join BE THE BRIDGE Facebook Group if you haven’t already!]

News, Politics, Pop Culture Sites with a P.O.C. focus

Blavity

Black Politics

Good Black News

VSB (Very Smart Brothas) Washington Post says about this site: “Very Smart Brothas has emerged as a stream-of-consciousness sounding board, an expletive-laden fuse and an absurdist inside joke.”

Books:

Nonfiction:

America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart

Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Let Justice Roll Down

Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times

Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right

Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America

Fiction (great for book clubs):

Americanah

The Bluest Eye

Brown Girl Dreaming (YA book)

The Help

Homegoing

Interpreter of Maladies

The Invention of Wings

Invisible Man

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Kitchen House

Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Underground Railroad

 

People of Color to Follow on Twitter
(*also on Facebook):

*Ahmed Ali Akbar

BJ Thompson

Charles M. Blow

*Christena Cleveland

*Deray McKesson

Drew G.I. Hart

*Eugene Cho

Eugene Scott

Ilesha Graham

Jemar Tisby

Lisa Sharon Harper

Michelle Higgins

*Shaun King

Soong Chan-Rah

*Ta-Nehesi Coates

*Traci Blackmon

Tyler Burns

Velynn Brown

Yolanda Pierce

***

We are on a journey towards greater “woke-ness.” As allies, partners and justice-seekers, we do well to heed the words of Rev. Traci Blackmon:

“… the invitation to the ally is always to follow the leadership of those who are at the center of the pain. Understanding the situation is not the same as owning the story.

The story matters. And choosing to work toward liberation of any kind requires a commitment to support the narrative of the ones who own the story. The role of the ally is not to lead or to fix. The ally holds the story and amplifies the voice of the story teller.

The ally:

  • Shows up to listen, not lead.
  • Follows the directions of those at the center.
  • Uses privilege to point the spotlight in the direction of the pain.
  • Uses power to disrupt oppression.
  • Does not expect to be tutored on what is easily learned.
  • Knows that the moment is not for them, yet the Movement is about us all.”

 

There is more to learn. Our responsibility is to listen, educate ourselves, dive into the pain and speak when our voices can amplify the narrative of our hurting brothers and sisters. Peace to you on your journey to #staywoke.

~Leslie Verner

 

Check out the first list of resources:  70+ Race Resources for White People

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

80+ MORE RACE RESOURCES for white people