Recently I listened to a Podcast, something that I, as a visual learner, am reluctant to do. However, the title of this one intrigued me, so I opened Christianity and Racism: Part 1.
The young man producing the podcast shared his feelings concerning a poster his girlfriend and he saw while walking down a street in Ashville, NC: “White silence is violence” was printed on the poster and that sentiment angered him. He went on to explain that he was offended by that idea because he, as a white Christian, did his best to follow James 1:19, “…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath….” The podcaster continued to explain how he always waited for accurate information before making any decision. Thus, he is silent in regard to situations such as the George Floyd one until “all the facts are in.” Well, I thought, that is a prudent attitude that we all should follow. However, I think he misunderstood the Ashville poster. Let me offer an explanation.
In on-going situations, such as the one surrounding Kyle Rittenhour, prudence and patience are necessary. All the facts are not known, and any video should be viewed with a critical eye. So, in such a moment, the podcaster is correct. But I suggest that the white silence the poster refers to is the historical silence of whites surrounding racial inequality. When someone is an open racist like George Wallace (he did later apologize), other whites need to do what is required by the Gospels and speak out against his racism. By offering an excuse such as “I’m not involved,” or “I don’t treat people like that,” the silent white person allows the bigot to be violent. Our white silence has perpetuated racial violence over the years by us not shouting out against the acts of racist. For instance, how does the podcaster see the action of Governor Abbott in Texas reducing ballot boxes to only one per county just before an election? Remaining silent may give rise to this attempt to make mail-in balloting more difficult. But will the podcaster wait for more information? Will the action of Governor Abbott be permitted through our silence, like that of the Jim Crow era and more?
Rev. Clarence Jordan taught us well. He is not a long-ago historical figure like Jesus, an Eastern rabbi. Rev. Jordan, a Baptist, lived and worked in southwest Georgia during post WWII America and was such a follower of the Sermon on the Mount that Hoover’s FBI watched him. The KKK bombed his farm. But he was not silent, and his life still influences. I highly recommend that the podcaster read him, and then ask why he, a white man, need be angered by such a poster. Perhaps his reaction should be one of enlightenment and action.