My first blog post last week would have been a good time to outline what I wanted to do on here. Alas.
It turns out to be a good thing, though, that I did not pin myself to a specific theme or topic because so much has changed since I started thinking about what to do. I would have thoughts as I was falling asleep about fun topics to cover, and I would email myself those ideas so they would not escape me during sleep. I thought about keeping a movie diary and trying to connect some of the films I’ve watched to bible stories or theology. I thought about taking some of my favorite theology books and picking a different passage each week on which to reflect.
Then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while out for a jog. Breonna Taylor was killed inside her own home. George Floyd was killed. In our own city we saw buildings and businesses destroyed, people tackled and beaten, fires, and curfews put in place. I looked back at all my ideas and they all seemed ridiculous. People are dying in the streets and the country is burning, and I’m writing about movies and my favorite books. Am I so disconnected that I choose to think about movies instead of these life and death issues?
This past Sunday we heard about the 21-Day Race Equity Challenge. I decided, then, that my blog will be a weekly diary of my engagement in the Challenge. Before Lisa’s sermon and Debbi’s invitation I read an old interview in Esquire magazine with James Baldwin, an author and civil rights activist in the 1960s. In that interview, the white interviewer asks Baldwin, “Let’s talk about the average citizen, the white man who lives on Eighty-ninth Street and Riverside Drive, what should he be doing [about racism in America].” Baldwin’s answer has stuck with me: “It depends on what he feels. If he feels he wants to save his country, he should be talking to his neighbors and his children.”
I hear Baldwin challenging me to take care of my own issues with race and racism before I try to do anything else for anyone else. Take the log out of your own eye, first, Jesus said. In these diaries, I will reflect on resources from the 21-Day Race Equity Challenge that deal with white identity because, like Baldwin’s challenge, I want to focus on the smallest thing, which is me. I want to go through a time of introspection of my own indifference to, entanglement in, and even my own investment in systems of racial oppression first. I want to figure out and confess how I am still complicit in and captivated by whiteness.
So, to start, I want to invite you, whoever might read this thing, into this slow journey with me. One of the most difficult classes I took in seminary was with Willie James Jennings, and every class was like being deconstructed. Dr. Jennings warned us that this would happen, but he didn’t leave us alone in our struggles and pain. I remember that he pushed each individual person in the class toward the other people in the class. He taught us to lean on each other while going through this tense and intense class that was a personal struggle for just about every person in there. Engaging with issues of race and racism is still personally challenging and a struggle, but I know I need other people with me in the struggle. We weren’t meant to do this alone. So, please reach out with questions and ideas. I am with you in this struggle and journey, and I want you to be with me. Peace, Brandon