How can we talk about race without the defensiveness, reflexivity, and scapegoating?

Baltimore, Ferguson, Charlottesville, Charleston.

Trevon, Tamir, Sandra, Philando, and Freddie.

Kaepernick, Serena, Barkley, and Lebron.

White supremacy, white privilege, white fragility, and woke.

“Hands up, don’t shoot.” “I can’t breathe.” Black Lives Matter.

These are just some of the people, places, controversies, and catchphrases that have come to define the complexities of today’s conversation about race in the U.S. Over the last decade, that conversation has changed dramatically. From police shootings to the mass incarceration of African Americans, from the resurgence of white nationalism to “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, many Americans are slowing realizing that a “post-racial America” is a fallacy and that systematic racism rests just beneath the surfaces of our society, institutions, politics, economics, and even churches. Our outrage is easily activated whenever some brazenly racist incident is exhumed for our news feed. But our brief flashes of indignation over these incidents often conceal our own racism and the racism woven into the fabric of the American way of life in which we all participate. 

It’s for this reason that a conversation about race can be both contentious and delicate. On the one hand, we know that blatant racism must be called out and resisted whenever we see it. On the other hand, because we participate in social systems that are inherently discriminatory, we know that we are unquestionably implicated at the very least in the more subtle,unconscious expressions of racism. How can we talk about race without the defensiveness, reflexivity, and scapegoating that accompanies such conversations? Is it possible to talk about race with such honesty and daring that we might be implicated, awakened, and transformed?

From “A House Divided: Engaging the Issues through the Politics of Compassion” by Mark Feldmeir – Chalice Press