Support the Café

Search our Site

Soul-Searching Tonight in the White Community

Soul-Searching Tonight in the White Community


Across the country tonight voices within the white community are soul searching, examining their privileges, and making connections to violence done to black and brown bodies.

Tim Wise, an anti-racist author and educator, writes:

Nice is the enemy of justice because to raise one’s voice against oppression is to be instantly pegged as not nice, as disruptive, as unruly, as dangerous. To block traffic, or interfere with the all-important Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center is not nice. To interrupt the symphony orchestra in St. Louis, or the drunken revelry of nice white baseball fans at a Cardinals game is not nice. To signify sympathy for a murdered young man in Ferguson, with even a gesture as simple as raising one’s hands as you come out of the tunnel before the football game is not nice. It is, to some—who would rather just watch black men entertain them with a few nice interceptions—worthy of punishment, or professional discipline. How dare they, say the nice white people who paid good money to see black men play gladiator for the glory of the hometown team.

Nice people change nothing. They never have and they never will. Those who are nice are so invested in their niceness, in their sense of propriety and civility that they rarely raise their voices above a whisper, even in the face of sweltering oppression. Nice white people were the ones who didn’t own black folks during the period of enslavement but also didn’t raise their voices against the ones who did. Nice white people are the ones who didn’t spit on sit-in demonstrators but also had no problem spending money with businesses that had remained segregated all those years.

For the full reflection from Wise, please visit his blog here.

At Peacebang, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein says:

The denial is staggering. My colleagues are weighing in, one by one and then in a rush, commenting on Facebook and e-mails and in messages about their conversations with white parishioners who don’t get it, who are sunk up to their knees like quicksand in white privilege and denial and a worldview that wants to assume that this doesn’t just happen and he must have done something and you don’t know everything and did you read the report? and did you read it as thoroughly as I did, because if you did you wouldn’t be so upset, you wouldn’t be sick and snarling and enraged and disgusted with humanity right now, you’d be the nice, comforting minister I expect you to be.

And Paul Rauschenbusch writes in the Huffington Post:

My casual faith in America is the part of me — thoroughly grounded in white privilege — that has believed without overmuch reflection that our country values equality of all races at its core; that our laws and policing are color blind in their practice; that the efforts of politicians, business leaders and clergy are sincerely geared towards serving all the people; and that America is steadily progressing on the path towards a ‘more perfect union,’ to quote our president.

My ‘faith’ in America was based on things hoped for but as yet unseen (to borrow from Hebrews 11:1). But more importantly, it was based on things hoped for, but not worked for — at least not very hard. Contrary to much that I intellectually knew to be true about the vicious, pernicious nature of racism, I held onto a lazy faith that racism in America would slowly erode itself through some kind of magical process of good will that required little of me aside from a friendly disposition and a hopeful spirit.

That faith, which was blind and useless, died when I watched the video of Eric Garner being choked to death at the hands of an officer who has now been let off without even a trial.

I thank God for my loss of faith.

Because one thing I know is that blind faith is dangerous — by what it does and what it leaves undone. In this case, my blind, casual, easy ‘faith’ in America stood by while daily violence was done to my black sisters and brothers and I did essentially nothing to help.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Only two members of my family that I know of were victims of violent crime. My mother was mugged coming out of the mall after Christmas shopping and my cousin was mugged while she was wthdrawing money from an ATM. My mother was hosptalized for 3 days with internal bleeding and my cousin suffered brain damage for the rest of her life.
Will their decendants have some sort of racial memory in their genes that generations from now they will remember the skin color of the men that victimized their ancestors? Is there really something in our DNA that can recall wrongs done to us but not wrongs done by us? It can’t be the system or our Rebublic because it was around a long long time before us. Resentment and justifiable anger; aren’t “Nice” people entitled too?

Philiip B. Spivey

Splendid excerpts of the unvarnished truth. (A special shout-out to Tim Wise; one of the smartest people I know). The only thing missing from this conversation is a manifesto for change and –aharr!—there’s the rub!

As a veteran of many civil movements for social and economic justice, I find myself stunned at the outpouring this week from people all over the country. Is the beginning of something new? A socio-political flash point much as the assassinations of Emmett Till and Dr. King became? I hope so. Because folks too “nice” to stand against injustice publicly, might as well remain in the closet of nice. Changing oppressive systems requires that we be “discomforted”. That we go beyond the paralysis of white privilege, white guilt and the comfort of knowing that you’ll never be shot dead in cold blood in the middle of a downtown street by an officer of the law just because you are white. It requires us to stand in another’s shoes for while. Perhaps most of all, it requires us to understand that the scapegoating of Black men and other people of color is only the tip of the American iceberg. The shift in our political climate in past several years must be sign of a dangerous turn for our republic.

Does anyone doubt that we cannot predict the outcome for any of us?

John Chilton

I rather liked that remarks from a member of the South Baptist Convention that echoes those above,

We have some real problems in our own hearts and in our own churches. We have a group of people—a small group of people, not a lot of people—some unreconstructed racists in American society and we have some who continue to come and to sit in pews of churches and pretend as though they are disciples of Jesus Christ. And we have some other people who are willing to speak to any possible issue, from the framework of Scripture that goes on in the world until it comes to the question of whether or not we maybe do have some legitimate problems being faced by our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, and then at that point they become completely silent and say the gospel doesn’t speak to this. I think that’s wrong.

JC Fisher

Asked if there was a pattern of young black men getting shot by the police, she responded “Maybe young black men shouldn’t put themselves in a position of getting shot by the police” (FWIW—and it’s basically a moot point—the above was delivered in a southern accent. Person-in-the-street interviews on NPR).

What are we to do w/ this?

I heard that there’s a trending hashtag (I’m not on Twitter, myself) of Ta-Nahesi Coates, responding to the idea that “the police need to be re-trained”, “America needs to be re-trained”.

I heard myself mentally yell “Right On!”, then I thought how that would be heard:

America needs to be re-trained.
White people need to be re-trained.
White people need to be re-educated.
The Diktator Obama will send white people to re-education camps!!11!1!

I just don’t know how, in the Age of FOX, we get through this (Kyrie eleison).

JC Fisher

Ann Fontaine

Thanks for the roundup of reflections. Re: “nice” Word History: Five hundred years ago, when nice was first used in English, it meant “foolish or stupid.” This is not as surprising as it may seem, since it came through early French from the Latin nescius, meaning “ignorant.” By the 16th century, the sense of being “very particular” or “finicky” had developed. In the 19th century, nice came to mean “pleasant or agreeable” and then “respectable,” a sense quite unlike its original meaning.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café