Every day since the election was called has been an emotional pendulum swing. I have felt an overwhelming sense of love from those who have called, emailed, texted, and sat with me in my anger, fear, and grief. These have been messages of love and solidarity, words of apology, and words of comfort. On the other side of the pendulum, I have received critique on the words I have used following the election calling out systems of whiteness that blatantly operate in the United States of America and that have been explicitly played out in the 2016 Presidential Election. I have been told that I cannot blame an entire race for what has happened.
I do not blame race. I actually blame a system of supremacy, privilege, and power that has benefited one race and now has so many on the margins fearful of their existence, myself included.
I’ve been told that I need to use words of compassion. I want to share with you (again and again and again) my lived experience of how I have used polite language, and how that use has benefited no one.
My current anger and lamentations have made people feel uncomfortable. I fear for my life and the lives of people I deeply care about; that’s fucking uncomfortable right there.
I was verbally threatened with racial slurs when I was a senior in high school. I was with two of my friends, who led me to their car so I could be guarded from the harassment. The verbal attack on my being was devastating; it was the first time I could recall having racial slurs hurled at me. Even though I was led to safety, no one confronted the ones hurling the destructive language.
I was verbally threatened with racial epithets again on my college campus. I was with a white friend who backed away from the verbal assault. She could hide behind the privilege of her white skin and not engage the person who was verbally harassing me. I was in such shock, I just stood and took the verbal harassment because I felt that my brown body had little value, as evidenced by my friend’s (in)action.
I was also threatened in the days following September 11, 2001. I was walking down the street in downtown Greenville, South Carolina when “Hey bitch, go back home to Osama” was yelled at me from a moving Jeep. I froze in fear, terrified of something being thrown from the car. I went back to my apartment scared for my life.
When I was in seminary in the liberal bastion of Berkeley, California, racially charged events were occurring on a campus where people were training to be pastors. Only when the lives of the white students were impacted with the layoff of the dean of students did the campus mobilize. This is where I came to learn the value of my brown body within a white denomination.
In March, I was in New York City with a Lutheran World Federation delegation when uprisings were taking place against Trump in Chicago. I saw an opportunity for public action; I was ready to march down to Trump Tower to pray and sing hymns of protest in my clerical collar. I had a few white women agree to join me, but when I was in the lobby dressed in my clerical, they backed out. They told me what so many people of color hear when it comes to action and protest: tomorrow, later, only when we are comfortable and ready.
I couldn’t wait for tomorrow, comfort, and readiness. I marched down to Trump Tower with one other white woman in protest and solidarity to sing and pray, but the sting of being abandoned by the other white women who offered their presence still impacts me to this day.
My lived experience as a woman of color will always, always, always differ from that of white people in the United States of America. I am being honest when I say that I have to prepare myself to be in spaces where I am the obvious minority because there is always a chance for my Incarnational identity to be called into question. Always.
Microaggressions and macroaggressions are sadly a part of the lived reality of a person of color in the United States of America. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times this dialogue has taken place:
White person: Where are you from?
White person: No. Where are you really from?
Me (internal monologue initially, now said verbally): My mother’s uterus.
I cannot begin to tell you the times where I have been called articulate and well-spoken. I cannot begin to tell you the times within my denomination where I have been questioned on my theology because I do not understand the cultural aspects of my denomination’s history that include lutefisk, lefse, and aebleskivers.
These are scratches on my brown skin; they sting, but I usually confer with those I love, receive their prayers, love, and support, then soldier on. After Tuesday, this has now become difficult.
Trump’s win now makes behavior permissible that can fully annihilate my body and the bodies of the people I truly love. People of color. LGBTQ+ folx. The differently abled. My brother’s body. My mother’s body. My mentor’s body. The bodies of my childhood best friends. The body of my college campus pastor’s son. The body of my friend’s differently-abled child. The bodies of so many I hold beloved in my life. Please read that sentence again: Trump’s win now makes behavior permissible that can fully annihilate my body and the bodies of the people I truly love.
People made in the sacred and holy image of God are no longer deemed as such within a system of white supremacy.
I truly wish I could call myself overdramatic, but when I saw this article yesterday afternoon, I went to bed at 5PM and stayed there weeping intermittently for 15 hours.
I ask you, especially people in positions of privilege reading this post, how will you respond?
Or will you hide behind your privilege?