A different kind of recruitment letter: Help us pursue another way forward
Dear white people who might be drawn to recruitment by the Ku Klux Klan:
We are two white pastors in Calvert who read the fliers circulated to promote the KKK. We write to offer another way. We as individuals, communities and a nation are hurting. We dehumanize one another and ourselves with name calling, anonymous threats and acts of violence. Fear and despair often leave us unable to see what else is going on.
So, we write to share what we know is going on: People are already coming together to learn, discuss and explore whiteness.
Over the past three months, two groups have gathered, one in Prince Frederick and one in Lusby, to find ways of wrestling with whiteness that are alternatives to fear and defensiveness, and to loosen the grip of despair.
I, the Rev. Sarah, have been a part of the Lusby group. The 25 of us who participated came with different understandings of what “white privilege” means; some were comfortable, others skeptical and distrustful. Black and white, we gathered weekly for two hours.
At the end of four weeks, I was changed. I was changed by the relationships that began to be formed, by stories shared, and what I learned about my own life. We began to notice how and where whiteness shows up in our lives. How does it benefit us? How does it limit us?
We came to see white privilege is one tool intentionally designed to keep us separated through dehumanization. It makes us think whiteness is the standard for normal. It limits both white and black people and constantly seeks to divide us.
Where real white power and black power lies is in the power to dismantle this system.
This group is only a beginning, yet we have committed to stay in the relationship, gather again, and keep learning.
I, the Rev. Jenn, have been part of the Prince Frederick group, and our sessions continue in December.
We have taken seriously the invitation and responsibility to do what, as white people, we’ve not had to do before — intentionally tell the stories of our past, present and future through the lens of race. Alongside others, I’ve done the hard work of bringing into consciousness how I learned what being white means and is, what being black, brown or “immigrant” means and is, how I’ve reaped unearned benefit from my whiteness. I’ve been saddened by understanding how “whiteness” has kept me and others in line, and I differentiate the moments I’ve risked, or chosen not to risk, stepping out of the white norm.
The emotions we’ve experienced — disgust, sadness, confusion, resentment, fear, self-loathing, guilt, anger, hopelessness, despair, hope — are all fine to experience. It is what we do with these emotions that matters. White people’s tension with whiteness has led some to recruit to the KKK and others to respond not out of fear or defensiveness, but out of curiosity, compassion and love. We hope you will come practice, albeit imperfectly, this other way with us.
We know this work can be supported by and with our faith. Faith traditions give us practices to humbly admit we’ve been wrong, and inspiration to find hope when the world-as-we-knew-it is no more.
So, the invitation is simple, but not easy. Don’t join the KKK. But don’t ignore our whiteness and the angst it creates.
Join communities committed to understanding the tolls white privilege takes on white people and people of color.
Commit, not to be perfect nor to know all, but to solidarity and anti-racism.
Join the next “Big Conversation on Dismantling Racism and Privilege” at Patuxent High School on Jan. 13 at 2 p.m.
Or join the “White Privilege: Let’s Talk” series at Dreamweaver Catering and Cafe on Dec. 2, Jan. 27 and Feb. 24, all at 5 p.m.