My big White lie

My big White lie

My friend Andre Guess, a strong influence for me since our high school days 35+ years ago, shared with me a recent article he wrote explaining his decision to drop the words “white supremacy” (ws) from his vocabulary. Much like his decision to stop using the “N” word, he explains that any use of the “ws” term conveys the false and destructive notions that undergird it. In short, we can’t use a word without referencing the ideas from which it originates.

Just Like the Word Ni##er, White $upr&#@cy is No Longer in My Vocabulary

#TheBigwhiteLie

My big White lie

Andre Kimo Stone Guesseducated guesses

My big White lie

As Andre explains, every use of the “N” word relays the diminishing intent present at the term’s conception. It was coined from the outset to dehumanize, devalue and intimidate African-Americans. Any current use of it repeats this intent and thereby sustains it, even if the speakers using it have a completely different meaning. The malicious ideas behind the word are echoed each and every time the word is used.

There is no harmless, casual use of the “N” word.

When it comes to the “ws” term, Guess explains that placing the word “supremacy” after the word “white” gives the word “white” power and influence that it simply does not merit. The notion that any race is superior to others is clearly a lie. Even use of “ws” by those of us who are outwardly opposed to any notion of racial superiority conveys the lie on which “ws” is based, even if only subtly or subconsciously. Repeating a term deeply rooted in a lie perpetuates the lie, whether we mean to or not.

There is no harmless, casual use of the “ws” term.

To eliminate the term from our vocabularies and to further expose the lies growing out of the “ws” world view, Guess offers the insightful plea that we replace all uses of “ws” with the accurately descriptive term “the big White lie,” or better yet for social media users, #thebigWhitelie.

I get it and I’m fully on board. So far, it’s been easy enough and quite enlightening to do. Repeatedly calling the lie what it is helps to reveal how far reaching the lie’s tentacles and legacy are in our society. The term itself has spawned countless other lies that have helped disguise “big White lie” thinking in our social institutions, world views and our understanding of how we relate to one another.

You should try it yourself. Instead of calling a particular organization a “ws” group, call it a “big White lie” group. Instead of referring to an individual as a “ws-ist,” refer to him or her as “a big White liar.” Anytime you see the term in print in any of its forms, substitute “the big White lie” in its place.

Doing so undermines the grossly dishonest underlying concepts of the big White lie, and properly positions its supporters as the lie-based activists they are. Most importantly, calling the lie out helps to propel us a bit closer to the sustainable reconciliation available through the truth and love of Jesus.

This experience has prompted me to think about just how big I have allowed the big White lie to be in my own life. I have been surprised at what I have discovered. After all, as a middle-aged white man, I have what some people may consider to be relatively strong race relations credentials.

The only way by which the truth of Jesus’s unconditional love prevails in my life is the elimination of lies. ... Rigorous honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are my guides forward. .. I have to be rigorously honest in assessing the ways I allow the big White lie to influence me.

There surely couldn’t be any remnants of the big White lie in my own life, could there?

I was raised by a single mother who went to great lengths to ensure that our home was a safe place for people who looked differently than me, ate different food, listened to different music, and worshipped gods with different names. My mother’s example formed the foundation of the world view I have today. She consistently modeled the unbounded love that Jesus teaches.

I took that worldview into my high school experience, where I was blessed to attend one of the most integrated public high schools in Kentucky, in a downtown Louisville area bordered by historically black neighborhoods. I developed numerous friendships with African-American classmates that are still important to me all these years later.

After college (where I lived for three years in a dormitory called Jefferson Davis Hall), I volunteered to work in Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. Since then, I have worked professionally alongside numerous African-American women and men, almost all of whom would say I am strongly oriented toward fairness and justice.

I am the uncle of a bi-racial young woman and young man, the world identifies as African-American. I chair the board of a non-profit that assists people after incarceration, a group that includes African-Americans in great disproportion to their relative share of total population.

I love the Obama family, and I wish more than anything that Michelle would lead our nation as president. I have stronger race-relation credentials than most white people I know.

How could my life include anything resembling the big White lie?

But, yet it does, and I will continue to live in the big White lie until I take deliberate steps to identify and change the forms that sustain it.

My big White lie consists of believing that having good relations with people of color is sufficient.

My big White lie includes believing that a worldview based on tolerance, justice and fairness is enough.

My big White lie includes resting in systemic “solutions” like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, changes prompted by the Civil Rights movement but ultimately made by white people in ways that were politically acceptable to white people.

My big White lie is believing that what I have done and what I currently do is enough, that it’s sufficient. And yet it clearly isn’t. It’s far from enough. It’s way insufficient.

The only way by which the truth of Jesus’s unconditional love prevails in my life is the elimination of lies. I have to stop telling lies, I have to stop lying by omission and I have to stop believing lies. Rigorous honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are my guides forward.

I have to be rigorously honest in assessing the ways I allow the big White lie to influence me. I have to be open-minded to learning the uncomfortable reality endured everyday by people of color in my community. I have to be willing to do more.

Being rigorously honest means acknowledging that for all I do and have done to build my race relations cred, I still don’t know the first thing about what it means to wake up as an African-American in the United States of America in 2020.

I have to be open-minded as I come to understand the motivations behind both peaceful protestors and looters, acknowledging that the latter isn’t occurring in some sort of historic vacuum. I, in fact, have a part in sustaining the conditions that produce the looting.

I have to be willing to listen, learn and sustain my involvement until the structural foundation supporting the big White lie is replaced by the Lord’s foundation of truth and love.

The big White lie will go the way of all lies, and love will prevail. But God calls me to agitate and to keep the heat on, just long enough for the structures to permanently change.

I like to make my own butter and strawberry jam at home. Both are simple enough, but I must complete all the required steps to make them.

My big White lie

If I don’t agitate the cream and salt long enough for the molecular bonds in the cream’s fat to grab one another and transform the liquid to a solid, then all I end up with is salted whipped cream. It’s okay, but it’s not butter. It’s just a slightly altered form of cream.

If I don’t keep the heat on the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice long enough to reach 220 degrees, the point at which sweetened strawberry puree transforms to thick jam, then I just end up with strawberry syrup. It’s okay, but it’s not jam. It’s just a slightly altered form of strawberries and sugar.

Removing the big White lie, root and branch, from my life and changing the form of our society into one based on the truth and love offered through Jesus requires me to agitate and to keep the heat on, until the underlying structural form changes. If my motivations to acquire race relations credentials are rigorously honest, if I’m open-minded enough to acknowledge that I need to do more, if I’m willing to listen, learn and act, if I’m willing to agitate and keep the heat on, then I’m promised the forms will change. After all, the grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

The big White lie will go the way of all lies, and love will prevail. But God calls me to agitate and to keep the heat on, just long enough for the structures to permanently change.

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