With Memorial Day comes sartorial permission to wear our summer whites – even though that’s not even a thing anymore. Few of us refrain from wearing white between September and May. (Note: it’s really about texture. More about that later.)
Nevertheless someone reminded me recently that – after Memorial Day – “we can wear white again.” My immediate thought was that I wear white everyday.
I am white. Or in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, I think of myself as white.
For a while now, I have found myself on a spiritual journey about race. It’s definitely more than a cultural or anthropological journey. It’s spiritual in that it’s informing me who God is and who God’s children are, and how – as a follower of Jesus – I am called to live in response.
The journey has worked this way for me: While I’ve always thought of myself as a racist to some extent (because we all have our unintentional biases), I’ve also believed that I was somewhat enlightened. The mayor in my hometown growing up was black, My high school principal was black. My children have grown up in integrated neighborhoods and schools. I notice when everybody in the room is white. I experience a weird twist in my stomach.
But over the past five years or so, as I’ve paid more attention to the news in Ferguson and Cleveland and Chicago, as I’ve become unable to stop thinking about the nine human beings who were killed in their church building in Charleston last June, as I’ve watched footage of a pool party in McKinney, TX and a classroom in Richland County, SC my soul has grown hungrier for insight. As I’ve chosen to read more novels by people of color and to attend training sessions on racism and white privilege my soul has grown hungrier for more.
One of the non-fiction books I’ve read recently is Waking Up White by Debby Irving and I want more. These days, I am waking up white myself.
And about texture:
Fashion experts now explain that it’s not the color that we should avoid in the cooler months; it’s the texture of the fabric. We can wear white wool in December but white linen is best for June. It’s about the fabric. It’s about what keeps us warm in the cold and cool in the heat.
The same is true for our friendships, our interactions, our viewpoints. It’s not about the color; it’s about the texture. God has fashioned a world comprised of a broad texture of human existence. Yes, our skin colors vary, but the fabric of our society depends upon all human beings being interwoven together.
This is on my mind as I countdown to the 222nd General Assembly of my denomination. 19 Days from today. #NoSleepTilPortland