“…most people the world over were good. And my family? We were definitely good. Our parents impressed the importance of it on us all the time.” Debby Irving from the chapter “My Good People” in Waking Up White
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
Most of us think of ourselves as Good People. We follow the rules (except when we don’t re: speed limits.) We are honest (except when we aren’t re: lying to save face.) We work hard (except some of us forget that we had some advantages like white skin color.)
While vacationing in a place where Confederate flags were sometimes visible if not flaunted, I thought about Debby Irving’s chapter “My Good People” a lot. Vacations are supposed to be for relaxing and so discussing politics – for example – in a family with different political perspectives is frowned upon. (Note: It was really hard the day Anthony Scaramucci was fired.)
Family conversations are opportunities for sharing stories and revealing opinions, and there is always that moment when I need to decide whether or not to speak up when a comment about Good People inadvertently reveals cluelessness.
“We were good to our housekeeper. She was like family.”
What I wanted to say, but didn’t: “She wasn’t like family. She didn’t spend Christmas with us. She didn’t go on vacation with us. She didn’t even sit at the same table with us at meals.”
“Maybe Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson really loved each other.”
What I wanted to say and did: “She was 14 years old. And enslaved.“
Sometimes we keep our mouths shut when we should speak up. We don’t want to cause conflict. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. We don’t want to get “political.” We want to think the best of people and we want to think the best of ourselves.
We are Good People. But sometimes we are also clueless about the fact that we aren’t as Good as we think we are.
I believe in speaking up when we hear or see injustice or false narratives. But sometimes I don’t speak up either. Imagine how different the Church would be if we chose not only to speak up but to stand up.