I am afraid.
I walk in the world as a woman of color.
I walk in the world as the wife of a woman of color.
I walk as the mother of beautiful baby of color.
And I have to confess that I am afraid.
Watching the events unfold in Charlottesville has been painful. I had friends and colleagues there on the front lines. I was concerned for their safety.
But that is not why I am afraid.
Watching people react to the events of Charlottesville with shock and disbelief has been painful. Racism is not new.
I recognize racist hatred. I recognize what it does to my brown body to hear the violence of slurs and threats. I recognize in the cadence of my heart, my ancestors’ hearts, hiding in the hills to escape capture and death. I recognize in the pit of my stomach my ancestors’ fierce, bone-chilling push to protect their loved ones. I recognize it in the way I hold my daughter a little tighter, give her one more kiss goodnight. I wrap her in my love to protect her—to shield her from the evils of racism and hate.
My fear is not new.
And it’s not brought on by Alt-Right, the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, White supremacists, or whatever else these groups of hateful people get to be called instead of calling them what they are: terrorists.
My fear is closer to home.
I am afraid, quite simply, that watching racist violence in Virginia will make folks shake their heads in sympathy, “Wow, that is terrible. Those poor people OVER THERE.”
My fear is the thought that follows: “That would never happen here.”
I heard it this Sunday after preaching a word against racism. I read it on social media in discussions and comment threads.
I am afraid.
I am afraid that the events of Charlottesville set a new benchmark for racism: it can’t be racism if there are no crowds with burning torches, bats, and clubs seeking to threaten, to harass, and ultimately destroy.
That cannot be our measuring stick for racism.
Even in states that do not have Confederate statues to remove, we are not free from the legacy of racism that runs deep in this country.
The challenge now is to stay woke.
The challenge is to stay engaged.
The challenge for our white allies is to show up, to listen, to do the work together.
The challenge for our white allies is to do the work to recognize the power of bias in shaping our society, our actions and our thoughts.
The challenge is to not become desensitized to the racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny, and prejudice that are infusing our culture.
Yes, even here.
The challenge is to resist those voices that say there are two sides to every story, everyone holds responsibility, and suggest that we can blame peaceful protestors for a car being driven into their midst.
The challenge is to stay in that place that might feel unfamiliar or unsafe, a place that people of color know all too well, of recognizing that there is bias, there is racism, there is hatred in our midst.
Yes, even here!
Those of us who walk in the world as black and brown people experience it daily, are dehumanized daily, are targeted regularly. We carry the trauma of racism within us—in high blood pressure, in mental illness, in maternal and infant mortality rates, in homelessness, in poverty, in stigma.
I am afraid that if people give in to complacency, we will have missed an opportunity to build together.
There is a lot of building to do.
I am afraid that if we look away, if we give in to fatigue or complacency, we will have missed an opportunity to dismantle together.
There is a lot of dismantling to do!
I am afraid that if we believe that it can’t happen wherever we live, we won’t fight to make communities safer for me, for my wife, and our daughter.
I am afraid that white allies will not realize that their silence makes them complicit, that now is the time to speak out, to organize, to join groups, to lean in, to listen hard, and to do the hard work, together.
The word “resist: has become a buzzword lately but when I speak of resistance, I am speaking very much as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Christian tradition is rooted in resistance.
We resist the powers of empire.
We resist the lies of the world, and we turn instead to simple truths: love for God, and love for neighbor as for ourselves.
Not mushy gushy easy love.
Roll up your sleeves and get dirty love.
Your liberation is bound up in mine kind of love.
Yes, I am afraid.
But perfect love casts out fear.
I hope that in the weeks and months and years to come, we will cast out fear.
That we will face the evils of racism.
That we will resist.
That we will unite.
And we will only grow stronger.
Thea Racelis is a Latina Queer Theologian and Pastor; educator, dreamer, and activist. Thea is committed to ministry from/with the margins and at the intersections.