Dear White People: Shed the taboo. You have always been enough. It’s time.

One of the biggest rules of white Christian America was “Don’t disturb the peace,” at all costs. As to exactly where this came from I have a few guesses, but the cost has been far too high to let it continue. I could go on about the very real and horrible ways it has victimized, harmed, and silenced Black and brown people, but for now, I want to discuss its implication for white people.

For white people, it has meant bottle your emotions and push them deep because no one will care for you if you’re vulnerable; that your greatest duty is to not be a total pain to deal with or make others have to see you for who you really are. So we cut off our hearts and push away from anything that threatens to expose the poison of our deeply indoctrinated need to be okay. We can’t be human so we don’t set boundaries, we stigmatize mental health and look to faith as a cure-all, waiting for the pain to go away on its own when it’s a bit more complex than that. We don’t show up for ourselves, and we stubbornly tell ourselves we don’t feel our life leaking away. We construct our walls and wither inside them.

Meanwhile, the cogs of power weaponized our own silenced pain and fear against innocent people, to the point where it threatens these people’s very lives on a daily basis.

We arm ourselves with guns and dogma and contempt and tell ourselves that’s safer, that’s enough. That nothing will change and we just have to hold our ground until we die.

It’s too late now, our brokenness whispers. Our bitter wounded hearts that were never heard, because human was just too bothersome. Too late now.

But it’s never too late. The voices of indoctrination and trauma are not truth. We have the power to claim better, for ourselves, for our neighbors.

In the social justice realm, the way things are, while we are hurting in our own ways, and however unfair it is, the color of our skin doesn’t make things harder for us. And that’s where our role comes in. The system was built to benefit us, and privilege doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Privilege is an edge on the status quo, and it’s a tool we can wield to protect others and enact change.

As white people, we are being asked right now to amplify and support the voices of the marginalized, those against whom our silence feeds into something far older and far more sinister than the number our questionable “don’t stir the pot” upbringing did on us. The voice of our indoctrination says “us vs them,” that stepping aside means “roll over and die,” but that isn’t the case. It feels threatening, because change is scary. Confronting pain and darkness in ourselves and the nonconsensual ways generational trauma has stained us is difficult and terrifying. We struggle so much to accept our own selves that most days we can’t stand one more person saying our struggle doesn’t mean anything. That our pain is wrong.

Race hasn’t been a source of this in my life because of my whiteness, but I have felt this narrative again and again in other areas. And I will do whatever I have to so that I never ever inflict this injustice on another person. When they tell me their experience, I will believe them. People need to be heard, and when they ask me to listen, I will set myself aside, and I will listen. Black and brown people are no strangers to the most insidious forms of gaslighting, and it doesn’t stop at gaslighting. They’re literally fighting for their lives.

With white people, feeling heard is a difficult nuance. Our own white culture has pushed us down so far we’re not sure what we need. We say one thing, but we’re really speaking to something else. I want you to feel like your pain is heard, but I hope you understand that in the realm of social justice, being heard is only the beginning. There is a call for a greater standard, a greater accountability at work here. I want you to be a part of it.

Growing up Christian, I was taught to think critically with compassion, and that compassion always has to have the last word. If that means I’ll have to dismantle the darkness in me, to do work that completely destroys my worldview and leaves me shaken, then bring it on. I have been doing this work for seven years now and I intend to continue it for the rest of my life. I’ll do it without expecting thanks or a pat on the back, because it is my duty as a citizen of the world. As a storyteller, as a human being. I am a part of this revolution, but it isn’t about me.

That’s not to say that I don’t mean anything. I’m working on my own internal revolutions too. If I don’t show up for myself, I can’t show up for others.

We white people hear “Black Lives Matter” and our programming and trauma hears, “Bury Yourself, Nullify Yourself. You are never good enough.” But that’s not what Black Lives Matter is about. The recent protests are a call to change the power structure. (By “defund the police,” the intent is to move to a community-based system of specialists that are better held accountable, not generalist soldiers on a power trip.) As much as we hate to admit it, racism has only helped fuel the corrupt systems in place, in overt and subtle ways that we have to dig up and eradicate in ourselves too. We were born into a racist society. That doesn’t make us bad people, it means we have work to do. This is about dismantling systems that hurt everybody. About giving people of color relief and justice for once.

For us to be functional allies we have to figure out why our hearts want to stay closed.

We can give ourselves the permission to do the work in ourselves we’ve needed to do for far too long, to identify and address our own trauma that often has nothing to do with racism but very much influences our response to it, to combat the lies we’ve picked up along the way, to be able to hear people for what they’re actually saying. But we can do that work while also amplifying the voices of Black and brown people and supporting them in dismantling a status quo that made us bitter but is actively violent and victimizing toward them.

The corrupted status quo benefits off our staying closed. Staying bitter. To fight it, we have to listen to the voices speaking against it. We have to let ourselves become human, to hold the capacity for empathy with people whose lived experiences are vastly different than our own but very, very real. To stand with these people and say, “I believe you. Enough is enough.”

Black Lives Matter says it has to stop. All of it. The cycle of trauma broken once and for all. This is very much about bringing justice to fruition for people who still have yet to see it in the modern era, but that doesn’t mean you as a white person no longer have a place in the world. You have more a place in the world than ever. You, too, get to be part of history in the making.

All this time we’ve been doing the best we could with the resources we had, but now with new resources, easier access to information, new voices standing on the shoulders of the voices of the past, it’s time to pivot. It’s time to change the game.

It is time to ask where our defensiveness, our hesitation, our condemnation comes from. Whose voice it is, and who it serves. It is time to ask whether we will join the fight to build a better world, or if we will continue to let our unresolved personal trauma keep us buried.

We have the power to reject things that no longer serve us, to listen and learn and confront things we don’t feel equipped to. We don’t have to bury our hearts anymore. We can come alive, we can absolutely stir the pot until it shatters, we can support and protect and listen to our Black and brown brothers and sisters. We can show up for them in a major ways, and at the same time we can learn how to show up for ourselves and each other in the ways our white sanitized cultural indoctrination always barred and demonized. It’s time to claim healing for ourselves as well as for our nation, if only we are willing to listen. 

All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter. That doesn’t mean you and your pain don’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t seek healing for yourself as well in the midst of all this, but we need your heart and your privilege to push back against the insidious status quo. We’re in this for the long haul, and you’re absolutely welcome at the table.

Early, late, or right on time, you’re welcome to join the revolution.

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A/N: I’ve been floored recently by the advancement in trauma awareness over the last several years, and as I’ve started wandering down that road in my own life, one aspect of the pushback I see from white people in my community against such good, necessary, and urgent societal change as the Black Lives Matter movement is starting to make more sense to me. Today I hoped to speak to that, to assuage some of those fears.

America the Broken

I am so incredibly heartbroken and disgusted by what has happened in the last few days. Brutal, unapologetic rapists get a 3 month prison sentence, a young rising singer loved by everyone who knew her murdered in a senseless act of violence, and then I wake up this morning to learn about the horror what went down in Orlando.

And I don’t have words. Certainly not civil ones.

All year, we’ve been hearing “Make America Great Again!!” along with “It’s ______’s fault.” The immigrants, the gays, the Muslims…etc etc etc. Things aren’t the way they used to be, and we are freakin’ uncomfortable with that.

But what happened to the still small voice of love in our hearts, against which everything is weighed and compared, which helps guide our responses and actions? Are we listening to the small, scared voice of our comfort zones instead?

I do not feel safe in my country and that has not always been the case, simply because I did not used to know what horrors awaited me in the real world. The kind of Great America that too many of us are hoping for does not exist, and it will not be solved by any one presidential candidate. Pining after such an illusion is like obsessing over the golden days of childhood—the blissful ignorance of privilege we simply cannot afford to entertain anymore. People are suffering, people are dying. What kind of modern, development-oriented society are we that allows this? Since the dawn of forever, the marginalized have been silenced, and now that they have fought and sacrificed and paid very dearly for the most basic of introductory footholds to make their voices heard, how dare we not listen. How dare we push them away and whine for the good ol’ days so we can ignore reality and sit in our cozy privilege and look after only ourselves and our posh, 2-dimensional ideas? 

The more I see of our downward spiral and notice the patterns in our history, the more I think perhaps America has never been “great.” We have used our power and wealth to meddle and abuse for as long as we’ve had the means. We are proud to be a melting pot, but at the same time, we stand on the bodies of the peoples we exploited to make our country what it is and continue to exploit them. We have sanitized and domesticated and commercialized ourselves and our ideas to a point that, quite frankly, no longer looks human to me, and our modern worshipping of firearms and status quo has led to the caustic, systemic plague of violence and hate exploding all around us.

And amidst all this horror and pain, how dare we think self-preservation is worth the monstrosities we are permitting?

Love is the greatest weapon against hate. It is a compass, a counterbalance. But faith without action is dead. Making this life count requires something of us, and if we want to do good in this world, it will not be from the tiny boxes we’ve decided are big enough.

The American Dream is over. It’s time to wake up.

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A/N: I’ve kept my wrath to myself the last few months. I may just be one young, angry voice. But something needs to change, and I will add mine to the call.

Speaking up

I care far too much of what people think of me, and perhaps this post is one of the first public manifestations of a long string of minor subterranean adjustments. That finally I am willing to bare my soul on this subject, knowing full well that people will read this and will disagree, and may feel compelled to tell me in no uncertain terms.

To that, I say I hate arguing. I refuse to engage in a passive aggressive Facebook-comment-esque fight over politics and ideologies. But I do want you to think. To extend a possibility that some of you might not have considered.

I only ask that you make no quick judgments as you read this. Not for my sake, but for yours, and for the sakes of the marginalized. For this whole battle of technicalities we are engaged in, which is pulling us further and further from the real focus.

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Society is changing. Some aspects for the worse, and some for the better.

I personally consider the feminist and LGBTQ movements to be among the better.

Why?

Because, man or woman, straight or otherwise, we are people. Human beings. As a culture, we are moving to find and embrace whatever we are, whoever we are. To get to know ourselves and assert our value despite being misunderstood. We do not fit in a preconceived box or align well with dominant culture. And that is valid. We are valid. Because God says we are.

Believing it for ourselves is harder, though, and that is why I think the major social movements of our era are so incredibly important.

Because God cannot be contained in a box. Should not His people also transcend boxes?

But we are warned about being like the world. Left to our own devices, humans tend toward destructive behavior and we must not compromise ourselves and blend in too much with the dominant culture. But, to some degree, sanitized, Christian, evangelical culture has become like a secondary dominant culture.

And the dominant cultures are still unaccepting of marginalized groups (which isn’t a new phenomenon). We still tend toward forming sanitized, gated communities and wondering why the outliers are so averse to that. We get so stuck in our ways of thinking and doing things that we get too comfortable and stick to what we know, to the detriment of those our systems don’t take into account.

But where is the line between compromising our moral standards and being even remotely relatable to real people? How much is our in-group mindset and how much of the alternative are we better off embracing?

Isn’t lifting people’s spirits good? Isn’t convincing them they matter good? Isn’t it good to fight against cultural and racial and ideological barriers that tell people they should be who they clearly are not, and whose persistent denial is serving no productive purpose?

That is not to say we are to baby people and only tell them what they want to hear. Because that isn’t loving. That’s lame and patronizing, and counterproductive. I’m not saying we should avoid setting people straight when necessary. But we must really think hard about what we’re trying to set straight and decide before we hurt someone whether it is something that really needs to be fixed.

“What feels right” is a term scorned by the conservative, evangelical community I grew up in. But there’s a lot of truth in it. “What feels right” is a valid starting place. Follow your heart, your head. But follow God. He’ll work with you in the spots He’s not cool with.

Learn, grow, keep an open mind. Dare to be wrong for a little while in search for what’s really true. Because I know for a fact that God is very much not cool with stagnancy and marginalization.

But am I getting desensitized? Desensitized to the blatant depravity of the world and its devices? Buying a lie? Slipping to the dark side?

The Holy Spirit lives in me. God guides me, and watches out for me. And right now, I see our sticking to our guns—our conservative, men and women have their places, gays will tear the world apart mentalities—as doing so much more harm than good. It is divisive, and smells too much of “I know your place. Here, let me put you in it.”

The territory’s uncertain, so of course we’d be apprehensive, but we’ve come a long way as a species. And maybe the world will come to ruin. In fact, unless drastic intervention takes place, I believe it will.

Because I see the signs everywhere:

Violence, dehumanization, objectification, and abuse.

No desire to understand, no empathy, no selflessness. No care, no time,

Addiction, destructive sexual habits, destructive relationships.

Unspeakable things done to other human beings out of greed.

Ignorance, arrogance, spite, entitlement, exploitation of the defenseless.

I don’t see self-acceptance, validation, empowerment, protection, or equality fitting into that list.

Anywhere.

If anything, the very social movements I see pushback against are in part solutions to the problem—persistent humanization and validation of people as people, and support as they search, as we all are, for our identity.

In my ignorance, I once invalidated the very people I now defend. And I regret it. I pray that I never do that again. That I never be the person to tell someone their feelings and experiences are invalid.

I pray that I will be open-minded, patient, flexible, and brave. That I will be able to distinguish the key components of my moral compass at all times—that God’s business is God’s business, and love trumps absolutely everything.

I pray that we not become, or remain, “Pharisees,” freaking out about doctrine and technicalities so much that we miss the point and reduce people to mere problems. To poor, misguided souls.

I follow God. The wild, confusing, benevolent, persistent God.

I believe technicalities are not nearly as important as a person, and I will always do my best to keep my current biases and prior conceptions out of the way.

I believe the push for gender equality is so incredibly necessary. For the sake of everybody, not just women.

I believe the LGBTQ community needs to be welcomed, respected, and embraced. They are not a threat to the world order, or to the human race. In fact, we could learn so many things from them about honesty, identity, courage, and self-acceptance.

I believe the American church has some wires disconnected, but that they are beginning to reconnect. I believe we can repair this ostracization.

I believe that men and women are different only in genetics—and the physicality and hormones that arise from that—but that the differences have no bearing whatsoever in their roles as human beings. Biologically male or female or in between, we can be whatever the heck we want to be.

I don’t doubt I have more to learn. I will have more to learn until the day I die and then some, but for now I don’t want to be right.

I want to be real. I want to be useful and nurturing and understanding.

Because maybe all those prayers that this generation would open up their eyes are working.

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I know for some this must be extremely uncomfortable to read. By now, you may be feeling an odd twisting inside your chest, a direct challenge to what you thought was cut-and-dry, a discomfort with the subject and a temptation to retreat and hold to what you’ve already figured out. I have felt it many many times along this journey. We just want things to be black and white, right and wrong—but there are far too many factors rendering such simplicity impossible.

So thank you for making it to the end of this piece. Even if you ultimately don’t agree with what I have said, I appreciate your time, attention, and your willingness to think about this.

Because in such a revolutionary time, there can be no complacency.

There can be no “us” vs. “them.”