72 Responses

  1. mike helbert
    mike helbert July 1, 2013 at 6:07 AM |

    Thank you for this. I, too, am a white male who has been struggling with that identity. I don’t know that I can say that I’ve taken Dan’s 7-step path, but I have really had to work thru being ashamed of my white, privileged culture. I think I’m coming out at a similar place, tho. I can’t change who God has made me. I can only embrace that and trust God to use me, as I am, to “extend the kingdom of God.”

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 8:55 PM |

      Thanks for the comment Mike. I don’t think there’s any magic in the 7-step path… that simply reflects my journey. And even with that, it’s more like a circular than straight, linear process. Blessings as you continue to use all that God has given you to “extend” the kingdom!

  2. @Zuzudanz
    @Zuzudanz July 1, 2013 at 11:08 AM |

    Daniel, it was really encouraging for me to hear a white pastor preaching about his identity development from the PULPIT last summer when you shared your journey with us. Thank you for doing that!

    If I could, I would amend stage 7 to be “empowering” – my white male mentor teacher once told me that he uses his white male-ness as a gift to be shared by empowering those around him. I’ve reaped the benefits of that through countless 1:1 conversations and I’ve seen him advocate for “the least of these” by leading major projects at our school through consensus building and distributive leadership.

    Now, I have another mentor who once told me that if white people enter through the lens of their identity development primarily through confronting the many privileges their skin color affords, it can often stunt the rest of their development because they feel so much shame and guilt. So one place to start the journey, especially with white people, might be to slowly realize that white people do have culture, and that culture does reflect a part of God’s creation and as such there are gifts to being white. Otherwise, some white people who start their journey with guilt and shame might spend a lot of time shirking in the shadows, not acting in ways to benefit others because they are so afraid of being seen as insensitive, overpowering, unaware, domineering, etc.

    Anyway, it’s great to see pastors talking about their identity development – it provides a great example for those who have never encountered this topic!

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 8:56 PM |

      Thanks for following me over to Dr. Cleveland’s blog Misuzu =) I think that is a great word, and brings important balance to this journey

  3. Lauren Rea Preston
    Lauren Rea Preston July 1, 2013 at 11:14 AM |

    It’s also helpful to visualize these steps as sometimes cyclical. But these are useful in a model to think about potential time periods in the process of growing towards a healthy racial identity.

    On a personal note, the “self-righteous” part isn’t limited to a stage. I have found the tendency to be self-righteous at every turn. In my own journey, I feel like the “self-righteous stage” might be labeled something like “crusader,” which does imply a certain arrogance, for sure, but is not unlike any other “conversion experience.” It’s a two-sided coin–on the one hand I think other people should “get with the program” and see what I see, but on the other hand, there is a real desire to do the right thing. As I’m writing, I also thought about the fact that “self-righteous” can also be another manifestation for “guilt” or shame. As in, “I’m a White person who ‘gets it'” can be another way of masking the underlying guilt we feel about our complicity in a racist society.

    I also can totally identify with the “lost & confused” stage, which I’ve heard other White activists call the “dark years.” Mine occurred for slightly different reasons–I stayed in my home community and experienced tremendous backlash for my “crusading” efforts. I feel like part of the “lost & confused” stage has to do with reconciling my past identity with my present, moving towards a healthy identity all around.

    Finally, I was really intent on “skipping” some of these stages, but I think it is important to allow yourself to go through all the emotions in the process. It’s certainly advisable to try to avoid mistakes, so it’s helpful to read about what others have done and learn from it. But I think mistakes are not only inevitable, but a major part of the learning process. This is where grace and mercy are so important, not only from others, but for yourself.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing!!

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 9:02 PM |

      Great thoughts Lauren. I agree that its cyclical, and i strongly agree with the pervasive nature of pride and self-righteousness at every step of the way. People in my circles often feel intimidated by how much ground there is to cover in becoming a skilled, cross-cultural person, and I tell them that there are two ingredients that summarize almost everything else: humility and the ability/willingness/hunger to learn. If we do those we can overcome pride… or at least keep it at bay.

      The pride piece is so dangerous for all of us – for some, pride obviously manifests in the need to domineer others, but there are many other forms too. Even insecurity is a dangerous form of pride in this journey… if we are so afraid of looking silly or saying the wrong thing, then we never take the necessary steps to grow. And then there is a newer version that shows up a lot, particularly with us white folks. There are many well-intentioned whites that clearly see the damage that has been done by racism, and want to avoid any type of association with that (understandably so). But in the quest to avoid being the ‘bad’ white people, and in the process of trying to prove ourselves as the ‘good’ white people, we again fall into pride, and aren’t able to put ourselves in positions where our remaining blind spots can be revealed and where new and necessary understandings can begin to be instilled.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

      1. Ann Schweers
        Ann Schweers August 6, 2013 at 1:42 PM |

        Great article, Daniel. Gives us all a lot to think about. I have always been a crusader type and have tried not to be self righteous but I know that I struggle with this. One comment: I think that we tend to hate and unfairly judge those which we do not know and church is probably the most segregated place there is. It would be so good if we could have partnering between churches and groups so that we get to really know each other, eat with each other, talk with each other, share our joys and concerns with each other. As a long-time volunteer, 10 years with Habitat for Humanity, I felt that was one of the best things about that program. People from all walks of life with their sleeves rolled up interacting with each other on a common level. Anyone out there have any ideas for how to increase this “getting to know each other.”

  4. Dave Clark Jr.
    Dave Clark Jr. July 1, 2013 at 11:26 AM |

    Bro Daniel, thank you for sharing so transparently. You have inspired me to think through and attempt to articulate a similar narrative on my journey. It was really helpful how you outlined the different stages of how God has been growing you on this journey. Let’s keep learning and growing man!
    Christena, thanks for posting this!

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 9:02 PM |

      Thanks Dave – I appreciate your kind words. You are living it… that means a lot coming from you

  5. BD Smith
    BD Smith July 1, 2013 at 3:24 PM |

    Thank you for this information. Most of my family is very racist and I still have a lot of difficulty dealing with this shame.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 9:03 PM |

      Hey BD, thanks for the honest sharing. That’s a hard thing for many of us to reconcile… prayers to you as you navigate being a reconciler within your own extended family

  6. Sue
    Sue July 1, 2013 at 5:31 PM |

    I was in theological education in an extremely diverse place, where nearly every class had to do with race,gender, class and power. I recognize the stages you describe, and the difficulty of that journey as a white person. However, these days I’ve been thinking about how ‘we’ humans all ‘do it’ – I have been in the position of white privilege and I am continuing to learn about that, but my child went to an Asian country where he discovered the experience of being on the other side of race and cultural power (although yes, I understand ‘white American’ follows us everywhere). So I very much like the idea of embracing culture, with a clear willlingness to keep telling the truth about our sins, for the kingdom of God. But it is romantic to think that every other culture is not vulnerable to the very same kinds of sins if it were to have the power, and to the extent that another culture does have any power over another culture – that IS what happens. Because the kingdom of God hasn’t yet come in its fullness.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 9:08 PM |

      I completely agree Sue. I think anyone with wisdom realizes that there is no culture immune to the selfish and corrosive nature of sin, and we must be careful to avoid idolizing one or demonizing another.

      With that being said, part of our current condition is that white, American culture tends to go unexamined by many within the dominant culture, and many non-white cultures tend to be unfairly (even racistly?) examined by the dominant culture. This leads to an un-reconciled state where one culture is held up without accountability, and other cultures are unfairly portrayed by the powerful media outlets that are still within the control of dominant culture. So that dynamic seems to need to find its way into the conversation as well

      Just some thoughts =)

    2. Meg Nakano
      Meg Nakano July 15, 2013 at 7:39 AM |

      Hi,Sue. I’m living in one of those Asian countries your child may be /have been living in. And I notice a number of things: 1. as a minority, I have no initial control over how the “white” stereotype is defined by those around me, and need to have my own Identity, and broaden people’s minds one by one, (not get in a knot when changing is too much for some people to achieve)…2. the color-blindness led me and my now-ex-husband (with his own color-blindness) into a marriage that in the end crashed on his way of handling the stress of his family who were NOT color-blind, and my children have suffered as a result.. 3. as a minority, I don’t get “instant credibility”. This means that I inflict overkill when back in the U.S. where I’m a member of the majority and instantly believed. 4. The best balance is achieved when the differences are recognized, but of less importance than the human being we have come to know and appreciate.

  7. Dennis
    Dennis July 1, 2013 at 5:51 PM |

    No one of any race should be made to feel ashamed because of their color or faith (or national heritage, etc.). No one should be put down because of who they are. No one should ashamed to be who they are, even if they are white.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 9:09 PM |

      I 100% agree!

  8. Alicia Gonzalez
    Alicia Gonzalez July 1, 2013 at 8:01 PM |

    This racist problem came as result of sin,disobedient to God,taking matters on our own hands. The promise will come from the God given child .but man N woman said no ; from Ismael!! and U know the rest of the story. So God Blessed Abraham N blessed all human race through him; The promise seed CHRIST came Gal. 3:16, praise God for His love and provision N He WILL be the ONLY one to end the racist N ALL other problems.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 1, 2013 at 9:10 PM |

      I couldn’t agree more than Jesus is the one who dismantles and ends the vestiges of racism. But we still have to take seriously that the way he does that through us… through those who will deny themselves, pick up the Cross, and follow the author & pioneer of our faith down that path of reconciliation. That’s why i’m so grateful for blogs like this that challenge, inspire, and equip people of faith to do just that!

  9. Naomi Krueger
    Naomi Krueger July 1, 2013 at 9:44 PM |

    I really resonated with this post. I’m somewhere past the light-bulb moment and ashamed– trying to move toward empowered, but feeling a bit stuck. So maybe Lost and Confused. How would you recommend moving past awareness to action? (Is action even the right word to use?)

  10. What is White Culture? » Naomi Krueger

    […] read this article. It definitely resonated with me. I’d sure like to hear what you think, […]

  11. Daniel
    Daniel July 1, 2013 at 11:04 PM |

    Thanks for sharing that Naomi. I think action is good, and important… though I think its also helpful to frame it in a broader way than we often do. First, most of us tend to measure action through deeds or programs… ‘progress’ if you will.

    I think its helpful to measure action first and foremost in terms of learning (particularly those of us who are coming to this conversation from a more privileged background). How many people have i talked to? Whose experiences am i learning from? Which books, blogs, or articles can help me gain a greater vantage point? These are the questions that drive growth and transformation, but they easily take a back seat to programmatic questions if we are not careful.

    Second, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘action,’ if we want to call it that, happens best in community. While there are responsibilities that lie with each of us individually as we pursue the ministry of reconciliation, most of the good and important progress happens when a reconciling community works together for (or against depending on the circumstance) some important initiative. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found the community that i can work alongside, and I wish i could duplicate that for every emerging reconciler. The principle is the same though… I believe… we each need to find those who are already doing the work of reconciliation, and then jump in with a diverse group of committed, thoughtful, authentic men and women who care deeply about this Biblical mandate.

    Just some thoughts =)

  12. D.L. Mayfield
    D.L. Mayfield July 2, 2013 at 7:57 AM |

    i identified with so much (i have a similar journey in my own life, although more tied to economic class than just racial differences). i too have questions about how to keep horrible #4 at bay. As someone who who talks and interacts regularly with these topics i wonder if you still continue to receive feedback that you are prideful (possibly from people in the defensive stage?). whenever i wade into these waters i feel stuck in a canyon: people on one side tell me i am prideful, and people on the other tell me i am not doing near enough. the roar of social media especially gets me in this area. i have found myself wanting to be a bit quieter as a result (not necessarily a bad thing!). but i did wonder if you had any similar experiences.

    i will always struggle with pride and self-righteousness, it is true, but i am also hopeful about my ability to be obedient to the Spirit. i too am at the point where humility (and knowing one’s true self in Christ) is absolutely vital for continuing on. thanks so much for sharing your perspective.

    1. Lauren Rea Preston
      Lauren Rea Preston July 2, 2013 at 3:05 PM |

      I totally get the same thing. People say “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” But I fundamentally sense that they disagree with what I’m saying. And then on the other side, there’s the sense that I should be doing something more. Totally the dark years of not being altogether confident in myself and God in me.

  13. Daniel
    Daniel July 2, 2013 at 2:59 PM |

    Thanks for sharing. What makes people say you are prideful? And who is telling you that you are not doing enough? Just curious… that’s an interesting ‘canyon’ to be caught in

  14. Jeff
    Jeff July 2, 2013 at 4:11 PM |

    True story.

  15. Billye Kee
    Billye Kee July 2, 2013 at 9:58 PM |

    Daniel, May God continue to bless you and your ministry. Thanks for sharing your stages and for submitting to the mentoring of John Perkins. He came to Wheaton in the 90’s to help us (faculty & staff) work through some racial issues, but he really needs to be on staff there. We can all learn and grow, but most importantly, we all need to see and embrace who we are and not be ashamed to listen to and share with one another. We won’t solve the problems but we can certainly be part of the solution here on earth and rejoice in heaven where we will finally be ONE! Hallelujah.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 2, 2013 at 10:42 PM |

      Thanks so much for the great words!

      1. Todd Hubbard
        Todd Hubbard July 2, 2013 at 11:44 PM |

        Dan, thank you for your honesty. I would love to speak to you on this topic and a related one. I can be reached at todd.hubbard@davenport.edu or Anthony Todd Hubbard from Holland, Michigan on Facebook.

  16. Mike Darcy
    Mike Darcy July 2, 2013 at 11:58 PM |

    “displacement of the Native community”??? It was genocide, pure and simple. Hitler had nothing over the American government when it comes to genocide. As a nation we need to own it and move toward reconciliation.

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  18. F Williams
    F Williams July 3, 2013 at 12:43 PM |

    Thank you for this post and view. Admittedly this article was written from the viewpoint of a “white person” but the distortions exist everywhere, in all cultures. This subject has always been evident in my vision regarding coming alongside people. My mercy bent highlights the impact of this weakness in society as I observe daily current events. I don’t think that I am on the same track, that of unity being my primary goal, but it is definitely an impactful component of what we all do. We need to be aware of the impact of these harmful attitudes because they exist not only along racial lines but along any demographic lines. Until we come to grips with this we will always be a broken people, unable to be effective and truly loving.

  19. Werner Mischke
    Werner Mischke July 3, 2013 at 2:22 PM |

    Excellent. Thank you for your insights.

  20. shirin taber
    shirin taber July 3, 2013 at 10:47 PM |

    Thanks for your helpful article. I could relate as the daughter of Iranian and American parents. Thankfully after my adolescent years were steeped in shame, I now feel empowered to serve the Kingdom through my mixed cultural identity. It was a tough journey, but I am grateful that my DNA had not been wasted in God’s economy.

    Shirin Taber
    Author of Muslims Next Door

  21. Dave Gifford
    Dave Gifford July 4, 2013 at 8:54 AM |

    Very thoughtful and insightful article. Some of the stages helped me see aspects of my life anew, and not only in terms of race. The self-righteous stage is a big temptation for anyone who learns something new.

  22. Daniel
    Daniel July 4, 2013 at 10:36 AM |

    Thanks Shirin – I need to read your book!

  23. Ron B
    Ron B July 5, 2013 at 6:42 AM |

    I’ve got to admit that it really annoys me when I hear people say they are ashamed to be white males and feel like they have to apologize for racial injustice. The only reason I have to apologize is if I am the one who perpetuates injustice. I am who I am, created by God in His image as a white guy, just like any black man or Asian or whatever. Frankly, I think the colorblind model, where the author says he started, was where we all should be striving to be…..the content of one’s character rather than the color of one’s skin.

    Back in the early days the USA was considered a “melting pot” and, frankly, it seems to me that the racial tensions today are every bit as bad in this age of “embracing diversity” as they ever were before. We need to begin to look at each other as the unique creations of our benevolently sovereign Father that we are, learn what we can from each other and love as our Father loves. If we can begin to do that, it seems to me that the injustice will begin to fade as we love one another.

    But what do I know? I’m just a 59-year-old guy who has lived through a lot of racial tension.

    1. Grace Cangialosi
      Grace Cangialosi July 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM |

      Rather than the image of a melting pot, in which everything gets homogenized into one large mass, I like the image of a large tossed salad. Everything in it is essential to its wonderful taste and appearance, and everything retains its uniqueness.

    2. J. Morales
      J. Morales July 16, 2013 at 11:23 PM |

      I hear you. All races and all cultures have committed injustices in their past, so I don’t see how it is productive to force any one group of people to shoulder a burden of shame while the other groups get off scot-free. I’m glad our society has improved in the area of minority rights but we’ll only create trouble if instead of trying to make everyone equal, we try to punish a group of people for past injustices. I purposely am using vague terms here because these principles apply no matter which group of people have the history of being the oppressor or the oppressed.

      Looking around our society, all this focus on race seems to have only driven us all further apart, not closer together.

      Well, it is all interesting stuff and there are definitely no easy answers. Regardless, I’m a Hispanic whose parents really didn’t make a big deal about me being Hispanic, so am I White or Hispanic, or what? I find that it’s a waste of time to try and figure that out. I’m me and what I need to remember, yet constantly forget, is I’m a child of God. That seems to me, the only identity worth grasping for.

    3. Corey
      Corey August 22, 2013 at 4:17 PM |

      Hi Ron,

      Your colorblind model would be great if it did not hide the fact that “whites” have historically systematically oppressed peoples of color and gained huge social and economic advantages as a result. Colorblindness is would be great if we all started on an equal playing field. White people should feel guilt and shame as long as they participate in an oppressive system.

      1. Christopher
        Christopher September 9, 2013 at 10:38 PM |

        Sadly, NO one starts on “an equal playing field”. We are all unique and different in too many ways to list… even from those of our own “race” or color. And truly – we are ALL born into and participate in “an oppresive system” – so I suppose that ALL humans (regardless of ethnicity or background) should commonly feel the “guilt and shame” that you would like to lay upon one “race” over another.

        As Jesus said long ago, “Let him who is without sin – cast the first stone.”

        By the way – though many might not care to acknowledge the importance of this fact… one of the most oppressive systems that we all are born into (and guilty of participating in) – is “sin”. When one excuses or overlooks their own sin – in preference to accusing, elevating and highlighting the sin and transgressions of others… we all end up losing ~ as we perpetuate the ageless hatred of race and class warfare.

        Let’s all share the guilt and shame – and not only reserve it for “white people”… there’s plenty to go around. All sin tears down and destroys and separates us. God help us to overcome ~ someday.

        Peace ~ to you.

  24. David Lott
    David Lott July 5, 2013 at 8:58 AM |

    I work as a hospice social worker and am an activist in the justice community in Louisville where I live. We have a group here called Louisville Showing Up For Racial Justice which seeks to help those of us who are white to learn how to be better allies in the anti-racist movement and to challenge our complicity in oppression.

    Your stages are helpful in delineating the areas of work each of us has to address. As I was reading the post it occurred to me that in some ways this process is similar to grief work. Kubler- Ross, who was a pioneer in helping us understand grieving, laid out stages as well but later thinking suggests that these are not sequential steps but simply elements of an ongoing process.

    We continue to grieve over our losses but we learn to integrate those memories back into our daily functioning over time. We do heal and become whole again but we are forever changed. Having this anti-racist consciousness too is a process in which we can gradually integrate a new understanding into our lives but we can never look at the world in the same way again – we can’t go back. That having been said, because we live in a racist world, those hierarchies, that white racial frame of reference, will constantly be reinforced and reconstructed over and over. It is a continuous process of integrating our new understanding of the world with experiences in changing the world that moves us forward.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel July 5, 2013 at 9:31 AM |

      David, thanks for sharing that. Eloquently stated, and I agree. I love that last line! “It is a continuous process of integrating our new understanding of the world with experiences in changing the world that moves us forward.”

  25. Rick Nowlin
    Rick Nowlin July 5, 2013 at 12:04 PM |

    I experienced this as well — as an African-American thrust as a child into the dominant culture and actually enjoying it but finding rejection from “my people” as a result. I ended up leaving them for many years, coming back only when God called me to a diverse church. I’m just glad that I don’t have to fight anymore.

  26. John Ward
    John Ward July 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM |

    As a white male Christian. I can identify with so much of this. I grew up in the cult Christian Science. They believe that all is mental. To them, matter, including skin color is an illusion. I used to say; “I look human, but I’m not.”

    Many years after I decided to follow Christ, I met a white woman who was married to a Chinese man said; “I look Caucasian, but I’m not.”

    So colorblind, disassociation, and shame are all mentally destructive.

  27. Shelley
    Shelley July 9, 2013 at 2:40 PM |

    I have bounced around these stages myself as a white middle class women. Ten years ago I moved to a small town in Northern British Columbia and met many First Nations people who were the same age as me and attended residential schools as children while I was growing up in middle class suburbia. It was my first introduction to the atrocities associated with colonization. Shame set in quickly. I attended many cultural awareness workshops but the only one that really helped me move away from the shame for a while was a cultural dialogue workshop. There were people from different cultural backgrounds and we all shared stories of how our worldview has been shaped. It was the first time I ever really examined my background, thinking, beliefs and how my culture shapes it all.

    I appreciate the faith based perspective you bring to this conversation. Thank you.

  28. Fred
    Fred July 9, 2013 at 8:19 PM |

    Hello. I am a professor at Biola University, after serving and being tenured at a CA public university. I have been teaching multiculturalism for 16 years, am Latino, married to a multiethnic wife so we have…multiethnic children. I do have questions and would wish to continue our conversation. Please email me at your convenience.

    1. Daniel Hill
      Daniel Hill July 9, 2013 at 11:11 PM |

      Thanks for the message, and I’d love to get in touch! My email is dhill@rivercitychicago.com

  29. Doxy
    Doxy July 15, 2013 at 1:03 PM |

    Great article–but I got to the end of it and kept looking for what it MEANS to “use my whiteness to extend the kingdom of God.”

    How do you do that? What does it look like?

    As a privileged, white woman who seems to be stuck at #6–and who is often accused of #4 by any white person who doesn’t like what I’m saying about racism and white privilege–I’m just not sure how to move on. I do my best to listen to what my friends (and activists/thinkers I admire) who are people of color are saying and to prioritize their opinions about what needs to happen next–but I’m not sure how to take that information and “use my whiteness” for good. I would love to hear you say more….

    Thank you,

  30. Daniel Hill
    Daniel Hill July 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM |

    Thanks Doxy for your response and question, and thanks to Christena for the link to that blog. I just read it, and think those are fantastic ideas for how to wrestle with the content of your question

    What I would give additionally as my first answer to your question is something you are already doing. I believe the most important way privileged folks can/should measure “progress” is to look more at how we are growing/learning more than how we are acting/solving. I often think of Dr. King’s quote from his letter while imprisoned at the Birmingham Jail:

    “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the white Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate… who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…”

    That phrase “shallow understanding” often haunts me — I don’t think we should be paralyzed, but i also remind myself frequently that i need to keep moving towards deeper and deeper levels of understanding, and that in itself is significant progress.

    It sounds like you are already very serious about continuing to learn in lots of different ways, and for that i commend you. I don’t think the importance of that ever diminishes

    My second answer would be wrapped up around the importance of doing justice/reconciliation in the context of “multiracial coalitions.” I put that phrase in quotes because i read it in the one of the biographies of Dr. King – the biographer noted that this became one of the real emphases of Dr. King towards the end of his life, particularly in the Poor People’s Campaign. He grew in conviction that ‘multiracial coalitions’ were the most effective and powerful ways to advocate and move towards true justice.

    I am hesitant to share this one at times, because we don’t live in a day and age where its particularly easy to find authentic multiracial coalitions, especially within the Christian context. I have heard many whites lament that they would love to participate in something like this, but don’t know how or where to find it.

    That in and of itself is sad to me, and is one of the reasons i wish there would be a revival around authentic, culturally diverse churches. For me, i would not know how to make any meaningful contributions around these kingdom initiatives without being located in a community of people from diverse life backgrounds that are committed to living out these ideas together. It’s only in this context that i can weed out which of my ideas/thoughts are helpful, and which ones are still half-baked and need more seasoning and perspective.

    I don’t know how realistic that is to find in your context? If there was a way to become a participating member in a community like that, combined with your already developed commitment to being a learner, I think you’d be in a great setup for continuing to move forward on that which you seek.

    those are just some of my thoughts… not sure if they are actually right or not =)

    1. J. Morales
      J. Morales July 16, 2013 at 11:28 PM |

      I just don’t know . . .for what it’s worth I go to a rather diverse church, however our pastor spends pretty much no time discussing racial politics and/or racial issues. This, quite frankly, seems to me the way it should be. Preach the gospel, that really should be our first calling. Now, granted, the fact that we are in a city that has immigrants going in and out (often for college education) obviously contributes to the diversity. A church in Podunk, USA is not going to be nearly as diverse. Regardless, our church doesn’t go out of its way to try and be more diverse, we simply preach the gospel.

    2. Doxy
      Doxy July 17, 2013 at 7:17 AM |

      Christena–thanks for the link.There was some really good info there!

      Daniel–thank you for such a thoughtful answer. You have hit on a serious issue for me (and probably for many other whites who are committed to anti-racism efforts). I work with people of color, and I have good relationships with many POC–but those relationships tend to be at more of a distance. I telecommute for my work, so my interactions are largely via phone or e-mail–not much face-to-face time with others. Most of my friends live in far-away places, and we interact on Facebook and get together when we can–but it’s not often enough.

      In my day-to-day life, the small town I live in is pretty progressive for being in the South (it’s a college town). My spouse is a minister in a mainline Protestant denomination, and our community of faith is very progressive–and VERY white. We have a few members who are African American, or African immigrants–but not many. We have great relationships with the African American congregations in town–but Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week here.

      We have talked about the need for our congregations to engage in some kind of community-building projects together, and that may be the best way forward. It seems to be an unfortunate fact that most people need to have an up-close-and-personal relationship with someone in a marginalized group before they can begin to feel any empathy for that group as a whole. (LGBTs are a prime example. People who have a loved one who comes out are much more likely to be supportive of legal equality for LGBTs. “Fairness” arguments rarely seem to work in the abstract. Sigh.)

    3. Doxy
      Doxy July 17, 2013 at 7:24 AM |

      Mdq–Racism is not only a spiritual disease. It is a STRUCTURAL disease. And until those who reap unearned benefits from the structure (i.e., whites in this country) recognize that, and work to dismantle it and create a new one that treats everyone fairly, the sin of racism will never be cleansed.

      It is not about shaming and blaming. It is about the need for white people to be honest about the fact that the social structure is heavily weighted in their favor. Every time a white person denies that fact, or dismisses its importance, it becomes that much harder to do anything about it.

  31. C
    C July 16, 2013 at 10:37 PM |

    It has basically always been known to me the result of power dynamics/strength and weakness/wutever. (Check out the painful way children treat other children in early primary grades.) I’ve known the root of what has happened/is happening to the native American, the African American, AND whoever else is suffering, where ever else throughout history and in this present day. People are monsters. People groups are monsters b/c they’re made up of people. Whatever group is on top will do a major number on the lessor. That’s human, un redeemed nature. I’m sorry for whatever degree that anybody, including my own family, has suffered and is suffering. I’m sorry for whatever degree any people group has suffered and is suffering, including my own family. I’m sorry for whatever degree I have ever offended anyone. I’m sorry for whatever degree I have been offended.

    I am one individual accountable to God. I don’t even pretend that I can do more than to do justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with God. That is all that I’m able and required to do. We live in a fallen world, and it is sad that these power dynamics will continue until the world is transformed in that day. God is our refuge. God never said the world would be fair but that He is our ever present help in time of trouble. People need to know this; where help is. Since none of us will ever escape these dynamics, that is what we need to tell them according to the Bible. THAT is the mission.

  32. Mdq
    Mdq July 17, 2013 at 4:54 AM |

    To shame others makes a mockery of God’s gift of mercy to us all. Will you be asking those born today to shoulder the unspeakable crimes and penalty of all previous generations of North American men in your sweeping indictment? For the extinction of animals in all the world? For the disappearance of millions of unwanted female children in the world? Or simply the North American crimes?
    Identifying all white infants born yesterday,today, tomorrow, and henceforth, as being culpable for the crimes against humanity of all previous generations, and deserving by their skin color to atone for and assume the crimes and guilt of others, is wrong.
    To redress, address, and recognize wrong behavior wherever it is discovered, is good. To blame and shame everyone of a certain race is wrong. Everywhere there is genocide, infanticide, racial and religious hatred, misogyny, crimes against humanity of every stripe.
    Shaming and blaming are not the answer and only keeps the dynamics of conflict intact.

    Think of how you would feel if Jesus required you to shoulder shame instead of forgiving you?. Nelson Mandela’s ultimate Christian gift, the offer of forgiveness and reconciliation, in real time, to his jailers, political enemies, policemen, courts, etc, with the wounds of racism and countless social/economic/political crimes was a miraculous Godly act. A stunning, almost inhuman accomplishment and triumph over pain, grief, fear, and anger. Mandela’s greatness was his Christian character of forgiveness and love.
    There is no end to infighting and revenge where there is shame and blame. Look at the middle eastern conflicts, the British/Irish conflict, etc.
    As an example that has no opposing color: the Dreyfus affair in France split the entire country into passionate reactionary factions and fostered layer upon layer of retribution, first from one camp, then another, as those blamed and shamed in turn enacted more crime and vengence in wild attempts of justification.. Some believe that the incredible swiftness of France’s capitulation in WWII and the readiness and zealousness of the some French authorities to hand over their Jewish population had it’s roots and DNA in a direct line back to the Dreyfus affair.
    Alternately, another leader, when his troops offered to keep fighting a guerilla battle in the hills after military defeat-, told his soldiers to put their rifles down, go home and become good American citizens—Robert E. Lee.

    You are fresh upon the scene of historical and continuing battlefields. We have been fighting the fight, all our lives. We are white, black, red, yellow, brown. Racism is a spiritual disease, like every other crime of hatred and evil.

    PS: C’s response above is beautiful.

  33. Ferrell Winfree
    Ferrell Winfree July 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM |

    Thank you for this post. I would ask you to consider some thoughts from this old, (74) white (racist parents) woman who loves the Lord and believes her calling has been to fight against the injustices of racism.
    1. I have fought against using the phrase reconciliation. To reconcile is to place back together what was together at one time. This, I believe, is not true of the different races, especially black and white. I use, in my work, the term “bridge” rather than reconcile.
    2. I believe the term racism should be identified as prejudices with power. This allows me to use that term only for those in the white culture, and for all others I use the word prejudices if it exists.
    3. It is so important to come to terms with the fact that this country was founded by the near genocide of one race of people and the enslavement of another. The founding fathers who wrote those beautiful words of freedom did not intend inclusion of other races.
    4. The reality is that my words will be heard with greater acceptance than the words of a person of color. I learned this early on and have consistently used that to attempt to make changes in our society. It is with great sadness that my words and my life continue to have more value. This is evidenced in the (in)justice system.
    5. We take advantage, intentionally or unintentionally, of being white. For me as one who loves the Lord and wishes to be obedient to Him, I must fight against these injustices and make every effort to lift those burdens imposed on others by my people. The residual effects of slavery and jim crowe are still so prominent and we should continually fight against them.
    6. I speak this to the lady who wrote of the separation on Sunday mornings. I believe much of this separation is due to the church being one of the few places people of color can be in control. All else we dominate. Finances, schools, work places, living areas, all of these the white system controls. But come Sunday mornings, in their churches, the control is there for them and God to meet without interference from us. We are really good at interference. We have learned that well and still practice to make perfect.
    I praise God for your learning and your insight into this. I am so appreciative when a white man comes to these truths and begins this work. Thank you for what you are doing.

    1. Billye Kee
      Billye Kee July 19, 2013 at 9:53 AM |

      Ms. Winfree! You speak truth. Much respect and prayers for a long life that touches many.

      1. Gordan Ford
        Gordan Ford August 6, 2013 at 8:20 AM |

        Ma’am, as a Black man, I agree with much of what you wrote. However, I do disagree with your statement on the founding father in bullet 3. Many of them were completely opposed to slavery. Have you ever noticed that the words slave and slavery do not appear in our Constitution. Even the “three-fifths” clause, which many say call my ancestors three-fifths of a person, is often misquoted. That clause, after listing who would be counted in the census, uses the words “three-fifths of all other persons.” The US Constitution is the first document in human history that called my ancestors “PERSONS.” Additionally, the original draft of the Declaration of Independence indicted the British Crown for allowing slavery in the colonies. So while most of them were not ready to take on the issue of slavery in 1787, they recognized it as wrong and laid the foundation in our constitution for their freedom. Most of them were overly paternalistic and were very conflicted, but many of them eventually argued for the abolition of slavery and freed their own slaves. Bottom line: Don’t paint your ancestors with a broad brush either!!!!

  34. Lou Schoen
    Lou Schoen July 22, 2013 at 2:24 PM |

    This is a very healthful struggle, and one that I’ve engaged personally now for nearly all of my 80 years. There’s another stage of awareness that I haven’t seen acknowledged in other posts here: It might be called, TRUTH! In the mirror, I am not truly white; viewed against a color chart, I am pink and cream and beige, alternatively light shades of red, yellow and brown. Yet my culture tells me that I am white, and the United States Census decennially has asked me to affirm that I am “white or Caucasian,” in the latter instance still upholding a term that Anthropology officially acknowledged in the 1990s to be a lie.

    How many generations hence will it take before we can abolish whiteness as a personal and cultural identity? That will be, of course, when we can become authentically a diverse, multihued and multiethnic culture rather than a nation with separate, color-identified cultures. This could even become a culture in which faith traditions might rise above their histories of culture-dominated, supremacy-seeking separateness and begin to truly practice the love-promising faith that they preach.

    1. Fred
      Fred July 22, 2013 at 2:49 PM |

      Speaking as a person that people would label as “Latino” (though my birth certificate from the 1960s states i am white, for back then there were only two categories, but I digress), and have taught multicultural education for the past 20 years, can honestly say this type of training is what I have been doing in schools and companies that each person is not just their skin color, but we need to ask each person who they are. The problem may lie within Christian churches and universities (I am a professor at one) where they still wish to separate people by skin color. We also have a very skewed view on gender issues (which could be another post). I welcome people that wish to know me and think of me as their brother in Christ…first, for this is how I try to approach each person that I meet.

  35. Randy
    Randy July 28, 2013 at 8:48 PM |

    I think this is an interesting introduction to this idea, but I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it. Do you have suggestions for further study?

  36. Brittany
    Brittany August 3, 2013 at 1:03 AM |

    I am a white college student and just finished an internship working with black high school students in the Black Belt region of Alabama (one of the poorest and most underrepresented areas of our country). I have definitely dealt with similar, if not identical, stages/issues, and I really find this helpful as I process that experience and how it has both opened my eyes to racial issues and how it has changed my perception of race.

  37. Fred Stevens
    Fred Stevens August 5, 2013 at 9:48 PM |

    As a white man, interesting it is that gifts of the words of others come at the time and place they do. With the recent murder of Trayvon Martin and the jury’s verdict I am awakened. I was lulled asleep by a powerful force called denial. Your article follows a recent meeting among friends. We are planning a brief workshop on white privilege… Racial cultural identity is many splendored. As a white man insight is a powerful assistant in my confusion. Divine guidance has been a good friend. And humility has been a real bastard… In my journey I’ve gained a lot from knowing some facts of my white ancestry. My father was jewish. My mother was Catholic. Her ancestors were French Hugenots. What did they all have in common? Persecution. They were persecuted and abused in horrific ways by their different efforts to obey God. So when you speak of exploring the shame of whiteness, I’ve come to know what my fears are of people who are different than me and possibly where they came from. I know what we’re capable of inflicting. I’ve internalized these habits of shame and fear as a secret part of me that affects my relations with all people. Persecution is the mark of a beast that runs wild in white folks. We’re all wounded in one way or another. We all react to these wounds and too often it’s been at the cost of the well-being of others…. Always a whitee, when I add up the countless wars on Earth and against Earth that my people have done I see my white skin and cringe. Yet, I hold onto my male privilege and have held onto it in defensiveness of what my people have done. It’s a suit of armor. I’m scared of the vulnerability required to take ownership of these sins. I hold on to white privilege also because of what happened to my dad and mom’s family. I don’t want to have to live through it again. My family’s experience of other white people has been destructive. It’s tough row to hoe for sure. And one of their gifts to me is this fear that it might happen again… Yes, it’s easy to be self-righteous. If you’ve read this far, I appreciate a place and time to share some of what’s been going on within me recently. It feels pretty safe here. And your journey has been helpful to me. Thanks.

  38. Linda
    Linda August 6, 2013 at 7:56 AM |

    Thanks for this—-and in particular for the part about listening to people of color. I was concerned by the brother who talked about using his whiteness to empower other people. I don’t think that was what your empowering section was about—and to look at it that way once again puts the white person in a superior position (here, let me empower you to do this….) rather than thinking about what it means as a white person to be empowered to deal with white privilege and power and culture.

  39. Gordan Ford
    Gordan Ford August 6, 2013 at 8:30 AM |

    As a black pastor in North Louisiana, I thank you for your well-reasoned post. We must work to break down the walls that continued to separate us. I recently became pastor of a small black church in Ruston, Louisiana. Being from the area and having a large family, I felt that our church was not large enough for my installation service. Many friends advised me of larger “black” churches in the area that would host us, but I decided to approach the “white” Calvary Baptist Church around the corner. Our churches are on the same block and have been there for more than 100 years, but never collaborated on anything before. The pastor there was elated to share with us and we are planning to have many more joint events in the future. He and I both agree that we need to start making Earth look more like our real home in glory!!!

  40. Jack
    Jack August 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM |

    This is a great and perhaps one of the more–if not most–important issues for White American Christians to begin recognizing and dealing with together. For far too long the silence on and around our privilege and identity as White Americans has been deafening . . . especially, but not exclusively, among Christians and in our churches. We need God and we need each other to experience and demonstrate God’s reconciling and healing power in our lives and in all of our relationships. As one who has been on this particular journey for most of my adult life, it is especially encouraging and refreshing to read posts like this and the constructive and civil comments that follow it. Shalom!

  41. Christopher
    Christopher September 9, 2013 at 9:21 PM |

    Brother Daniel, I appreciate the honestly and the candor of your post.

    I think that dealing with all of the elements of our identity while we all pilgrims here on earth, is a healthy exercise in “self confession” that leads to real confession and repentance. And these are essential to living a renewed (empowered?!) life of ongoing transformation. Yes, we are to be renewed in our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we are being transformed into the image of Christ. And all of this constantly requires realization, then confession, and ongoing repentance.

    As Martin Luther once said, “Repentance IS the (daily) life of a Christian.”

    On another line of thought… honestly ~ have you ever given thought to any diversity within “White American” culture? Are white people just a bland version of vanilla extract? One thing that nags at me in pondering this post – and many others on race and identity and “white people”… and that is the homogeneous references to the culture of “white people ~ White American Culture.” IS there a unified and identifiable (or “one”) white culture? Are you and I “of” the exact same culture if we both share some common hue of skin color and language and historical context?

    In fact, we live within and sometimes outside many “white” cultures, even within our country – even if we share this one very identifiable identification of our existence.

    I personally am uncomfortable with being simply labeled “White” myself…. ( and not out of shame or self-loathing because of what others of my same skin-hue have done in the past – or are currently doing for that matter.) So many more things seem to divide people than unite them these days: skin color, ethnic heritage (for “white” folks = Irish, German, Polish, Italian etc.), socio-economic factors, regional cultural variations ( for example Northerners, “Yankees” Southerners, Eastern Urbanites, Rural Westerners… etc.) political background, denominational variations, theological differences, educational factors….and on and on.

    Self realization is important in personal growth for better interpersonal interaction.
    Yet, I wonder – is all of this introspection truly healthy if it serves to divide us rather than bring us together as a people “in and of” Christ?This is especially important to consider if we are to ever actually become ONE people in Christ Jesus. Isn’t that what Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17 – “…that they may be one as We are One.” (John 17:11)

    I am glad that you and others are addressing some of these important issues of race and cultural identity – especially within a Christian context. I would be interested in any thoughts you might have about these things.

    God’s blessings to you, as you endeavor to walk in our Lord’s faith, hope and love.

    1. Fred
      Fred September 9, 2013 at 9:27 PM |

      As a person who has taught diversity for many, many years, I say of course you can do this! I dislike having people identify me due to my skin color for my life is different from other people with…my skin color. Being able to self identify is a gift from God for only you and He knows what he is creating in you.

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