Thank You, White People. – A Response to the Charlottesville Riots

Over the last 48 hours, I’ve thought deeply about the events taking place in Charlottesville, VA. It’s mostly left me speechless, as I’ve tried to imagine this city (only 60 miles from my home) filled with rioters that come in the name of white supremacy.

When the story first began to fill my timeline, I felt a mix of outrage and sadness at the actions and racial slurs that came out of these rioters. That outrage was significantly increased when I saw fearful and frustrated African Americans share similar feelings, just to be harassed. Ignorant people made comments like:

“This probably has nothing to do with race. They’re simply trying to explain that All Lives Matter.


“Black people need to get over it. It’s not like they’re treated any different in this country. If they’d stop feeling sorry for themselves maybe they could get out of their crappy situations.”

But after a few hours of media attention (and with some input from the terrorist who ran his car through a crowd of innocent people), the narrative began to change. Pastors and leaders from all over America began to sympathize with the black community and understand their frustration. People began to stand against racism regardless of the color of their skin. In just a few hours, it seemed as though the cry of the black community was heard by the rest of America – by white America. All of a sudden it felt as though the eyes of our nation were opened to see that racism still exists, and that the only way we can defeat it is together.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not naive enough to believe that Charlottesville has ended racism once and for all, and that people will no longer “…be judged by the color of skin, but by the content of their character” (MLK Jr.). But I do believe this awful event has sparked some hope in the hearts of people who feel their cries of injustice were previously ignored.

I am one of those people. You see, I’m a mixed woman (half black/half white) living in the South. I’ve experienced racist remarks and events my entire life, but I’ve learned not to talk about them. It tends to either make the white people around me feel uncomfortable, or I get upset because people attempt to explain away my encounters with racism as if their menial misunderstandings. For the record, I’m not one of those people who believe everything is racially driven. But certain experiences in my life have proven that racism is very much alive. These experiences have caused me to feel angry, afraid, and anxious walking around in my own skin because I know I’m judged prematurely by some because of my skin color.

For instance, I was recently in the self-checkout line at Wal-Mart and all of the registers (about 12) were full. One opened up and I went to scan my items. The store clerk came and stood over my shoulder pretending to stock items while really trying to make sure I wasn’t stealing. I looked around and realized every register was filled with a white person except mine. Several times I looked back at this clerk who kept forgetting she was supposed to be stocking because she was “breaking her neck” so hard to check my scanner.

Oh, and there was the time that campaigners decided to picket in my town for a new Congressman. My son and I had to avoid that part of Cleveland, concerned that the huge “Make America White Again” sign could cause violence to erupt. Instead, we watched Facebook live video from home as the wanna-be Congressman explained that we needed to be a nation that’s at least 80% white so we can eliminate the crime that has been brought here by people of color. He blamed intermarriage of whites and blacks – essentially saying that people like me were the cause of all things wrong with our nation.

Or how about the time I was pulled over for my headlight being out. I had the new one in the car and was grabbing some dinner on my way home to replace it. I was pulled over by four cop cars, as several officers approached my car and shown multiple flashlights inside. I was then called a “suspect” over the radio and began to cry in fear of what could happen to me that night. To make it worse, I spoke with a white police officer about the incident days later, as he tried to explain to me it was protocol and they had the right to do it. Bewildered by this, I talked to a black officer about the same incident and he asked, “Do you know why that happened?” I said I had no idea, to which he responded, “You were driving while black.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make this about bad cops nor do I want to reinforce stereotypes of any group of people. I LOVE the police officers in my area and am close friends with many of them. And being half white, I think it’s fair to say I don’t believe white people are bad or the “problem.” Generalizations like these divide and do nothing to bring people closer together.

What I’m saying is that many black Americans have felt racism in some way throughout their lifetimes. We know that our skin color brings with it certain obstacles to overcome. We’re proud of our heritage and our different cultures, and we wish the world could see how beautiful that diversity truly is.

But today, the world’s eyes seemed to be opened a bit. For the first time in years, I felt the white community and the church body both take a stand against racism. People weren’t afraid to have empathy for injustice and to join with blacks in standing against what’s happening.

So thank you, white people. Thank you for showing that you care. For speaking up against injustice and not being afraid to feel the raw emotion that black Americans have felt for a while. It breaks my heart to know that a beautiful, 32-year old woman was killed yesterday for taking a stand against racism. I pray her name will never be forgotten, and that God would comfort all those left mourning this terrible tragedy. But I also have so much gratitude in my heart for her and every other white person who realized that although they’ll likely never have to experience what black Americans feel, they’re still willing to take a stand when they see injustice. The realization that people are still willing to fight for others, even when the issues don’t directly affect them, is a beautiful one.

I believe the only way to overcome racism is for all of us to unite irregardless of skin color and love one another with the true love of Christ. After all, what does God require of us but, “…to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). Today we took one step forward in meeting that goal. Continue to speak out when others are hurting. Continue to be a voice when others feel silenced. And continue to stand for justice even when the media attention fades, and we are left needing to make a lasting change.

Always remember – We are stronger united.

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7 thoughts on “Thank You, White People. – A Response to the Charlottesville Riots

  1. I applaud you and want to thank you for this. I am a woman of color and have experienced racism many time including now while in college. It is a hard pill to swallow and not get aggressive and react to all that has encountered. It definitely will take time for this to overcome and move forward.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chiquita. I’m praying that the events in Charlottesville have open the eyes of our nation enough that people can come together to make a lasting change. The event itself was awful, but I hope that we will use it for good.

  2. Thank you for your beautifully written work. I am a Canadian white woman and had never known what it is like to be racially discriminated against until I lived in the southeastern United States. My good friend and I were in the check out line at a Walmart, having a good day. We were chatting and laughing and enjoying our day. When my friend, who is black, got to the cashier, who was also black, the cashier picked up on our lighthearted mood and was warm and friendly with my friend. My friend finished her transaction, wished the cashier a good day and moved out of line to wait for me. That’s when the fastest transformation I have ever seen in a person happened. The cashier turned into Jekkel and Hyde. She grabbed my items, scanned them, stuffed them in the bag and in a surly tone told me what my order came to. The laughing and friendly conversation ended. I gave her the money and she literally threw my change on the counter with such force that it bounced onto the floor. As I bent to pick it up, she had already moved on to the next customer who happened to be black and you guessed it she was friendly again. I was stunned. I felt like I’d just had a bucket of cold water thrown on me. I got to my friend who was clearly upset with how I’d been treated and I asked her “what just happened?” To which she responded “you’re just not the right colour.” She didn’t personally feel that way but it was obvious that was how the cashier felt. Discrimination happens everywhere, everyday and it shouldn’t! It’s got to stop and we need to stop seeing colour. I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to unite and love each other with the love of Christ. what has happened in the past few days is horrendous! The fact that many people who call themselves Christian have no problem with it is even worse. God will judge us by how we treat one another. We will be known “by the love we have for one another”.

  3. This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing from your heart. I will admit, I have a very hard time understanding racism. And I suppose I am one who always thought it was being made too much of- I guess being white I never felt the brunt of it. And since I was raised as a minority (our small community school was mostly black) the thought that white was superior never crossed my mind. The people I loved most were black (my friends, my teachers, my sweet busdriver). I suppose that since I was not racist and didn’t live in an area where racism was prominent I just assumed it wasn’t as big of a problem as the media made it out to be. I now apologize for any attitudes that could have made my friends and aquaintances think I don’t care.
    Now I am married to a Latino, have “mixed” kids, my neice is divorced from a black man with two “mixed” kids-, my other neice is dating a black man. We have just always been an inclusive family. And I always thought racism would never touch us. Now I am beginning to think differently.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences! It’s so interesting to see how the experiences we have mold our beliefs and attitudes toward the world. Your humility is beautiful and shows that you have a wonderful heart toward others!

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