Didn't have words last Sunday so...

After last week's shootings, I scrapped Sunday's sermon in favor of some words that might help us better understand racism in our culture. Folks who gathered at Farm Church each took a quote from the table and we read them aloud, forming a psalm of lament that we're striving to hear and understand. Below is the complete list of quotes...

“I think he was black and in the wrong place… There was something we always discussed: comply. That’s the key thing – the key thing in order to try to survive being stopped by the police is to comply. Whatever they ask you to do, do it. Don’t say nothing. Do whatever they want you to do. So what’s the difference? You’re complying and you get killed anyway.”

- Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile


“There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race. Scientifically, anthropologically, racism is a construct — a social construct. And it has benefits. Money can be made off of it, and people who don’t like themselves can feel better because of it. It can describe certain kinds of behavior that are wrong or misleading. So it has a social function, racism.”

- Toni Morrison

“But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.”

- Chris Rock

“It was the last day of school, and I was walking with my dad, preparing to leave. Suddenly, he paused, looked at me intently and said, ‘Son, you’re a black male, and that’s two strikes against you.’ To the general public, anything that I did would be perceived as malicious and deserving of severe punishment and I had to govern myself accordingly. I was seven years old.”

- Jazmine Hughes

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

- Toni Morrison

“Is this why I didn’t get the job? Is this why my lease application was denied? Is this why I got into college? Is this why this person keeps following me around the grocery store? And when you ask, you’re looked at like you’re crazy, met with denial — because it’s always plausible, deniable.”

- Bijan Stephen

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

- Scott Woods

“Righteous indignation calls sin what it is. Bigotry is sin. Racism is sin. Oppression is sin. Control by fear is sin. Violence is sin. The quicker we can all admit that, the quicker the healing will begin.”

- Andrena Sawyer

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

- Desmond Tutu

“But freedom is always conditional here. ‘You’re free!’ they keeping telling us. ‘But she would be alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.’ Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but the hereafter is a hustle: We want it now.

Let’s get a couple of things straight. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander -- that’s not our job so let’s stop with all that. If you have a critique for our resistance then you’d better have an established record, a critique of our oppression.

If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do: sit down.”

- Jesse Williams

“You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them. The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country's criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.”

- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

[White people] have a vested interest in not getting it. A lot of white folks do get it - the moral courage and indignation... If you get it, it requires some heavy lifting on your part.”

- Leonard Pitts

“Alton Sterling is dead. Philando Castile is dead. My son, Michael Brown, has been dead for almost two years now. Death isn’t pretty for anyone, but what these families now face is the horror of seeing their loved one die over and over, in public, in such a violent way. They face the helplessness of having strangers judge their loved one not on who he was or what he meant to his family but on a few seconds of video...

Sometimes it seems like the only thing we can do in response to the police brutality that my son and so many other black boys and men have suffered is to pray for black lives. Yes, they matter, but is that changing anything? What is going to be different this time?”

- Lezley McSpaddon, mother of Michael Brown

“I'm overwhelmed and I'm fed up with waking up to see another person murdered, another black man murdered. That is a scar that I will have for the rest of my life… It seems like the rules are so much different in a suburb neighborhood then in a black neighborhood. [Police] shoot first, ask questions later in black neighborhoods.”

- Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice

“Race doesn't really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don't have that choice.”

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Never trust anyone who says they do not see color. This means
to them, you are invisible.”

- Nayyirah Waheed

“Things like racism are institutionalized. You might not know any bigots. You feel like “well I don’t hate black people so I’m not a racist,” but you benefit from racism. Just by the merit, the color of your skin. The opportunities that you have, you’re privileged in ways that you might not even realize because you haven’t been deprived of certain things. We need to talk about these things in order for them to change.”

- Dave Chappelle

“Most middle-class whites have no idea what it feels like to be subjected to police who are routinely suspicious, rude, belligerent, and brutal.”

- Benjamin Spock

“Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.”

- Audre Lorde

“Often white people hear blame whenever the issue of racism is brought up, whether or not blame has been placed on whites. As beneficiaries of racism and white privilege, you sometimes take a defensive posture even when you are not being individually blamed. You may personalize the remarks, not directed personally at you. It is the arrogance of your privilege that drags the focus back to whites. When whites are being blamed or personally accused of racist behavior, this defensiveness and denial further alienate you and may preclude you from examining your possible racist behavior.”

- Debra Leigh

“More than 2 million people found themselves behind bars at the turn of the twenty-first century, and millions more were relegated to the margins of mainstream society, banished to a political and social space not unlike Jim Crow, where discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education was perfectly legal, and where they could be denied the right to vote. The system functioned relatively automatically, and the prevailing system of racial meanings, identities, and ideologies already seemed natural. Ninety percent of those admitted to prison for drug offenses in many states were black or Latino, yet the mass incarceration of communities of color was explained in race-neutral terms, an adaptation to the needs and demands of the current political climate.”

- Michelle Alexander

“I get how it can be news to some of you that people are victimized by systems legitimated by your nation, countrymen, and god. But I’m black and female and southern. I call that Tuesday.”

- Tressie McMillan Cottom