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White people cannot be woke yet still remain silent

In my travels around this country lately, I meet lots of white progressives who fancy themselves woke. They feel this way, because they are now aware, perhaps for the first time, of the brutality of our Government, and just how infected with bigotry and supremacy it is.

They are starting to become aware of the unearned privilege of their pigmentation; the countless advantages they’ve had, simply by showing up and being white. They are beginning to really listen to the stories of oppressed and vulnerable people, and facing the systemic illnesses that they benefit from and are unknowingly participants in.

Sure, maybe it’s a bit of self-preservation. Maybe the terrors have finally gotten too close to home and they can no longer ignore what has been for so many, a reality they never had the luxury to ignore. Maybe their cloistered bubble of whiteness has been newly burst by the blatant enmity on display and they’re experiencing an unprecedented and disorienting fear.

Maybe it’s because the contaminants have finally reached the ground water they are accessing. Or maybe they simply do see something they didn’t see before — and they are right heartbroken. Whatever the reason, their eyes have been opened.

The problem is, too many of their mouths are still closed.

Despite the desperate state of this nation and despite how dire the moment is, I still see a disturbing widespread white procrastination right now: too many people seemingly waiting for a future moment they will step fully into the fray, fully take ownership of their convictions, fully sustain the collateral damage of pushing back against the wall-builders and the travel-banners.

They’re still doing risk analysis; still weighing the costs of expressing their new revelations, still tiptoeing into activism, still concerned about the people they will lose if they say more than they’re saying.

White friend: if you’re waiting for the moment the needs of marginalized communities outweigh your inconvenience at speaking up — that time has come and gone. You need to stop waiting. There are people in these very moments, living with great urgency because they don’t have a choice. You and I need to share their urgency.

This Administration is filled with white men who are bent on doing millions of people harm.

They believe that LGBTQ people are a moral plague to be wiped out. They believe Islam is a terrorist faith tradition threatening their Christian theocracy. They believe non-white people and non-Americans are a danger to be eradicated. They believe that women are inferior and shouldn’t have autonomy over their own bodies. They believe America is their birthright and property.

And you may not share any of these beliefs. In fact, you may vehemently disagree with all of them — but you don’t get points for your disagreement if that disagreement happens in silence. Your internal outrage isn’t really all that helpful if you say nothing.

So you need to say something. You need to speak clearly and loudly; to be precise in your convictions and explicit in your conclusions and unwavering in your position.

Yes, you’ll likely lose people, perhaps people you need to lose. And yes, you will experience unwanted relational turbulence. These are waters that may require troubling. Yes, raising your voice might cost you comfort in your church or advancement in your career or peace in your family or belonging in your neighborhood.

If any of these things do happen: congratulations, you’re just beginning to have the slightest understanding of what marginalized people experience as a matter of course.

If you’re not feeling the blowback from your activism, you’re probably not all that active.
In this season of America, white friend, there is no virtue in unspoken convictions. You don’t get points for bumper stickers and t-shirts and Facebook likes, and for the things you believe but never express.

Authenticity always has a personal price tag, but the people whose lives are very truly in danger in this moment — that is a price you and I need to be willing to pay. Waking up is a good. Speaking up is golden.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.

About The Author

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz is a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus, both online in this global community.

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