Earlier this month, my daughter caught a cold, the first cold of the season, in fact, which always hits her the hardest. Her nose becomes a facet, her lips redden and chap, her night song of coughs and moans start half an hour after she falls asleep and we know we’ve hit the climax of her cold when her right ear inflames.
Late one night she wandered downstairs where I was working, cupped her ear and begged me to hold her
I pushed my laptop aside and asked, “Do you want a glass of juice?” She gingerly shook her head and nestled into the nook of my arms.
“Do you want a glass of water?” Again she gave me a small headshake as she rubbed the ears of her stuffed bunny.
“Can I heat you up some soup?” I pressed, because this is what we mamas do: when by the strength of our hands and the fierceness of our love we can’t make the pain stop— we offer food or drink, hoping to nourish our babies broken bodies and comfort our anxious hearts.
“No, Mama I just want to watch something” She whispered.
So I flipped through the On Demand guide for a holiday show I have NOT seen. Having watched everything on Lifetime and HGTV, I came across a cooking show on The Food Network by a fiery, charming redhead with a strong Southern accent.I figured if my daughter wouldn’t eat, I’d give her a feast of the eyes, so we I tuned in as this captivating woman made simple, divine peppermint fudge for a holiday gathering.
For the whole show we sat still and utterly engaged as Ree Drummond created dish after dish after glorious dish. She cooked with butter, said “y’all” every so often and her stove was stainless steel. I think I was a little bit in love. So was my daughter.
“Mama, when I’m better I want to make all that.” Trinity said as the show closed, revived a bit by the thought of food.
“Me too, Baby!” I promised, “Me too”.
After our third episode, my daughter finally fell asleep under the influence of Tylenol and the glass of orange juice I tricked her into drinking. I propped my laptop on the arm of the couch where we slept, strained to reach the keys without disturbing the child recovering in my nook, and entered one of my go-to Google searches when I’m noticing a crush on a Southern celebrity coming on. I took a deep breath and typed:
“Ree Drummond, black people, diversity”
I found two posts: One on her “black” grandpa who turned out to be well tanned white grandpa but having close relationships with a “black” person made her feel special and unique and another post on her homeschooling method to teach diversity using multicultural play figures.
Neither one quite related to me, an African-American budding fan of the Pioneer Woman.
And I closed my laptop, snuggled into my daughter’s curly hair and sighed, ‘when will these women use their voices?’ I wondered, drifting to sleep and dreaming about those tempting fudge squares feeling equal parts guilty and gluttonous.
This Google search that’s almost second nature to me is my first line of defense against disappointment in white bloggers, particularly those whose vernacular and values match my Southern upbringing. With this Google search I know what I’m getting myself into and can cut through the crap of Southern charm to find out what they’re truly about.
As I fill in the search field, I feel like Hector Elizondo in “The Princess Diaries 2” who cornered the young, charming and sexy usurper of Mia’s destiny and asks, “am I going to be disappointed with you?” Because I do get disappointed with white celebrities from the South. Like I was with Paula Deen and now I am with Phil Robertson of the A&E reality show, “Duck Dynasty”. Their ignorance is showing and I’m sad. Once again, they’ve revealed that the racism of the South is still infecting good and Godly people.
So, I sigh, shake my head in frustration and keep my finger at the ready to Google the next, great sensation with Southern charm…”Home Free” from “The Sing Off”…I’m looking at you…
I wanna love these celebrity Southerners, but I’m afraid being let down by them. I’m scared of falling in love with their words, checking in on their blogs day after day to find them silent on topics of race and privilege. I’m tired of viewing tons of pics of their “soul sisters” and not finding a single Sister among them. It’s heartbreaking and quite frankly a misuse of their voice.
So I Google search their “diversity portfolio” and if they come up short, I immediately look for one star reviews on Amazon in an attempt to mitigate my broken heart. Another Internet blogging crush bites the dust.
Since I wrote last on racism, privilege, and diversity, I’ve had several white bloggers, most of them happen to live or come from the South say to me, “I really want to talk about this but I don’t think I have the right to, I mean…I’m white”.
To which I say, because you’re white, you need to talk about it. Because you haven’t had to think about it, you need to think about it now. Because you’re in your homogenous bubble, you need to hear my story as a black woman in America so you can share it with your white, and at times, clueless readers.
The truth is, your voice matters and it has power. As a white blogger in the South, your acknowledgement of my experience brings a much-needed validation to the racism I dealt as a young, insecure black girl in a predominately white community. If I know you care enough to listen, then I know I can trust you and can hear the best of your words. Speak up and speak life! Your voice can reverberate across the wounded places of my heart and the echos of your acceptance has to power to heal deep, deep offenses!
Because you are white you need to reject the allure of avoiding the topic altogether to write about sexy husbands, deep calls from Jesus, oppressed women in third world countries, patriarchy in the western church, or tasty recipes. I don’t have that luxury. I engage with the world and my words as a black woman. I live with the reality that if you and I knew each other during the Jim Crow era, my son could be tortured and murdered for telling your daughter she’s beautiful. If you ignore this, then I’m sorry….but Honey, I think your privilege is showing.
Even though you are white please, speak up! Get on your blogs and tell us that comments like Phil Robertson’s is not ok. Don’t deflect by saying we should care about more important topics. That invalidates the offense. Please say to your African-American readers that you know and you understand their frustration. Maybe you can’t relate and that’s ok…but for the love of God, please, start the conversation!
I need to see that.
I need to see you starting the conversation. I need to see genuine pictures of you and your black friends. I need to hear you say you’re talking to you babies about racism. And I’m sorry, while letting them play with black dolls, buying brown, diverse “play people” or encouraging them to use Crayola’s multicultural crayons is a fantastic starting place, you can do so much more. Dare to do better; dare to be braver. Are you teaching your babies to speak up, to love, to engage, and to authentically connect? If not, I’m sorry Honey, but I think your privilege is showing.
Put the power of your privilege to work and speak up. Don’t let the internet be void of your voice on this topic and don’t allow yourself to have distorted views of black people or racial reconciliation for fear of letting your ignorance show.
I can handle it. I’ve borne the humiliation of my letting my dark skin show for over thirty years, I think can bear yours for a bit.
Step out the echo chamber of your privilege and recognize that I am a human being just like you, a woman just like you, a mama who loves her babies something fierce and I weep at the beauty of our Jesus—just like you. Recognize these truths and start the conversation with me.
It’s going to be hard and I’m not even going to say I’ll always understand why you think we’re on an even playing field when it’s rocky, unstable, and riddled with pitfalls that masquerade as government programs or good intentions. I’m not promising that I’ll be super patient when you want to take up our phone call to cry about how bad you feel when you learn about the hardships of being a black woman in America.
Reconciliation is difficult for the oppressed person too.
I know I’ve got to move past my own prejudices that tempt me to Google you and your connection to my people. I’m tempted to put up walls when I start to love you a bit. I want to create a dossier of discrimination if your words or images that don’t meet my standards of diversity— it keeps me safe and in a place of judgment. So I need you.
I need you, but don’t forget this privileged white Southerner with a platform: you need me and many other bloggers of color with similar experiences, too.
Only then can we destroy the root system running deep in the South that produces the Strange Fruit of racism and ignorance. We need to clear out space to make way for the Kingdom roots of God’s Shalom that Jesus, our common Lord, lived and died violently for. His blood seeped into the ground to create a new way of being that’s marked by unity, sacrificially loving one another, and eagerly empowering every. Single. Image-bearer—regardless of the color of their skin.
So, come here honey, I think your privilege is showing, but I can help you with that.