Charlottesville: We Do Not Get to Go Back to Sleep / by Sarah Schwartz

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn."  -Martin Luther King Jr.

White sisters and brothers, can we have a quick huddle?

What we saw this past weekend in Charlottesville was horrific. It was repugnant and it was evil. I know that you know that.

What I'm not sure you know, what I'm not sure I really know, is that racism doesn't always come waving a Nazi flag or wearing a white hood. It does not usually identify itself as obviously as it did at UVA.

It's easy to condemn (and then dismiss) events like Charlottesville as a handful of fringe extremists who represent a strain of racism that was largely eradicated post Jim Crow.

What I'm not sure we have ears to hear, white sisters and brothers, is that racism, in all of it's ugliness, is alive and well in 2017. 

It is present in housing,

in education,

in the surgical precision of voter suppression,

in health care,

in the criminal justice system,

and scores of public policy.

It is the nation I love's original sin.

As the Reverend Dr. Barber has said, "To say you are against white supremacy without standing up against the policies that embolden white supremacists is hypocrisy."

If that makes you uncomfortable (I didn't own slaves! Why do you want us to feel guilty for being white?) let me assure you— no one is trying to make us feel "guilty for being white".

What they are trying to do is wake us up.

If you're still uncomfortable, that's ok. You'll work through it—you'll live. Frankly, your and my discomfort is less important than the tears of Micheal Brown's mother, the child sized casket of Tamir Rice, or the shattered spine of Freddie Gray. It is not as important as the motherless children of Meagan Hockaday, or the 29th birthday Sandra Bland never made it to.

As a follower of Jesus, I do not get to claim I love my neighbor—hell, I don't get to claim Christ—if I do not listen and respond to the suffering of my sisters and brothers of color.

We do not get to go back to sleep.


What do we do?

Listen. Listen, listen, read, listen, and then read and listen some more. Listen to understand, not just to respond. People of color are the experts on their own lives, and they should not have to work so hard to convince us that what they experience is real.

Voices to listen to:

Rev. Dr. Barber

Austin Channing Brown

Christina Cleveland

Bryan Stevenson

Drew G.I. Hart

Organizations to Support/Ways to Get Involved:

Southern Poverty Law Center


Campaign Zero

Equal Justice Initiative


Friends, the gospel and ways of Jesus are not partisan—that is, they are not owned or fully embraced by any party or label.

But in as much as the political impacts the well being of our neighbor, the gospel is most definitely political.

As Jonathan Martin says, "If the cross makes anything clear, it is that God is never indifferent. God is never aloof. God is never 'above the fray.'"

We do not get to go back to sleep.