No Easy Answers

Pr24A Exodus 33:12-23 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Matthew 22:15-22

My “Me and White Supremacy” group is now starting its last week of readings. Our time with the 28 day workbook is nearly over. We’ve learned a lot. We have new terms and concepts, and a renewed commitment to the work of dismantling White Supremacy. Still, none of us are confident that we know exactly what to do next.

It’s a critical moment. We run the risk of falling into White Apathy. [1] As Layla Saad explains it, White Apathy kicks in because:

  • We realize there are no easy solutions, and we get frustrated.

  • We say we didn’t create White Supremacy so maybe its not our job to dismantle it.

  • We know we don’t know exactly what to do next, so we do nothing. Better to do nothing than to be caught making a mistake.

  • We see that the system of White Supremacy is deeply entrenched, so we doubt anything we do would make a difference.

Saad calls on White people to avoid falling into White Apathy. Without telling us exactly what to do next, she says:

The aim of this work is not self-loathing. The aim of this work is truth – seeing it, owning it, and figuring out what to do with it. This is lifelong work. Avoid the shortcuts, and be wary of the easy answers. Avoid the breaking down into white fragility. [2]

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is questioned by disciples of the Pharisees. They demand a “yes” or “no” answer to their question, which almost always signals a trap. Jesus’ answer left the disciples amazed — he deftly articulated the governing principle while giving no hint as to what he thought were just or unjust taxes. Very savvy, but not very helpful if the disciples (or their teachers, the Pharisees) were really trying to decide which taxes, if any, a religious person ought to pay.

Jesus offered no easy answers. He offered only a governing principle and left the Pharisee’s disciples to figure it out for themselves. They knew the Law and the Prophets. They knew how to learn and pray and discern together. They would figure it out.

The work of dismantling White Supremacy has general principles and no easy answers. It is work for White people to do, and the specifics of how we do that are for us to figure out. Day after day, because as Saad writes, it is “lifelong work.”

One could wish for more details and specifics, but each of us – and all of the neighborhoods, town and cities we live in – are different. Fortunately, we know the Law and the Prophets. We know how to learn and pray and discern together. I believe we can figure it out.

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  1. Saad, Layla F. Me and White Supremacy, (Sourcebooks, Naperville, Ill., 2019) at 131.

  2. Saad, Layla F. Me and White Supremacy at 74.

    Art: Jesus and the Sadducees… James Tissot, French, 1836-1902