Though this book will be talking about race and its impact on how both the Bible and the United States Constitution have been read, interpreted, and applied, it is important to know that this is not about blaming white people. If there is blame to be assigned, it is against the system called white supremacy. Many, many white people abhor racism; they see what it does and has done. The immediate reaction when the word “racism” is used is defensiveness; people will say, “I didn’t do that,” or ask, “Why do people keep bringing it up?” It is easier to live in denial than to face the truth, no matter what the distasteful subject is before us.
But it is our very denial which has allowed the system to continue, challenged from time to time, but not eradicated. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said that it was the silence of so-called liberals that bothered him and made the situation worse, and the poet Audre Lorde wrote that our silence does not and will not protect us. Even as she dealt with the fact that she as a lesbian, a Black woman, and, finally a woman with breast cancer, she acknowledged that being silent about any of that, acting as though it were not her reality, did not change her reality. She wrote:
I was going to die, if not sooner, than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength and enable me to scrutinize the essentials of my living.
Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote, in the preface of Lorde’s book, “And yet, Audre lets us know that staying silent is betraying yourself, because nobody will speak up for you but you. Silence can be a survival strategy, but it can also be a way of giving up, saying nothing simply because there’s too much to say, and you fear your intervention will make no difference.
Our desire to remain silent and to ignore racism is understandable but not acceptable. It feels as though the God of us all beseeches us to do better.
From “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America” by Susan K. Williams Smith