Assistant Minister's Corner - Rev. Monica Dobbins

25 August 2017

The Struggle is Everywhere

As a child of the South, and especially as a native of Birmingham, Alabama, I often ask myself, if I’d been alive in the 1950s and 60s, would I have shown up for racial justice? Would I have skipped school to join the marchers on the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church? Would I have faced down the tanks and hoses with Fred Shuttlesworth? Would I have sung songs and prayed with Dr. King? Or would I have stayed at home, too afraid for my own safety to do anything but pray?

This is a question that white Southerners ask themselves often. For we are well acquainted with racism, and aware of what can happen when it is ignored. Case in point: Charlottesville, Virginia.

We watched with horror as people descended upon this college town with Nazi flags and torches to defend whiteness, a malignant and destructive illusion of cultural uniformity based on skin color, that excludes any diversity or difference. We cringed to see the hate unmasked, open and even proud, marching defiantly on streets we thought belonged to all people. Yet, even as we condemn such displays of hate, we who are socialized to be white are sometimes reluctant to admit the advantages that the illusion of whiteness confers upon us, nor how much we will be called upon to sacrifice to rid ourselves of this evil.

A few days after the Charlottesville protest, Salt Lake had its own chance to show that white supremacy is unwelcome and intolerable. I joined the crowd at a rally at the City & County building, organized by the Utah League of Native American voters, where speakers of many identities invited us to grieve, pray, and fight together as one community.

It warmed my heart to see Utahns denounce white supremacy and recommit to building a society of justice and diversity. Racism is not just a Southern thing – it is everywhere. And yet, everywhere I go, there are people of principle who are determined to root it out. It is so encouraging.

But if I can pass along just one message from the struggle in the South, it would be this: an anti-racist society begins at home. We must commit to living anti-racist lives, to rooting out white supremacy in our own hearts, first. I invite you to join me in a mindful search for ways in which each of us who are white benefits from the economic and relational structures of white supremacy, and look for ways to disrupt those systems. As my friend Rev. Theresa Soto says, “It takes all of us for all of us to make it.”