Rev. Lauren Lorincz—BLM Peaceful Protest Speech, Colchester Town Green, Colchester, Connecticut, June 5, 2020
I thank the Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest organizers for asking me to speak— you all give us hope. I’m Reverend Lauren Lorincz, the Pastor of Colchester Federated Church—the church over there with the rainbow banner. Our church is a Welcoming, Open and Affirming Church and we do our best to live out the love and justice of Jesus. So I’m honored to be with you and to gather together here in Colchester because being present here in protest is important. And I’m saddened that we must have this peaceful protest after yet another unarmed black man—George Floyd—was killed by police, officers who are charged with protecting and serving the public.
It’s undeniable that systemic racism is ingrained in our society, that its toxins affect every aspect of life. For too long white people like me/white clergy like me haven’t talked about racism and its affects nearly enough in our congregations or in our wider communities. Perhaps because we’re not sure what to say, and we don’t want to say the wrong thing, so we say nothing at all. Perhaps because we’re so embedded in our own white privilege that we fool ourselves into thinking that racism isn’t for white people to talk about. And that silence has led to more violence. Pretending that the sin of racism will go away on its own is misguided. People continue to seek justice. What about justice for Breonna Taylor? White silence about racism isn’t helping to make things better.
Jane Elliott is an American teacher and anti-racism activist and educator, she’s educated people (often white people like her) about racism for years. There’s an older video that has been making its rounds on social media where she asked her mostly white audience to participate in a simple exercise. She said, “I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our black citizens to please stand.” No one stood. She pressed on and said that the audience must not have understood the directions. Jane Elliott repeated, “If you white folks want to be treated the way black [folks] are in this society, stand!” No one stood. She ended by saying that this inaction tells her that white members of the audience know what’s happening, they know they don’t want it for themselves, so why are they willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others?
White people like me can move from being allies to focusing on anti-racism. If there’s hope today, it’s that we can call out racism when we see it and hear it. Because it’s not solely the job of people of color to educate white people about racism. I will say that again—it is not solely the job of people of color to educate white people about racism.
Friends, there are so many good resources out there to learn about how to step up and be anti-racist. Fellow white people, please let’s educate ourselves. Let’s center the voices of people of color when we do.
And in the meantime, when white people hear fellow white people say, “all lives matter,” we can respond that saying “black lives matter” is focusing on the specific realities of racism experienced by black people all the time. Immediately saying “all lives matter” diminishes and belittles the realities of racial injustice. Let’s talk about white privilege, white fragility, and internalized racism.
When we white people hear other white people say they “don’t see color” (even if it’s supposed to be well-intentioned), we can respond that unless they are physically color blind, of course they see color. Beyond that, those folks are not seeing their fellow human beings in all their beauty. Diversity isn’t something to be feared. Diversity can be celebrated. In my Christian tradition we believe that everyone is created in the image of God and it’s our responsibility as followers of Jesus to see God in one another.
Or when we hear a racist joke, my fellow white people, we can simply not laugh. Perhaps even better—act like you don’t understand it and need the joke explained. Watch as that person scrambles to explain why it’s funny to be hateful.
Now are these conversations uncomfortable? Absolutely. Though in the end my belief is that in these daily interactions that white people can have with fellow white people—minds will change. Or better yet, hearts will change. With changed hearts may just come the lasting change that we need—to see one another without hesitation as people who have inherent worth, deserving of dignity and respect. And dare I pray that with changed hearts we will love one another as God has always and will always love each and every one of us. Thank you.