Nazi symbols and confederate flags flooded the streets of my southern city in the end of September. Was this a White Supremacist rally?
Not according to the participants and the organizers of the annual Bikes Blues and Barbecue rally, they pushed the slogan “Heritage Not Hate.” Not only did bikers don items with confederate flags, SS bolts, and swastikas; one could walk down our main street in town and take your pick of items for purchase. Not much had changed since the Arkansas Times reported on this same issue last year .
In response to the racist paraphernalia, a group of us mobilized and effectively demanded: “no hate in our home.” Two of the vendors with the most offensive wares removed these items from view and discontinued their sales. We are committed to working this year to ensure vendors are barred from selling recognized symbols of hate in the coming years.
For a white American like me there is no such thing as “heritage not hate.” Whether or not we are waving confederate flags, white inheritance is a legacy of colonization and violence perpetrated against indigenous Americans, black people, immigrants, and other marginalized communities. To deny this is an active choice to silence the voices of those people who our ancestors oppressed and who are still harmed by white dominance today. To acknowledge racism as our inheritance does not mean utter condemnation. Actually, telling the truth is a step towards creating a new way of being.
But I am not just a white American, I am a white Christian American and a student of theology. I know this hatred is sinful and that it must stop.
Knowing the truth of our legacy can free us from being bound by the sin of complacency. I cannot separate myself from whiteness, but being free doesn’t mean being let off the hook. What I can do is counteract the momentum of my inheritance.
Jesus said: “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor, to honor what is good. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to denounce racism and hate. As a disciple it is my duty to proclaim a new way. Remaining faithful to Jesus teaching means taking action when I witness unjust and hateful behavior in our communities.
White Americans, we need to own our inheritance rather than letting our inheritance own us. White Christian Americans, we need to delve deeply into our faith and use that strength to combat hate and racism in our time in whatever way we can.
Remember, one day we will be ancestors in the faith, and ancestors in our country. What sort of legacy do we want to offer?