Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was Frustrated with the White Moderate and Now I Get It

To say I now understand a little bit more why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was frustrated with the white moderate is an understatement. 

Watching the events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021 simply because the president lost his reelection bid and then proceeded to lie to his cult followers about what actually happened, and then watching the conversations some white moderates were having both astounded and disgusted me. 

So many people sitting in their white bodies surrounded and protected by privilege calling for unity before even condemning white supremacy, before addressing the attack on our democracy, and before demanding accountability for their malicious and downright juvenile behavior. 

There is no real unity where the privileged majority call for peace but are not willing to take any actions towards bringing that peace to fruition. In the words of Dr. King, “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers,. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, I cannot agree with your methods of direction”; who paternalistically believes he [or she] can set the timetable for another man’s [or woman’s] freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”. (Excerpt from “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”). I, too, am disappointed with the white moderate.

With all of this being said, I am not the type of person that finds it necessary to deal in extremes. Oftentimes, the answer can be found somewhere in the middle. But it cannot be so all the time, not when it comes to matters of civil rights. It is one thing to throw a tantrum that took human lives (i.e. U.S. Capitol insurrection) and another thing to protest injustices that are taking human lives (i.e. police brutality, healthcare discrepancies) . Sometimes both sides do not have “very fine people”. Sometimes evil is just evil and it needs to be dealt with by facing issues with honesty and accountability.

For the past three or so years, I have been reading Dr. King’s letter to commemorate the day that has been dedicated to him. When I was dating my now husband, he joined me in reading and discussing this letter. Now, it has become something of tradition for us. Every time I read it, I find and gain new insight and I’m able to apply it to present day events and it propels me to continue in the work of addressing injustices where I am. I invite you to read his full letter here or listen to it on audio here, yes, even if you have read it in the past, and reflect on how it applies to what is happening in the world today. Then, learn a little more about Black history beyond the letter and Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

How to Forgive a Racist

The other day I Googled, “How to forgive a racist person”. It didn’t come up with anything particularly helpful except for some articles about the history of white people expecting Black people to quickly and wholeheartedly forgive them, even when it meant the Black person’s loved one was killed as a result of their racism.

A few weeks ago after I shared on my Facebook page about the gaslighting and racism I experienced at the hands of a former mission president, I proceeded to get a message from another white male who served in the same mission who told me that, “he hoped I could find it in my heart to be kind”. He sent that message after seeing my post about the experience. Nowhere did he mention that he confronted the former mission president about his racist behavior.

God invited all of us to forgive and I do my best to do just that. God also asked us to repent. Forgiveness is not the only way forward, repentance is also a way forward and we have been asked to do both. When people are never confronted about their terrible behavior, they perceive it as acceptable and continue to participate in said behavior.

If you’re reading this, I pray that you will invite your loved ones to stop with the racism long before you ever approach the person at the receiving end about their need to forgive and make racists comfortable. And how exactly do you forgive a racist? That’s between you and God, not when people are rushing you to because they need to feel better about their deplorable behavior.

Reflections on October’s 2020 General Conference

I almost wasn’t going to watch the 190th Semiannual General Conference put on by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To be honest, I have been struggling with some of the vitriol that has come from Latter-day Saints regarding the racism and injustices being heaped on Black Americans. Between a pandemic, election year, peaceful and unpeaceful (caused by agitators) protests, and being a full-time student and a newlywed, it has been quite the year and my faith was taking a beating. And I often wondered where the heck God was. I didn’t know how much more I could take if our church leaders just did not address the chaos that was happening in our world.

To the surprise of some, myself included, a lot of the issues plaguing our country were tackled. Albeit some of it was lackluster, but when you think about it, it is much older white men doing the tackling of these issues, so I kept that in mind. I cannot speak to the experiences of other Black LDS people, so this is me purely speaking to my own. But I felt an array of emotions this October General Conference weekend and the talk that stuck with me the most was from the prophet and president himself, Russell M. Nelson.  

For the first time, in what I can remember, he spent some time denouncing racism and white supremacy and made it abundantly clear that righteousness is not dependent on one’s skin color. He specifically named Black people in his talk and expressed that he grieved with us, not for us but with us.

In times such as these, where many are grieving, it was comforting that the prophet of the faith, I belong to, is with us, he sees us, and he made that clear to the thousands that were tuned in live from all over the world.

Of course, the conversations need to continue, accompanied with tangible action steps on individual and systemic levels. Of course, everyone will take something different from president Nelson’s message, because the beautiful thing about these General Conference talks is that we take what speaks to us and we try to apply it in a way that is healing. With that being said, it is one thing if people weaponize a talk to attack others (that isn’t in line with what we are taught in the gospel) and entirely another to use the messages to get closer to Christ.

God is a God of love, justice, and mercy, otherwise we would not have the chance of trying again when we make mistakes. Take the messages for what they are and make space for everyone else to do the same.

You’re the Real Racist and Other Lies

Being an outspoken Black woman brings a lot of interesting people out of the wood works and being an outspoken Black LDS woman brings a lot of angry people of my same faith into the open. The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can see the heightened racial tensions and expect people to keep quiet about it. Sure, staying quiet means probably less stress and less hate being directed at you, but staying quiet hasn’t served me well either, because it typically means letting disrespectful and hateful things fly. I know that I expect people who call me friend to be the same people to speak up in the circles they inhabit when something racist is said, otherwise they probably shouldn’t call me friend. It is a lie that staying quiet about social issues keeps the peace, the only people who think it is keeping the peace are those that don’t feel that they are impacted by whatever issue it may be.

Being a woman of faith means that “well meaning” people will use scriptures to gaslight you and tell you that they basically don’t care about what’s happening to those that look like you, essentially hiding their racism behind the word of God. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that in those same scriptures we’ve been commanded not to use the Lord’s name in vain, and to use His words to defend racist behavior is to do just that. Every life matters to the Lord, but He is also the same one that left the 99 to search for the one, and when the one is being targeted that is the one He is going after for a bit. It is a lie to use God’s words to malign people and their lived experiences.

I understand how hurtful it is to be called out for something that you thought was not a problem. Being an outspoken Nigerian-American brings a lot of opportunities for Black Americans to call you out when you misstep, and while it does initially hurt, it is a learning opportunity filled with a moment to reflect. So, while it is hurtful to be called out on your racist behavior, use it as an opportunity to do and be better so that people of color can exist and thrive safely in every space and system. It is a lie to tell someone they are the real racist just because you don’t like that they asked you to do and be better.

Creating a Community When You Can’t Find One

A few weeks ago, I found myself lost and without a community amidst the rising of racial tensions in the world, the U.S., in my State, and in the city I currently reside in. Living in a predominantly white area has played a nasty game with my anxiety as the talk of armed people showing up to peaceful protests, and then people from the opposing side showing up armed to protect themselves rang. Everyone is showing up brandishing guns and the divide continues to grow deeper as the days and weeks go on.

As a Black woman married to a white man, I have had to accept the reality that there are aspects to my identity my husband won’t ever 100% understand and that it is okay. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily make it easy when navigating all that is currently taking place in our world. And I knew that we weren’t alone in it.

I had a few friends who were (and are) also in interracial relationships reach out to me regarding their own struggles and we were able to empathize with one another. Just because you love your spouse that happens to be a different race doesn’t necessarily mean that marriage suddenly becomes easy flowing. It’s not easy flowing when you are of the same race and/or even religion, of course it’s not going to be easy when you live in a world that judges you and who you love based on the color of your skin. And unfortunately, marrying into a white family doesn’t suddenly cure people of their conscious and unconscious biases, no matter how much they love you and you love them.

I decided to take action and create a space where a small group of interracial couples could virtually meetup and talk about their worries, struggles, wins, and how they are doing in general, in the current political climate of our world. There is something to be said about belonging to a community of people that understand some of where you’re coming from and can truly listen, validate, and provide helpful resources to you. Personally, I believe in surrounding yourself with people that can validate and correct you when necessary, because you need both to be a little more well-rounded.

While social media can be a great tool for connecting with people from all over, it has also become an exhausting place for many, including myself. So, I find it vital to create other outlets where I can breathe and just be because sometimes that’s all I really want and need, especially when there is so much going on in the world.

Law Enforcement Officers Lives Do Matter

I agree that the lives of our Law Enforcement Officers matter. They are humans with real families and worries, after all.

However, Law Enforcement Officers do need to be held accountable and do need to stop killing Black people frilly-nilly. The movement is about many things, one of them being the systems that are put in place in this country to purposely keep certain groups on a playing field that is not leveled nor equitable and shining a light on them. Also, to stop killing Black people.

A lot of people will say, “Look at this successful Black person, what hardships have they faced?” or another person with a lot of wealth may say, “White supremacy and racism doesn’t exist, look how well off I am and I am a Black person, no one helped me get here just work hard and you can be like me!”

Recognizing racist systems does not mean that no one of any other color has not faced hardships, it means that the system has worked and continues to work in the favor of the majority race in America and when that race thinks that they hold more power simply because it has always worked in their favor, then it becomes dangerous for the existence of minorities. Second point is that oftentimes even successful Black people had a mentor or someone somewhere that took a chance on them, without that chance the likelihood of them being where they are is very low.

I reflect on my own life and I can see it. Although I have experienced my own hardships, I can see the privileges I have been granted because someone with more privilege believed in me and took a chance on me. Does this mean I didn’t/don’t work hard, nope; it just means I didn’t do it all completely alone. When I get where I am aiming to be it doesn’t suddenly grant me the right to look down on other people that look like me and say that I am somehow better than them or that the injustices they face are not real. No, it is an opportunity for me to help them network and then it is up to them where they go from there, because I have been granted that privilege. Everyone has privilege, it’s what you do with it that matters.

So, some of my questions are: why does it take protesting and rioting to get any semblance of justice? Why is it that when Black people are murdered while unarmed their past is brought up as if that is to somehow justify them being killed? Why do Black mothers die at such disproportionate rates in the hands of our healthcare systems? Why are the 2nd Amendment people quiet when a Black man did use a gun to protect his home against intruders and was arrested for doing so while they murdered his sleeping wife?

Please educate yourself by reading the plethora of educational materials that people have researched and worked hard to make available, doing so will decrease the likelihood of you unintentionally or intentionally derailing what the conversation and movement is truly about. There is a lot we didn’t learn in school, unfortunately, because our education system is also built on systems that are intent on framing history to make it “easier” to digest. But the truth is that history is rarely easy to digest.

My Unsolicited Thoughts

I go between wanting everything to burn down and taking time to engage with interested parties regarding America’s racism problem. Obviously, racism isn’t special to America, but it is where I live so it is where most of my focus is; it is where I have these experiences.

One of my favorite authors is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie she has said a lot of things I love, one of them being, “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.” It’s strong language, but it is something to reflect on as you are engaging in the conversation surrounding the Black Lives Matter Movement and race relations. I do appreciate people who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to participate, to be called in/ called out, to get it wrong, to learn, and to do and be better. Regardless of the color of your skin you are bound to make mistakes and it can sting to be called out, but you will survive it, I did.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit interesting to suddenly have so many friends and strangers want to engage in this conversation. But I think a lot of people can point to an event that opened their eyes to how minority groups are mistreated in this country and some folks are still fast asleep, but it doesn’t mean they are immune to it being brought up. Hopefully the tough conversations are still happening.

I’ve been in a weird place mentally the past two weeks.

I want to scream. I want to cry (I’ve done this a few times already). I want to delete all social media accounts and live in a bubble of blissful ignorance. I want it all to disappear: the injustice, the debates on whether or not Black lives do matter, the focus on miniscule things, and the semantics some like to throw into the mix.

Our world feels surreal right now. We’re still in a pandemic with Coronavirus and somehow that knowledge hasn’t stopped injustices from occurring on a daily basis—this information can feel incredibly overwhelming, almost unbearable some days.

I haven’t bowed out of the work or conversation completely. I’m currently working on a project that will hopefully bring the voices of Black LDS women to more people because being Black is not monolithic and the voices of Black women are not heard often, let alone ones of Black LDS women. I’m hoping it will be a good experience for everyone. But if I don’t always want to engage in conversation I hope you can understand that I am probably just tired, but I also hope that it doesn’t hinder your desire to be involved and continue learning.

Who Will Stand Up for Black Women?

I recently wrote a guest blog post for The Exponent II talking about some of my encounters with white LDS women at different stages of my life, sharing some of the racist comments they have said to me. I went on to share the post with friends and some of the women I mentioned. Most of them sincerely apologized and went on to express how the encounter changed them and propelled them to confront the racism that they hadn’t realized was a part of them and are now doing the work of anti-racism. One of them told me they hadn’t remembered saying what they did, but that IF they had offended or hurt me that they were sorry and that they are married to a black person now and will someday raise a black family. I told them that I remembered the encounter and shared the post with them because I wanted them to read it and I thanked them for doing so; they thanked me for sharing.

Fast forward a few hours later, I get a message from their black spouse stating that I had labeled their partner a racist and that they had come crying to them because they didn’t remember saying what they did and had apologized and apparently I didn’t accept the apology and so on and so forth.

So, in sharing my personal experience with this person they claimed that I was now labeling them a racist, didn’t accept their conditional apology, and they were married to a black person and speaking up about injustices, so somehow it meant that I could no longer share my traumatic experience that happened at their hands. It’s okay that they no longer remembered it because I remember it like happened yesterday. In fact, the night after it happened I told several people about it when I got home.

Who stands up for the black woman? When are we allowed to be upset because our character was attacked? Who has the black woman’s back?

Why do white women get away with doing and saying racist stuff while black men are murdered because of it? While black women are threatened and made to feel unsafe because of it? While black families are disrupted from having a fun family gathering because of it? While the worker can’t do so in peace because of it?

Being married to a black person, having a black in-law, having black children/grandchildren, even having black siblings does not absolve you from racist behavior and implicit biases. When you use the black person in your life as an excuse for your egregious behavior you are using our skin color as a defense for yourself, but when we are targeted and murdered because of our skin color you are silent and suddenly no longer comfortable with talking about race and race relations. Black bodies are only bothersome to you when we are seemingly inconveniencing your life. Black bodies are only okay with you when we are entertaining you, feeding you, humoring you, or guarding you from being labeled a racist.

I have learned that although many people are slow to defend and support black women we continue to rise and force our voices to be heard, because even when we are pushed out and dismissed you will still hear us.