Tell the stories

Four books I have worked through in the past few weeks give me the same theme: tell the stories. Don’t just work on the stats. Hear the stories. Walk the places where they happened.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. A work of fiction. He just tells a story and it is immensely powerful.

Shoutin’ in the Fire by Danté Stewart. He tells his story of learning to be fully Black and Christian and the rejection that meant from white Christian spaces. He is a man who fully loves Jesus and will do so on his terms as a Black man. Deal with it.

Fortune by Lisa Sharon Harper. She tells the stories of her family as she discovered them through research and visits to places they inhabited.

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith. He tells the story of places and how each of those places deal with their own slave stories.

So… why not just “get over it?” Why not “just move on?”

The answer is simple: because we, as whites, have refused to move on ourselves. While these stories tell a more full history of the past (which we, as whites, refuse to learn), it also shows us: 1. those stories aren’t in the ancient past. Some are just a generation removed from us, and 2. we, as whites, still build systems and laws that block the telling of the full story!

We still have history books that propagate the “lost cause” myth in our public schools. We are still dealing with laws on the books that make it easier to prosecute a person of color than a white person, just so we can throw them in a prison and get free or cheap labor out of them.

Our past, and our refusal to learn, is still impacting our present. THAT is why the stories need to be told. We, as whites, are refusing to move forward!

Clint Smith has these words at the end of one of his chapters:

“What would it take — what does it take — for you to confront a false history even if it means shattering the stories you have been told throughout your life?”

Here is what I have discovered: There are some white people who are doing this. I am attempting to walk through this difficult history myself. But most white people are just too damn comfortable and have no need to change. And that is America.

Sculpture at the Memorial for Peace and Justice

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