Time for allies to speak out and act up

by Mary Ann McGivern

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I received an email with a link that reads, " 'Allies,' the Time for Your Silence Has Expired." The letter-writer appreciates that we have been careful to let blacks take leadership since Ferguson, but now it is time to act.

What do we do? How do we get rid of racism?

Racism is more like molasses than cement. You can't crack it and watch it crumble. Instead, we white people are just standing in it. Maybe some are in deeper than others, but we're all there. I have sympathy for Rachel Dolezal wanting to be black. How else can we get out of this gooey mess?

I think we have to do more than get rid of the Confederate flag. We have to put up monuments for people who were lynched. I've been thinking about street signs here in St. Louis for all the children killed by guns, up alongside the parking signs, naming the child and his or her age and perhaps a cross or a flower.

My Loretto community is doing a group read of Witnessing Whiteness, a book I blogged about here a few months ago. A group read gives us opportunities to share our experience of being white. It's hard to get a handle on white privilege, much less white sin.

Personally, I have renewed my commitment to talk with Missouri legislators about rescinding the laws that criminalize poverty, such as it being a felony to write a bad check or to fail to return rent-to-own property. These used to fall under civil jurisdiction, but somebody had the idea of making them criminal cases.

One fellow in the legislature said to me, "Well, I could make a mistake and write a check I can't cover, but I wouldn't be intending to steal. Somebody else who wrote a bad check might be intending to steal." I reminded him that when a person or a company declares bankruptcy, the judge doesn't question the motives, asking if they intended to defraud their creditors.

I'm telling you this because I need to make my commitments to fight racism out loud. I need to pledge to go out of my way to right at least a few of the institutionalized wrongs that land on the heads of the poor and often selectively on the heads of blacks.

I can't see the shoreline where this racism we are standing in ends. But I know that I can't walk out of it alone. So I ask: What's something you are doing to try to put an end to racism?

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