By, Pastor Allen Hoskyn from Lawrenceville, GA. He’s a member of the Community of Reconcilers
Blinded by the White
How could I forget? For weeks images flashed. Smells pungent and revulsive captured my imagination. The terror, the fear a borrowed memory rippling like a wave of electricity from the pit of my stomach to the tip of every end of me. The horror of humanity and the birth of a nation rising and falling on the ebb and flow of my consciousness.
And still I forgot.
Sunday, August 25, 2019 I sat in the sanctuary of an all-white church listening to a sermon about the Good Samaritan and not a single thought (or word for that matter) about one of the most grave and decisive moments in American history – enslaved Africans ripped from themselves arriving on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia 400 years ago.
In the moment I once again listened to the story of Jesus redefining the contours of love and neighbor, I forgot.
But when you are blinded by the white it is easy to forget.
My white privilege is more than four hundred years in the making and it has been weaponized and institutionalized buried deep within my American story and my personal identity. It feeds on myth, revisionist history, and short memories justified with phrases like: “it happened 150 years ago,” “my family never owned slaves,” or “we elected a black president.”
My white privilege not only allows me to conveniently forget one of the most consequential moments of American history, it fuels a worldview that has fundamentally embraced a narrative that makes it possible for me to forget in the first place.
The insidiousness of my white privilege is not the prejudices, biases, attitudes, and beliefs I see, know, and mourn, but those so buried within my identity, assumptions, and notions of reality I do not see them at all.
For too long, I and countless white men before me have walked through the landscape of American history blinded by the white. In our willful blindness we have engaged in unspeakable acts that defy rationality and wholly abandon morality. But our well-constructed blindness is being confronted by the consequence of its own making.
We can no longer turn a blind eye to the violence, subjugation, exploitation, and dehumanization we brought to these American shores over 400 years ago because it is on full display with every mass shooting, with every person of color wrongfully killed by the police, with every opioid death, with every child separated from its family, with every prison disproportionately filled with people of color, with every hole punched in the ozone, with every…, with every…, with every…
Four hundred years ago a ship arrived off the coast of America, I did not see it then neither did I see it last Sunday. If there is to be any hope for me, any hope for us, any hope for America, we need to see that ship. We need to see the stark brutality, inhumanity, and evil that not only produced that ship but the narrative that keeps that ship blinded by the white.
The former slave trader John Newton once wrote, “I once was lost but now I am found was blind but now I see.”
A ship has been floating in the heart of America for 400 years. It is about time we saw it.