Today I heard a very kind and decent man telling someone else that while, of course, he was completely against racism and white supremacy, he didn't like to go around being negative and focusing on what's bad. His friends already knew that stuff was bad.
Today I saw a very good and decent woman post that she was tired of being lumped with all the other white people and being told she needed to do something to tear down racism. It wasn't her. She had never been racist in her life.
And it made me remember.
I remember growing up in the Bible Belt, not far from an area where just a few generations before my Mormon ancestors had had their barns burned, their men beaten, their women raped and their children chased from their homes. And all because the governor had listened to those who feared and disliked my ancestors and signed an Extermination Order that made it legal to kill any Mormon on sight.
I remember riding in the school bus beneath the gorgeous fall colors of those Midwest hardwoods, past evangelical churches whose reader boards said: "Come learn why Mormons are the Anti-Christ" or "Mormonism = Satanism." I didn't think all my friends believed that, but I didn't know which ones didn't and I had to assume most of my evangelical friends thought there was something to it. And it made me feel scared and hurt.
I carried that fear and pain for years. It wasn't until a group of evangelical women opened their arms and their homes and their hearts to me that I lost that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach whenever I saw their name, the hyper-alert vigilance whenever I found out someone was evangelical — though I had in the intervening years known lots of evangelical neighbors in lots of different states who were "nice." And even though, all along, I'd had Catholic and Lutheran and Jewish and agnostic friends who made it clear they didn't believe that hate-talk or wish me and my people ill. The evangelical women who embraced me as a Mormon neighbor weren't the same evangelical people who posted hateful things years ago, but the healing in me needed the kindness specifically of their touch.
There are pains in this world that we as white people have the power to comfort. If we have the medicine, why not use it to heal the wounds?
It's not enough just to be nice and good and decent and say nothing. To be silent is to give assent. It's not what you meant. It's not your intent. And moreover, it's uncomfortable and awkward to start making a lot of noise among your good decent friends who also are being silent. But that is how your silence and my silence reads in today's world. I'm not willing to give the weight of my silence to this evil any more.