Staying Quiet When I Should Have Spoken Up

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

I am confessing that as a white person, I have kept my mouth shut too many times to count, when white people around me, even in my own family, have made racist comments. My silence is hurting my non-white friends. That is not the kind of person, much less kind of friend, I want to be.

I have been wrestling with this question:

Why am I not speaking out?

It’s not like I don’t hear them, don’t disagree, don’t ache in my heart or even feel shocked at times by blatant racism. I’m aware. Even awake.

I don’t expect non-white people to carry this conversation. I think I have kept quiet because (a) it is easier and (b) antagonism is not nice.

I’m not proud of this lazy, less-than-courageous posture.

I do think a lot about this in tension with what it means to follow Christ. Easier or nice are not the primary values I am taught in scripture, even if they are often part of my church life. Jesus modeled a life of loving people enough to call a thing what it is. Friends, it is racism.

I am coming out publicly on this because I am no longer able to manage my own anger at others, and frankly I know this anger is especially directed at myself. I am working on me. Maybe you want to work on you.

For years I have been writing to myself about this. (Yes, I write letters to myself. You may think of this as journaling but truly, I am writing the things to myself I don’t have the guts to say out loud.)

Today I am writing to you. We need to stand up against micro-aggressions that dehumanize people in our world. We need to preach, teach, sing, write, pray and lead towards a better world. We need to lean into our prophetic voice…digging into our courage.

If you learn by reading, I’ve listed my top 10 book recommendations below. But reading is not the same as a relationship. I am grateful for my friends who are not white, who know my strengths and weaknesses and love me anyway. Isn’t that truly what we are called to do? Love God, neighbor and self? Since childhood I have been taught that love is a verb, not a feeling. Love calls us to action. I’m looking for micro-love to start a counter movement against micro-aggressions.

My book recommendations:

Get a friend or a group to read these with you. The conversation will be hard and important.

2 replies
  1. Sherry Sanders
    Sherry Sanders says:

    I, too, am guilty about not speaking at certain times, really it is about where I am or the group I am with. I can talk about it at Bible Study group where I have relationships with everyone and at work when I know the others feel the same as I do, but among people I know have a different attitude, I stay silent. Sometimes I think “they will not listen anyway” or “I already am the odd man out, I don’t want to push it”. And I am the last person who should be silent. My daughter married a black man and he was part of our family for over 25 years before he passed away last year, and my grandchildren are mixed, and my great-granddaughter also has Hispanic blood. And I so enjoy our eclectic family gatherings!
    Thank you for the book list. Sometimes it is easier to speak someone else’s words so maybe it will help all of us to both read the books and then be in relationship and tell the truth that people need to hear!


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