Justice and Mike Brown: Karen House Statement

To our fellow white friends and supporters and to our fellow Catholic Workers,

It is time.  18 year-old Michael Brown is dead (as is Eric Garner,  John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, and too many others…), another victim of an out-of control system that systematically targets people of color. At Karen House, we don’t have a guest or neighbor who doesn’t have their own story of police humiliation, harassment or violence – including Anna Brown, a former guest who died in a St. Louis jail in 2012.

We realize that as an all-white community, it is our responsibility to speak to other white folks about race, racism, and what is happening in Ferguson.  Our community has been learning more and more about how racism operates to separate and limit all of us.  We are encouraging ourselves, and other white folks we love, to look at our fear and conditioning about race, to listen better, and to act as allies to people of color. It is time for us white people to step back, and to step forward.

It is time for us white people to step back and listen.humanity

Listen to the African American mothers who rightfully fear sending their sons to the store, to school, and to grandma’s house. (Don’t walk too fast. Don’t walk to slow. Keep your hands out. Pull your pants up. Don’t look guilty.)

Listen to the rage of the black man, who has been vilified, stereotyped, targeted and jailed by a white-controlled establishment since before America was even a country. (Slavery, Jim Crow, and now Mass Incarceration are a litany of terror and control, leaving deep and open wounds.  Listen.)

Listen to more than the riot porn on the network news. Connect with those most affected by violence, and learn about their stories. (Check out ColorLines, St. Louis-based Organization for Black Struggle, and Black Girl Dangerous; each has insightful analysis on the Mike Brown and Ferguson)

It’s time for us to get better educated.

We white people don’t understand the anger re: Ferguson because our kids aren’t murdered with impunity by the state.” (@Auragasmic)  It is time to step forward, to learn about and take responsibility for our white privilege.

It is time for us to talk with other white people who also feel fear and confusion: “Why can’t they be peaceful? Why are they so angry? Why so conspiratorial?” A few responses from some people of color to start us off (We’ll talk about more on Sunday!):

  • “What is an appropriate expression of anger when the cops keep on killing our kids?!” (@ProfessorCrunk)
  • “We can’t deride the actions of those who are expected to respect property when their very lives are devalued. We can’t expect them to maintain civility when their very existence has been the target of incivility from others.” (Christi Griffin)
  • “If Black folks are ‘civil’ & polite in petitioning authorities, THEY ARE IGNORED. If they lash out, they are demonized. Typical.”(@lkscollective)St. Louis police shooting

It is time for us to talk to other white people about race, and about our experience of being white: what it has cost us, what it has excused us from, and where it can lead us. It is time to temporarily set aside our defensiveness and guilt (“I didn’t own slaves! I have a black friend! I’m colorblind!”).  It is time to share our shame, regret, and sorrow that whiteness, in this country, has meant slave-ownership, exploitation, genocide and oppression; it is time to move forward, committed to ending this reality.

It is time for all of us white folks to step forward.

It is time for us to start showing up, following the lead of people of color – beyond the safety of Facebook. To challenge the violent systems that create the conditions of poverty, police brutality and oppression.

It is time for us white folks to acknowledge the hypocrisy of opposing war abroad while we’ve shrugged off the war on people of color in our own cities and neighborhoods; right now, the U.S. incarcerates a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of Apartheid. (The New Jim Crow, 6)

Fellow white folks, it is time to step back, and to step forward.

All we can do is our best: learning, leaving our comfort zones, acting, asking forgiveness from each other, failing, and starting again. “Indeed, a ‘riot is the language of the unheard,’ (MLK) but we collectively must work to provide microphones for the dispossessed.” (@Negrointellect)

Please join us!  It’s time. It’s about time.

In hope and solidarity,

The Karen House Community