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Saturday, May 14, 2016

An Invitation to Join #WhiteOutMonday at General Conference

On Monday, May 16 I want to invite my white United Methodist brothers and sisters to stop tweeting for an entire day, to participate in a #WhiteOutMonday. As with so many large gatherings, the dominant culture tends to dominate conversations and we (speaking as a member of that dominant culture) tend to miss out on hearing the thoughts and reflections of minority cultures, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. I have seen this happen at previous gatherings as well as at this year’s General Conference. Moreover, I have helped make this happen.

This is just a suggestion. No, this isn’t enforceable. I don’t want to enforce it. My God, we are so worried about enforcing too much in the United Methodist Church already. I just want to invite white folks to try it. Let’s spend an entire day abstaining from tweeting listening and learning from the tremendous wisdom of our sisters and brothers of color. Maybe even white folks in Portland will join with us. I believe we have much to learn.

I have been in many meetings, especially having worked in advocating and organizing for immigration reform for ten years, and in some of those meetings English was not always used. I can speak a little Spanish and I can understand a little more, but what I notice in those meetings when English gets rarely used is that I listen much and I learned even more. Most importantly, it was those times when I am not leading. I am hearing from others who rarely get to speak when the dominant language is English and much of what I assumed to be true was changed. As a result, my work in mobilizing United Methodists to defend and support the rights of immigrants was tremendously shaped and formed more when I listened than when I spoke. My work was better for listening than it was from speaking.

I hope white folks, especially those of us who have tweeted so much (and so much of the Tweeting has been beneficial!), will stop on Monday. I pray we will not check out from the happenings of General Conference, but that our privilege of always having to be heard and recognized will be checked. As I shared with others, this is not about silencing a group of people. This is about checking our white privilege and stepping into God’s amazing grace which is found through listening and learning from those whose voices are so often get drowned out by the dominant white culture.

No, not every white person will participate. That’s ok. I won’t judge or castigate those who do not participate in #WhiteOutMonday and I hope others will not do so either. Nothing wastes the work of God’s grace in our lives like judging others for not being where we think they should be. God will teach all of us in due time. I want to learn this for myself and I just hope others will join me.

One more note. All (white people) are free to participate in #WhiteOutMonday, but I want to openly urge my sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community to not participate. There has been far too much at this this year’s General Conference (and at previous ones as well) that silences your voices. Let’s make this Monday a hetero #WhiteOutMonday. I hope you will tweet it out (until Monday!), share it on Facebook, and prayerfully participate. Then, on Tuesday, let’s share what we learned, what was hard about it and how can our engagement be changed as we move forward.


There is so much God wants to do in and through us and I look forward to listening and learning from my sisters and brothers of color can teach me on Monday and beyond. 

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for the thought-provoking idea and article, Bill. As always, I appreciate your wisdom and contributions to public thought and dialogue.

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  2. Thanks so much Carrie! I appreciate your encouragement!!

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  3. Dear Bill, (I don't think) we've met, but I felt compelled to reach out as a fellow white, straight, cis gender woman.

    Of course there needs to be space for many, all voices to be heard. But since this was started by a presumably straight white guy, I have my reservations.

    Like, is this just one more way for white people to spectate and consume the thoughts and ideas of marginalized folk? Then white folks can all talk about how we felt about our own privilege. That seems gross.

    It also seems to assume that you/we knows what's best for other people. Did you ask anybody else for input or are you in authentic relationship with folks--or is this just something to make him feel good about 'doing something.'...

    My sense is that your intentions are coming from a genuinely good place; it just feels perhaps misguided. And maybe a little more information and context would be helpful. I'm seeking to understand--genuinely.

    A sister in Christ,
    Kelli Beard

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  4. Hi Kelli, Yep, I am a straight, white male and I often suffer from misguided intentions. My intention here was simply that as I watched the twitter feed I felt like A LOT of white men especially were commenting and even running the discussions that were happening. I haven't watched the live-streaming of UMCGC intentionally, but I have been to enough gatherings like this to assume that this is happening there most likely as well.

    As I shared in the post I just want to invite others who share my privileged position to step back and allow others to step up. Not to check out, but to listen and learn.

    I guess I don't know what is gross about that. It seems the only way sometimes for whites to recognize our own privilege and to hear other voices that we fail to hear because we are so consumed with what we will say or how we will phrase our next zinger in 140 characters.

    I don't want to be legalistic so it is just an invitation. I have done this before and I feel like I have learned a lot each time.

    I hope this makes sense. Thanks for checking in and raising these issues. I hope I am sincere. My only intention is to create space for other voices and for those with privilege to check it and to listen and learn.

    Thanks!

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