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Apr 14th: Dismantling Racism: Embracing Humility, and Love, with Rev. Kally Elliott.

Posted: Sun, Apr 14, 2024
Dismantling Racism: Embracing Humility, and Love with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: Ruckus for Good 2024 A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Philippians 2.3-8. Join Kally Elliott Sunday as she discusses race, identity, privilege and how white Christians can humbly steward their privilege by embracing humility and vulnerability like Jesus, in order to love others across racial divides.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Kally Elliott


Dismantling Racism: Embracing Humility, and Love with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: Ruckus for Good 2024 A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Philippians 2.3-8.

Join Kally Elliott Sunday as she discusses race, identity, privilege and how white Christians can humbly steward their privilege by embracing humility and vulnerability like Jesus, in order to love others across racial divides.


Christian Washington has worked in finance. He is a pastor. He started and runs his own company. He is a writer and a speaker and a strategist by all American measures, he is what we would call a success. He’s also a black man. Why do I need to mention that? Because at six years old Christian was teased by other black kids on the on the playground, saying that he was too dark. These young children had already internalized white supremacy. The idea that white skin is superior to black skin. And it’s six years old, a hatred that made them see another black child’s skin as two black had already sunk its teeth into their hearts and minds. Hoping to lighten his dark skin Christian took to bathing twice a day, scrubbing until he was raw. Still, of course, his black skin remained. No matter what he did, he just could not make his skin lighter. To this six year old little boy, his dark skin meant there must be something wrong with him. Other than that one day each year, you know, when I put on shorts for the first time after a long winter, I’ve never once thought, Oh, I’m too white. Nor have I ever been teased for my white skin. When Christian became a teenager, his mother sat him down and had the talk with him. The talk being when not if a police officer pulls you over Christian, keep your hands at 10. And to make no movements unless you first ask the officer. If the officer officer tells you to get your driver’s license, well then ask politely if you can reach into your pocket to get it. Do not speak unless spoken to. If you do have to speak, do so reverently, quietly, saying Yes, sir. And no, sir. And do not under any circumstances, pull the hood up over your head if you are wearing a hoodie. I have three white teenage and young adult sons. And while I’ve had many talks with them, I’ve never had that talk. I’ve never felt the need to do so. The talk that so many black parents have with their black children. It keeps some of them alive. But it also quietly kills their soul. But Christian, Christian ended up being successful. So I mean, it all worked out. Right? Well, in his own words, all of those things, the teasing the talk all the times I was made other because of my skin color. He said they worked together to diminish who I really was. I mean, I became a successful partner in a firm I planted a church I married a beautiful woman, but underneath it all. I was just impersonating the person I thought I needed to be to survive. Underneath it all. I am still the kid my mother gave the talk to I’m still the kid with the skin that’s too dark. As a white person, I live in a world where having white skin works in my favor. It provides me with status with privilege. And white privilege today means I am less likely to be harassed or killed by police. I can watch TV shows, with with advertisements biased towards me. I can go to school and learn a history that emphasizes my story. I can move into a neighborhood and trust that my neighbors will accept me and even like me, if my child my white child was to go missing I could count on a significant amount of resources given to find my child. I don’t have to worry that because of their skin color, someone won’t like my children, or keep them safe. You know I can be colorblind, because being so doesn’t threaten my well being. I can say all lives matter because of course they do. My white skinned life has always mattered. But having white skin is not the standard. As Ashida Moore writes in her book, Dear White peacemakers, being human, is the standard. Being beloved, is the standard, made in the image of God is the standard. I have a colleague and friend who is biracial. And whenever he was given a standardized test as a student, he’d find himself unable to fill in the bubble describing his ethnicity slash race. In a blog post, he writes, most of my friends would simply color in the white box, most expected me to fill in the black box. But that never felt like that fully expressed to I was since I was half white, as well as half black, I also did not want to fill in the other box. So this put me in a dilemma, which eventually inspired me to fill in half the black bubble and half the white bubble. These half felt filled bubbles felt like a more accurate representation of who I was when it came to color. It also illustrated how I consistently felt when it came to race and ethnicity. I did not fit in the box, or the bubble, I guess. Biologically, there is no real basis for dividing people into racial groups. Race is a construct that society has made up over time. American society developed the notion of race as it was developing its new economic system of capitalism, which depended on forced labor or slavery. In other words, the social concept of race in the US evolved as a way to categorize people to extend or extract value from a person based on the color of their skin. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote, in Africa, there are no black people. It was only when I came to America, that I realized I was black. Blackness, and whiteness only have relation to one another, in this evil system of race. Now, in our congregation, the overwhelming majority of us have white skin, I have white skin. So this is for those of us wearing white skin. What is our work of love to do? What is the work of love we, as people wearing white skin are being called to do Philippians two says, Do nothing from selfish ambition, or empty conceit. But in humility, regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus Christ, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave assuming human likeness, and being found in appearance as a human. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

In a lecture, black author and professor and speaker, Dr. Brian Laurits says, you know, you may find it strange that I actually don’t like the phrase white privilege because it demonizes privilege for the sake of privilege. And that’s wrong. He continues. If privilege were sinful, then Jesus was sinful. Because no one was more privileged than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The text says though Jesus was God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Instead, he humbled himself. In other words, Paul tells us that Jesus stewarded His divine privilege for our benefit Laurits continues here. The Bible would say several things to white people. Don’t put your identity in your whiteness. And as recipients of privilege. Don’t feel bad about your privilege, so long as you are stewarding it well, to steward privilege in the way of Jesus is to disadvantage yourself for the advantage of others. Because Jesus used his privilege to suffer and die on a cross so that we spiritually underprivileged privileged, might have life everlasting. Jesus, who could have played the God card whenever he wanted to, instead laid it aside. He humbled Himself and He moved to the margins. Brian McLaren puts it this way. While we race to get to the head of the table, Jesus shocks everyone, and takes the role of a servant washing their feet. While we push and squeeze into the inner circle, Jesus shocks everyone and walks out to the margins to hang out with the outcasts and the outsiders. While we struggle to make ourselves rich, often at the expense of others, Jesus shocks everyone. He pours out everything he is and has. And while we fight to seize power over others, Jesus empowers others by standing with them in solidarity, by listening to them with respect, by seeking to make them successful, even at great cost to himself. In becoming human, throughout his life, and in his crucifixion, Jesus embraced the way of humility and vulnerability, for the sake of love. He wept, he bled, he died, taking on all those vulnerabilities to reveal God’s solidarity and love for us all. For Jesus, to embrace humility, and vulnerability was his work of love. So the invitation for us becomes to quit racing to the head of the table, to widen our inner circle so that others might find a way in to give of our resources to organizations that center the work and the voices of people of color, to listen to and believe the stories and the experiences of our siblings of color. In accepting the gift of humility, and vulnerability, we can finally step into loving others. In her book, Dear White peacemakers, a book written to white peacemakers, by black Peacemaker oshi, the more she challenges those of us trying to follow Jesus, and wearing white skin at the same time, really after a horrific, modern day lynching of a black man named James Byrd, more rights. I spent the whole week after watching the news, grieving James Byrd. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I asked my mom to leave work early every day to pick me up from school because I was terrified of walking home by myself. I couldn’t get over the fact that James Byrd knew and trusted Sean bury his murderer, or any white people safe Do all white people hide hatred behind their smiles? I spent that whole week anxious about going to church. I wanted the white people of my church, the white people who loved me, to show me that they truly did by being willing to enter into my pain. That Sunday as more entered the sanctuary, she was created with God is good. Oh schita. And she writes, you know, in that service, there were no moments of silence for James. My pastor didn’t say a single thing about him. No one said anything. And I remember thinking, God is good for you because you’re white. Was God good for James. Where was the sacrificial love of white people having an honest moment in our polished service to show love to the black members in pain, where Dear White Peacemaker was their allegiance to Jesus, the one acquainted with rejection, the wounded healer, the Prince of Peace. The cross is really beautiful in the sanitized glory of resurrection morning. But I was standing at Golgotha. Watching my hopes of a safe future in this body die a horrific death. And there were no witnesses to my pain, and the systemic violence that caused it. And at that tender age of 17, because of the church’s silence on race and racism, I built a wall to protect me from white people. Because of well, meaning white Christians who refused to talk about race and acknowledge the influence of white supremacy. I decided that church was not safe for me. The work of love, we are called to do is to not just be safe for our siblings of color. But the work of love we are called to do is to celebrate their lives to extricate the deeply woven threads of bias and white privilege and white supremacy, to rid our world of white supremacy. An overwhelming task one that will require grit and patience and grace, because we will mess up and we will be tempted by apathy. And yet it is not impossible. Friends, part of practicing resurrection in this Easter season and in all of our years to come, is doing the work of love, even when it seems impossible. That’s what resurrection is all about. I want to leave you with these words from Oh, she’s more. She writes. We don’t want to embrace humility. Because when we hear the word meek, we assume weak. And if there is anything white supremacy, culture resists, it is any semblance of weakness. However, Jesus himself embraced meekness, humility, and invited us into it. So maybe instead of asking, What the heck am I supposed to do? You could ask Jesus. Are you going to do this with me? Amen.

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