I am white, straight, not a Muslim, not an immigrant, therefore not likely to be personally threatened by a Trump presidency. So why am I afraid?
They’re dying off. Among the living, some lean on walkers, others are stooped over. White men, all of them, veterans of a sort. Not necessarily ones who wore a uniform or fought in a distant land, but veterans of a struggle here at home. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve had the honor to meet a few of them.
Pastors of white southern churches during the 1960s and 70s, they were among the few white Christian ministers who had the courage to stand against Jim Crow laws and the region’s resistance to racial integration. They invited black preachers to speak at their pulpits. They welcomed black members into their congregations. They preached sermons against racism. As a result they lost their jobs. Their lives were threatened. The lives of their families were threatened.
Meanwhile other white ministers placed peace and security over confronting the evil of racism. They sought justification in scripture.
A friend recently shared memories of that period. Her father, Morris Warren, was a minister in the Presbyterian Church (US). A son of the South, he had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Yet during the 1960s he found that as a man of conscience, he had to take a stand against white racism.
He served as pastor of a large congregation in Macon, GA. A local task force began to interview white citizens as to “whether or not every effort should be made to prevent integrated schools.” Understanding himself as a peacemaker, Rev. Warren wrote a letter to the editor of the Macon newspaper. He simply said integration was bound to come and would not bring calamity. Yet two church elders took offense and threatened to withhold money for the congregation’s financial campaign.
For several years he kept finding himself at odds with his church and community. The Macon congregation he served split over racial issues and Rev. Warren lost his job. Yet he never saw himself as courageous and downplayed threats against him.
To my knowledge he never got beat up or had his house fire-bombed. This might cause some to consider his stance not all that remarkable. But I’m inspired by him and other ministers who 1) recognized the evil and 2) risked jobs and reputations.
Today I fear what may be required of me during a Trump presidency. As a woman of my generation, I was taught to keep peace. Don’t upset your father, don’t irritate the neighbors. In school, strive for an A in deportment. In church I was taught, “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.”
Under a Trump presidency the time may come when the rights of sisters and brothers of color, of the Muslim faith, those who are immigrants or gay will be threatened. I ask myself, will I recognize the evil even though I’m not directly affected by it? I know it has a way of sneaking in and appearing normal. What risks will I be willing to take? My reputation? My safety? My life?
(An excellent book and movie along this theme is Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson’s father was the pastor of an all-white Methodist church in North Carolina.)