It is impossible for certain people groups within the United States to not see injustice, and there is a reason for that. It is also true that injustices can go virtually unseen by certain people groups of the United States, and there is a reason for that as well.
For instance, the featured image below; Carolyn Bryant Donham and Emmett Till. Timothy Tyson’s new book “The Blood of Emmett Till” releases this year. This brought the story of Emmett Till back to national news in January of this year. In 1955 Emmett Till was kidnapped from his relatives home, brutally tortured, and lynched for whistling and sexually assaulting (allegedly) a white woman in Mississippi. This woman was 21 year old Carolyn Bryant Donham.
Emmett’s body was hardly recognizable after it was discovered. His mother insisted his casket be open for the funeral to show the world what was done to her son. And this is exactly the reason I point this out. Being an African American myself, I remember being told this story as young as age 8. It was one of many that my family, church, and community revisited annually to mourn over what we believed was great injustice.
However, there are some Caucasians in the United States who have never heard of the story of Emmett Till, nor feel the great pain of his injustice to the degree African Americans do. 62 years have passed since that day, and a new confession has been given directly from Carolyn Bryant Donham. In his new book, Tyson discloses a recant from Mrs. Donham that Emmett Till never physically touched her, and that it was indeed; a lie. This lie led to the brutal murder of an 14 year old boy, and no one was ever punished for it. What are African Americans supposed to do with this? Do we demand that a now 83 year old woman be brought to justice? It’s not likely, but what do we do? Another important thought is, how can so many white people not know about stories like this? How can they be so uninformed?
The reason for these notable different experiences are many, but I want to focus on something called Dominate/Sub-dominate Cultures. My Gospel centered white brothers & sisters have to recognize (gratefully some do) that they are a part of the dominate culture of America. African Americans must realize (although most in general do) that they are a part of the sub-dominate culture. You can survive in a culture without ever knowing much about the sub-dominate culture. So many white people have gotten along just fine without ever grieving once over stories like Emmett Till; who represents the sub-dominate culture.
African Americans and other people of color don’t have this privilege. Because unlike our white brothers and sisters, we cannot survive being apart of the subculture without knowing and participating in the dominate culture as well. So when the dominate culture said “we are independent”, African slaves too celebrated the 4th of July, although they themselves didn’t benefit from that freedom. When the dominate culture said “No colored allowed”, they in response went to where they were allowed. Even today when the dominate culture said; “Never Forget”, the sub-dominate culture too mourned 9-11 along with them.
This is the great dilemma of Racial Justice in the United States. A great deal of the white majority don’t feel the pain, struggle, or necessity to respond to the injustices of minorities, lack the insight of how the sub-culture is given injustice, and lack the knowledge of how to respond to injustices in the sub-culture. The evangelical white majority would to do well to begin reflecting on the many ways they are blind to the sub-culture by merely being apart of the dominate culture. It means just being honest about what and who they don’t know. They don’t know the struggles and injustices of their neighboring sub-cultures simply because they don’t have to. What privilege this is!
All black folk must continue to use effective ways to communicate to the dominate culture. We must seek to be a voice of truth and awareness. The dominate white majority culture must seek grace, more specifically; the grace of African American friendships. There are many privileges being the dominate culture, but also many blind-spots. Allow your minority brothers and sisters to show you these, and let us work towards ending our dilemma.