When You Say

Leslye Colvin
August 12, 2020

When you say,
“I’m not racist,”
you deny the complexity
of a system built on the racist ideas
born of white supremacy.

When you say,
“I don’t see color,”
you do not understand that
making judgements based
on color is the problem,
not seeing color.

When you say,
“I was taught to treat everyone the same,”
you deny the limitations of your being kind
when the system denies my dignity.

When you say,
“But, I’m a Christian,”
you deny the whitening of Jesus’ body
and the distortion of his Gospel
for economic gain through
the genocide of indigenous people,
the enslavement of Africans,
and other atrocities against
people of color.

When you say,
“My child is Black,”
you conflate your love for one person
with a love for all.

When you say,
“My family never enslaved people”
you deny how the injustices of slavery
were transformed to perpetuate
your illusion of white supremacy.

When you say,
“My ancestors were wronged for being Irish or Italian,”
you deny that people of Irish and Italian ancestry
now identify as white.

When you say,
“My ancestors arrived after slavery,”
you deny that their white skin
privileges you today.

When you say,
“The Constitution says all men are created equal,”
you deny ongoing legal battles to make it realized.

When you say,
“All lives matter,”
you deny our lived experience.

When you say,
“I want to learn,”
you take a step forward.

When you say,
“I want to be an ally,”
the hard work begins.

Leslye Colvin is the Communications Coordinator for Gathering for Mission, a project of Catholic Committee of the South inspired by Pope Francis that provides practicums in dialogue in dioceses across the country. She is also a member of the editorial team for the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Daily Meditations, and a member of the NETWORK Board. This poem was originally published on Leslye’s blog, Leslye’s Labyrinth, www.leslyeslabyrinth.blogspot.com.

This story was published in the Third Quarter 2020 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

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