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The Protest Pandemic

If injustices and favoritism are the impetus for the protest pandemic, sweeping the globe as wildly as Coronavirus is currently, what is the solution? 

Originally this piece was intended to be an economic snapshot highlighting personal experiences of artists, small business owners, and underserved communities (blacks, disabled individuals, LGBTQ+, etc) during the largest global pandemic in my lifetime. I began to write this piece as the events over the last few weeks have transpired, and in that process, a deeper point has been illuminated. 

Here in Asheville, North Carolina local married women, Kim and Alex Walton were already balancing disapproving family members, working full time, raising children, and growing a small business when the pandemic hit our town back in early March of 2020. 

For many working parents, adding “teacher” to the resume during this unprecedented pandemic has been one of the most stressful things to manage. Both Kim and Lexi also had to navigate the unemployment system and make sure that all the money coming in from their small business, Layered by Lex, was accounted for just right, so they wouldn’t be negatively impacted in the future. 

Jazmin Leeah Whitmore is a Black Small Business Owner who runs a dreadlocking hair care service (Those Lovely Locks) and a plus-size consignment shop (More to Love) also right here in Asheville. She was already running tight margins to feed her family and keep her businesses afloat when the reality sunk in for her that her business would be coming to a halt. Never having been in a position to apply or receive business funding, she immediately began researching what financial support options were available. 

Statistics from a U.S. Department of Commerce Agency were analyzed and reported that “Among firms with gross receipts under $500,000, loan denial rates for minority firms were about three times higher.” and “For high sales firms, the rate of loan denial was almost twice as high for minority firms as for non-minority firms.” (MBDA) (Emphasis added)

By late March, the SBA began promoting its “forgivable” Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection loan (PPP) intended to help small businesses. Jazmin took the initiative and applied for the EIDL as soon as it was made available. During this period of scrambling for so many small business owners just like Jazmin, I was invited by a colleague to join a task force to help small businesses apply for these SBA loan programs. This was in part due to the complex nature of government programming and loan applications. 

Throughout working on this contract, I have personally witnessed many challenges and successes including a white-male run business who was awarded over $400,000 dollars in less than two weeks, while I and many of my colleagues who qualify for less are still waiting for answers. 

These same loan programs were a part of the reason The Waltons’ were able to return to work, on June 11, 2020, with new protocols and safety precautions, which brings its own unique pandemic challenges for parents, Kim and Alexis.  

Kim expressed that having the kids home 24/7 during the pandemic meant that they lost the “alone time to pursue (their) professional lives” and that it was “a bit of a curveball” to say the least. She goes on to express how thankful she is that her bosses are flexible and understanding, which she knows isn’t the case for all. Kim, when prompted on how this has impacted their mental health, professional or personal lives, said, “Honestly we’ve had more time to pursue non-professional goals and more time with the kids to do fun stuff. Routines are all but out the window but we are doing more things that make our heart sing.” Kim also went on to say that this time at home, “has been one of the hardest and most eye-opening things I’ve done in years. It’s really highlighted my priorities and where I need to be funneling my energy in the future. And now with all of the Black Lives Matters stuff flurrying around, we’ve got nothing but time to wreck this broken ass system.” 

When Jazmin reached out to me it was a month after she had applied for the EIDL and she had not heard anything around it. She had no reference number, email, or even any idea if the application had actually gone through or not. I had heard directly from my colleagues who were talking to SBA staff along with feedback from other small businesses who had applied that there were many applications that were simply not getting recorded in the system. At that point, I suggested that she contact the SBA directly, who stated they had no record of her application and recommended that she apply again. 

On April 30th, almost 2 months since her original EIDL application was submitted, Jazmin called me to tell me that there was money deposited into her account from the government, but that she wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Upon further clarification, we were able to determine that this was her “approved EIDL loan” from her original application that the SBA had already stated they had no record of. 

Jazmin had already incurred a 74% decrease in sales in March and April between 2019 and 2020 (with an even bigger downturn in May), yet the EIDL money received by the Small Business Administration would either cover rent for one of those months or partially offset her lost income as the owner and full-time employee, not both or anything else. 

We understand that these stories aren’t isolated incidents or feelings experienced by Kim and Alexis, or Jazmin – but that these types of stories apply to hundreds of thousands of small businesses and millions of individuals impacted right now by this global pandemic. 

If you are a true small business that actually was able to receive nominal funding, I understand your next question is likely, “Will it be enough to survive?” 

If you are a person who lost their job due to the pandemic and you aren’t sure it’s going to return, or when your unemployment is going to end, you are experiencing what psychologists refer to as acute stress (or fight or flight as most people know it) and it will have impacts on your mind and body. 

If you are exhausted from having to go to work every day to make less than people on unemployment to risk your health, you have every right to be. 

And if you’re emotional that fiscally rich companies and individuals are continually being prioritized over true small businesses, then you are simply paying attention. 

One of the largest corporate welfare advantages occurring right now is being afforded to our real estate investors. Almost all of them are legally still allowed to require rent payment (some of whom are being paid with the SBA government loan money), and it has been reported that they may also see up to $170 billion dollars in tax breaks, due to the provisions added to the relief bill. (NYTimes)

Americans for Tax Fairness, reported at the end of May 2020, that U.S. billionaires saw their worth skyrocket by $434 billion, or a 15% increase, during the past two months of the pandemic, while the number of people filing for unemployment spiked to 38 million. (MSN)  This one advantage furthers harmful wealth inequality for the consumer by handing out tax-financed subsidies. This is an issue for many reasons, in part because personal agendas are prioritized over creative problem-solving. 

The reality is that this real estate tax-financed subsidy is just one more loophole that allows the government to support the rich getting richer. This is just one example of how they are strategically keeping wealth out of the pockets of middle and low-income earners both now, during this pandemic, and historically. 

Psychologically speaking, when any species’ safety or resources feels threatened, fight or flight takes hold. With the 1% richest people in America owning more of our nation’s wealth than any time in the last 50 years (Washington Post), the societal impacts of the rapidly growing inequality gaps are deep and vast. While each generation has its own unique societal battles, we are also as individuals simply continuing the primal survival fight in securing enough resources to live. 

In this specific moment in time, during this global pandemic, every single human on this planet regardless of race, creed, or position are experiencing traumatic stress of some kind. Some of us are adding that to chronic stress due to long-stemmed and systemic discrimination. 

So, two weeks ago after the death of George Floyd, another avoidable death at the hands of police officers, during such a time of unrest for the entire globe, America and the world erupted in racial equality and anti-police brutality protests. 

And since then, many people have wondered why one murder would cause so much response, especially during a deadly pandemic. 

Others wonder why there is looting, or anger, or agitators against peaceful protestors, and why “Black Lives Matter”, while others still wonder why “Defunding the Police” is even a topic of conversation.

Dr. Cheryl N Grills (a clinical psychologist at Loyola Marymount University) recently spoke with Matthew Rozsa, as it pertains to the racial protests occurring right now. 

“Often, these critics struggle to understand the Black communities’ frustrations.” Dr. Grills states and then adds that some of this knee-jerk response is explained by the fact that many “see these protests as being isolated incidents, and thus are baffled that one injustice garners such a response.” (Salon)

It seems simple enough to say that justice and equality are the solutions to preventing global protests whether they erupt over police brutality, racial injustice, or even the shut down of a government due to a wide-sweeping virus. But perhaps we should really be focused on something much smaller. Perhaps the question really is:

If I take more than I need, does that mean another person is getting less? 

If so, what can and will I do to help balance those scales back?

CITATIONS: 

MBDA

NYTimes

MSN

Washington Post

Salon

Livalot

In the early days of Covid 19, I sat in solitude and questioned my entire existence. I came to the conclusion that everything I’d been working toward for years was no longer my dream. I’d begun to resent digital photography — the very thing that used to excite me. The truth is, the so called instant gratification of digital photography is not so instant, but try explaining that to someone waiting on a photo when a computer goes down. The workload of digital photography is heavy. Hard drives, memory cards, technology, contracts, and editing took time that I’d rather spend making art. For every hour I spent shooting photos, I culled and edited for at least two more. My systems for uploading and dispersing images to clients felt cumbersome. Perhaps the pressure I felt was purely on my own end; my perfectionist tendencies combined with my expectations of client’s expectations were clearly not in alignment. I enjoyed my clients and the process of creating, but nothing beyond that. It was a drag, and I’d known for a while that I was not living my best life. I was merely doing the things that everyone else does to survive in this world as a digital photographer. As I sat performing a complete inventory of my life, I realized it was lacking adventure. I realized I crave the freedom to wander, discover and create. I realized I want to unplug, slow down, work with my hands and have more fun. 

About 10 years ago in San Francisco, while working toward an MFA in photography, I had a vision. I saw myself traveling in an RV across the country, making fine art photos, meeting new friends and living an adventurous life. You know that feeling of letting your intuition guide you into the most perfect of situations? The one that appears to outsiders as though you are blowing in the wind with no direction and no purpose? I knew that this was how I wanted to live my life — traveling a month or two at a time — with a studio to come home to so I could make prints, sleep in my comfortable bed, and ground out. 

Recently, the pieces of the puzzle suddenly materialized, and I’ve been putting them together as quickly as the Universe would allow. It’s as though time is standing still for me while the world feels like it is spinning faster and faster out of control. Everything I’ve known is crumbling, but I’m not afraid. I am eager to witness the results, the rebuilding of outdated, broken systems, replaced with kindness and compassion, both in myself and the world around me.

Bear with me as I reveal some of the puzzle pieces that seemingly appeared randomly, but in the end (or the middle, as it may be now) they came together both perfectly and beautifully. 

Jill Enfield. This beautiful soul who happens to be an incredibly talented photographer and teacher came into my life in 2013 when I was awarded a full scholarship to study Alternative Processes at Penland School of Craft. The course combined digital photography with darkroom processes. I could totally geek out here with details, but in short, it was all about printing. During this time at Penland, I was introduced to the wet plate collodion process when I had the honor of being photographed by Monty McCutchen. I was curious and fascinated by the process of obtaining the image. 

If you aren’t familiar with how a tintype or a glass plate is made, here’s a quick overview: It involves chemistry, light, and pure magic. We will cover the details of how this actually happens at a later date. What’s important here is that the thought of making photographs using a method developed in 1851 never left my dreams. 

Jump forward to November 2019. I had a burning desire to learn the wet plate collodion process as soon as I could. As I typed the initial inquiry to Jill Enfield to find out if she would be willing to be my teacher, my hands trembled. She suggested that I contact someone local, but I insisted that I needed to learn with her — and soon. My eagerness felt like life or death — six years had passed, and suddenly I could not wait another minute to learn to make tintypes. We settled on a price and a date; I booked a flight to New York for January 4, 2020. 

The Hudson River Valley is extremely cold in the winter. Our days were spent learning at the computer, in the darkroom, and outside in finger freezing 18 degree weather. Jill taught me to use her beloved 8×10 Deardorff large format camera. We talked about chemistry, glass, tin, cameras, darkrooms, history, and even how the weather affects the process. I fell in love with all of it. Looking through the back of the 8×10 camera at a world that is both upside down and backwards takes a little getting used to. Pouring liquid collodion on a piece of tin and directing the excess back into the bottle from which it was poured takes skill — and Jill will probably be delighted to know that I no longer have it pour into my gloved hand or have collodion dripping from my elbow during the process. In spite of Jill’s ventilation system, our heads would swim from breathing ether fumes in the darkroom. We ordered all of my supplies together, from camera to chemicals, and even went on a field trip to a tintype studio. I wanted to learn everything, and it is very likely that I pushed a little hard to make sure I got it all. Jill was trouper – she was patient and she taught me everything I needed to know. I am forever grateful.  

My photos were nearly perfect while under Enfield’s instruction and I was itching to get into my studio and start making art. The chemistry took nearly a month to arrive, and in the meantime, I made a ventilated darkroom in the garage. I dreamed of (and researched) ways to take a dark room with me on the road so I could make portraits. I cut glass, ordered tin (which is actually coated aluminum), and I asked a famous live music photographer to come sit for me for what turned out to be my first wet plate portrait on glass ever. This was the first time I’d used my own Deardorff 8×10 camera. I mixed my own chemistry for the first time. Artificial lighting for this process had just arrived; I’d never used that either. The portrait I made of Jay Blakesburg that night was slightly out of focus, but y’all, there is an image. The perfectionist in me was upset, but I kept reminding myself that I have to be willing to really be bad at something in order to be really good at it. Attempt after attempt, I failed. Then Covid 19 happened. The creative fire that was in me died down and ceased to burn.

One week into quarantine, suddenly, and without warning, a 1973 Dodge Sportsman Motorhome practically fell into my lap. I traveled 30 minutes on an eerily empty highway at 10 p.m. the night before Easter to take a look. I knew before I got there she was mine — and man, oh man, she was a steal. She had no title, no brakes, dry rotted tires, and water damage. Perfect! I had found my mobile darkroom. With glee, I handed over the small sum of money the seller wanted. My spark was reignited. 

 But not for long.  

The motorhome had to be towed to my favorite mechanic. Talk of water pumps, seals, tires, and brakes made my head spin and my pocketbook hurt. It seemed that my motorhome might never come home to me, but I didn’t give up hope. Then BAM, my SBA loan application was approved and my old girl was ready to come home. Currently, she’s gutted to bare bones, and the missing sections of floor are scheduled to be replaced next week. She needs a new roof, new seals and trim. Every time I get overwhelmed by this project, I have to remind myself that her engine purrs like a kitten, roars like a lion, and wants to fly up mountains at 90 miles per hour. 

Her name is Livalot. She is a reminder that if you can dream it, you can live it. What you want is already yours, you just have to claim it. It is never too late and you are never too old. I’m grateful for that moment back in graduate school when I dared dream that I would be in a position to launch projects, create and adventure. The road since has been full of obstacles that mostly I have placed in my own path. I’ve done the work to change the pattens that put landmines in my path, and I realize that that work never ends. But it has brought me to a place where my visions can be turned into realities. 

The things I’ve done in my life, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, all have created my current situation. I have so much more learning, creating and living to do. I’m honored to have you join me on my journey.

The Cost

The Cost

“Ally is the new woke.” London (Black Activist)

Trying to get a handle on the last few days is like trying to eat an elephant – except that the elephant is on acid and there are cops in riot gear tossing tear gas containers at you like it’s the only thing in life that gets their rocks off and there are black leaders being sometimes drowned out by white protestors and there are secret agents and white nationalists and angry teenagers and an entire movement trying to call out the systemic racism of the police force and guys on the riot line that look like their father taught them how to shave yesterday. So, tensions mounting I go and try to find someone in an Asheville Police Department uniform who will speak to me. After striking out a half a dozen times the only person with a voice turns out to be an impossibly young officer named Trevor. He looks like he is geeking out, his pupils are the size of dinner plates and he is holding his riot shield like he clearly has never held one before. His dad was a plumber, a blue collar worker, and he just wanted to help people. And no, he didn’t ever expect to be part of tear gassing the citizens he swore to protect.

But here he is. And here we are. It’s 11:37pm, Sunday, May 31st and, with a little luck and a whole lot of work, this town may never be the same again.

1.

“Give us the resources and get out of our way and see how resourceful we can be.” Anonymous Black Woman Speaking at Pack Square

Racism in Asheville didn’t begin with Johnny Rush, and it sure as hell didn’t end twenty-five minutes after the above exchange when the riot line took a knee. Asheville’s history is jarring at best – the displacement of scores of black people to create the River Arts District, the beating of black high school students conducting a peaceful walkout at the hands of white adult police officers, the overt gentrification of this town as a whole. The percentage of the black population in this town has been cut in half in less than two decades. 

And you know whose fault this is? All of ours. As a journalist covering the music scene in Asheville the percentage of my interviews over the last three years with people of color was less than 8%.

Reparations and divestment are a pair of joined topics that even the most liberal of white people are uncomfortable with, yet, if we are going to have real conversations moving forward about destroying systemic racism, those concepts have to become normalized. 

The average black family in The United States has approximately 1/10th of the wealth of the average white family – a number that has remained relatively unchanged since the civil rights movements of the 60’s. Of course, what would you expect in a country where many voting districts and business laws are the result of “black codes” and “redlining?” 

But justice is never free. It always costs something.

“Imagine me in white cis form,” Brian, a queer black person says from the stage on Thursday afternoon. “Imagine me in white cis form applying for a job versus me as I stand. Imagine who gets that job… so (speaking to white allies) what are you willing to lose? What job opportunities are you willing to sacrifice? You are going to have to let go of some flesh.”

2. 

It’s Thursday night, the third day of curfew, and the police on the front lines are no longer in riot gear. The national guard is trying to lay low in the fire department and the vigil at Pack Square is wrapping up. I see Captain Stepp of the APD and ask if I may approach with a few questions.

“I have reports of medics being fired on last night as well as having personally had pepper balls fired at me by police after clearly identifying myself as media on Tuesday. Does APD have any statement about their rules of engagement?” I ask.

Captain Stepp: “I have no reports of that.”

“Does the APD plan to continue to destroy medical supplies as a military tactic?” I follow up with.

“No,” is all she can manage at first, visibly shaken by the question.

“No what?” I push forward. “No you don’t intend to destroy medical supplies or no you don’t intend to answer the question?”

“No, to my knowledge we do not intend to destroy any more medical supplies tonight,” Stepp responds (emphasis added).

90 minutes later I watch as several Asheville Bike Police find a clearly labeled medical bag that had been left in the bushes across from the police station, dumping the milk of magnesia on the curb and tossing the bandages and ice packs into the trash. Across the street in clear view Captain Stepp mingles with other brass badges from APD.

3. 

At 7:45 pm the police begin to announce that there is a curfew in place and that anyone who chooses to stay will be subject to arrest. This warning does not have the effect they were intending. Before the sentence can even finish the megaphone is drowned out by protestors chanting and yelling. A few minutes later, as the riot squad heads down the street from Vance Monument the crowd begins to move – not to disperse – but to march peacefully through the streets of Asheville begging for change.

But what change exactly are most of these protestors begging for? Over the last thirty minutes I have watched at least seventeen white people, dressed in their sexiest black antifa gear, head to the front of the crowd to pose for photos. By the time the tear gassing starts around 9:30 I am not surprised to realize that most of them are gone. I assume they are watching the rest of the protest from home.

There is a veritable laundry list of reasons that people could be out here right now, many of them legitimate, but I wonder how many protestors should be holding different signs, truer signs that say why they are actually here.

Signs like “Make Marijuana Legal,” or “I’ve always wanted to go to a protest,” or “Parents are mean.” It’s not that there aren’t some real allies out here, but I have to say, if I were a person of color I wouldn’t know who to trust.

As we march towards Montford Avenue, twenty or so minutes after curfew, I hear a voice from behind me.

“Caleb Calhoun, FUCK YOU.”

I turn to see my ex-girlfriend’s best friend and some man I have never met. 

“Feels like there may be a better time to have this conversation,” I mention, after finally ascertaining who they are, but this is clearly the reason they are here. 

“Fuck this guy,” the man starts shouting, trying to explain to the crowd that they feel like I was mean to their friend and everyone should take a few minutes out of their Black Lives Matter protest and maybe beat me up. 

But for some of the more white privileged members of our community, this is what the protest is. A chance to scream their frustrations while holding a #Black Lives Matter sign. I mean, as a privileged white person what could be better? Get out in the streets, get your riot cred, break some windows, kick an ex’s ass, and guess who gets blamed for it?

Two nights later as Antonio took the stage to speak to the audience at large I couldn’t help but notice his shirt. “Antifa – Stop Hiding Behind Black People’s Pain” it read in bold letters. 

4. 

Mike Martinez, black activist and lead singer of Natural Born Leaders, is speaking to the events of the last two weeks.

“It’s not a surprise to me, you know? I think that the beauty of this is that it isn’t a surprise to anybody who is brown, but it gives other people that were in that crowd the chance to be like ‘holy shit, this is how much the police don’t want us. All the police did was to make us look good this week.”

5. 

It’s been seven days, and for the last three nights things have been peaceful. Mayor Esther Manheimmer (known less affectionately these days as Mayor Manhandler) has called off the curfew, white people are actually sitting at the feet of black leaders in town – listening, learning, growing. There is a clear shift in the messaging coming from the APD and The City Council, and I’m hoping we can start moving forward with conversations.

I catch Lieutenant Brown outside of the police department and ask if I can have his email to set up an interview with him this week. At first, he isn’t interested. “I’m just here doing my job,” he tells me, “my opinion doesn’t really matter.”

It’s an interesting tactic to take, but I’m not so easily bowled over and I really want to tell everyone’s story, not just the protestors. So, at his request we go off the record. He tells me a moving story about how the protests feel personal to him. When he finishes I say “but you understand, this is why I need you on the record. At some point we all have to sit down at a table and have some kind of conversation. How are we supposed to do that if we can’t start seeing each other as humans?”

In that moment he appears to understand this is a potential path forward and agrees to give me his email. But then he cancels our initial interview, and I receive an email from Christina Hallingse identifying herself as a public information officer for the APD. She says Lieutenant Brown is out of town immediately and indefinitely. She says they would be willing to give me an opportunity to interview Lieutenant Moore. She asks for times that work and a list of questions.

The questions I send later the same day are thoughtful and real. They are intended not to tear down the APD but to give the APD an opportunity to speak to their humanity and hopefully, the conflicting nature of the last week and a half. Questions like “The phrase ‘Defund the Police’ is a major hot button right now. While the actual concept behind it is much less radical than the catchphrase it has been given, how do you feel about diverting a percentage of funds that traditionally have been allocated to the police force for social services and community projects?” and “What are you personally, not as an officer but as a citizen, doing to help achieve equality and destroy systemic racism.”  

I receive a reply from Hallingse. She says the APD is unwilling to discuss any of the events of the last week.

Here is a link to the email correspondence with Lieutenant Brown and Christina Hallingse, including the questions they found to be too unnerving to answer. This is the reason people are calling for defunding the police. I had hoped to tell some of APD’s stories here, but if the only statement they are willing to make is with their weapons, then I don’t even have the option to use my words to defend their actions.

Your move City of Asheville.

6. 

“I think a lot of white mothers are being activated right now because their white children are the allies that are being tear gassed.” -Local black activist.

Where were you when your nineteen year old daughter was tear gassed by the men from your racquetball club? Where were you when your twenty year old son was arrested for walking down Patton Avenue at 8:20pm. What were you doing when your teenage child was harassed by a group of men in all black, carrying guns and poison?

The thing about this entire situation is that, with the exception of systemic racism, this is not a black and white issue. While it would be nice to see everyone out on the streets of one mind and one heart, the truth is that bodies on the blacktop are still valuable, regardless of what they are actually there for. 

Many members of the black community knew that being out past curfew would lead to major harassment, arrest, and as we have seen in other communities, higher bail and fines than their white allies. Others were unable to take time off work, knowing how much more difficult it would be for them to replace a job than it would be for a white person.  

London specifically mentioned some of these issues to me, and opened up a little about how it has felt in the past, and how she would like it to feel going forward.

“I think this week was hopeful, but also sad because we have all been screwed over before by someone who said they were an ally, and I think we are also scared this momentum is gonna stop.

“I hope this is creating a generation of real allies because honestly, seeing so many white fifteen year old girls being activated has been amazing. On Thursday there were some white people dancing, some white women because some DJ was there and I was gonna tell them to stop dancing, but instead I walked up to these two white girls that had a sign and said ‘You need to go call those women out.’ They said they were scared and I told them, ‘this is your job in the movement.’”

7.

 Antonio, a tall black man who understands that his very presence represents a threat to white people, is speaking truth.

“The point I was trying to make at the rally is that black empowerment for the most part since civil rights is like a new thing, of course we need white allies, but you may just have to accept that every black person is not gonna be inclusive. Just from a general history standpoint it’s not a good track record.

“Another thing I want to clarify is that I think it’s everyone’s job to speak to power, so that’s what I mean when I am speaking to the power in policy and legislation. It’s gonna be on us to work together – like defunding the police – although I think they should rephrase that like deallocating. That’s not by accident, the phrase, that really does cut down on crime. If you give all these kids in low housing recreation centers like the ones in Shiloh, you give them outlets and the streets have access to them you will cut down on crime. It’s worked before. There is no reason for NYPD to get 6.8 billion, LAPD to get 1.8 billion, you know what we can do with that? Mental health, drug rehab there is a lot we can do about it. I mean the police don’t even make great salaries – I mean they aren’t getting the money – so I think legislation and policy is how we strive to get equality.

8. 

So where do we go from here? Hopefully somewhere new. Hopefully somewhere different. But how the hell do we move forward from all of this pain, anger and frustration. How do we get to the table? Who leads those conversations?  

Unfortunately this piece doesn’t have those answers, and to be fair I’m not sure anyone in the United States of America does at this moment. It is incumbent upon those of us in the white community to swallow our pride, and our words a little. It was beautiful to see nearly 5000 white people listening to black members of our community at the vigil on Saturday. It also can’t be the only time we put on our big listening ears and let go of our pride.

I have to be honest, when I began interviewing people for this piece, the last person I imagined would have the final quote would be a white, cis-male, baptist pastor. I called Lance Michaels of The Grove Church, because I wanted to know what the white evangelical community thought, felt and intended to do with and because of all of that is going on right now. 

And the truth is, my job is to amplify voices of color, but as London put it so clearly, as a white activist an even larger role that I need to fill is to use my voice, and my privilege to call out racism and bigotry in the white community.

Lance did it for me, and said it better than I ever could, so I will leave these words as the final statement – not directed to the black community, but directed to my friends and co-allies in the white community.

“I had this thought this morning, ‘How much is this interview gonna cost me?’ And I thought about Jesus’ exchange with the rich young ruler. This guy comes to Jesus and says ‘I want to follow you’ – and he is young and attractive and powerful, I mean, his title is ‘rich young ruler’ – and Jesus looks at him and says ‘sell all that you have and give it to the poor and then you can follow me.’ 

“That was Jesus’ ethos and the mandate for him, and I wondered what it was gonna cost me, and the story ends with the rich young ruler walking away sad. Well, a lot of white people are aggrieved right now but they don’t get it. You can be sad, you can be sorrowful, but if you aren’t willing to let it cost you anything then you really just don’t get it.”

-Caleb Calhoun