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Say No to Hate: Elizabeth Corrie

The most important problem facing Americans today is the pervasive ideology of white settler colonialism. By this I mean that we live with a way of thinking brought over to America that goes back as far as the English Reformation in the 16th century — the belief that God has ordained a select group of white people to claim land — regardless of who might already have been on it — as a God-given right.

Elizabeth Corrie
Photo credit: Courtesy Chandler School of Theology at Emory

Elizabeth Corrie is associate professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peace Building; director of the Religious Education Program; and director of the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

Say No To Hate 1

Elizabeth Corrie: The most important problem facing Americans today is the pervasive ideology of white settler colonialism. By this I mean that we live with a way of thinking brought over to America that goes back as far as the English Reformation in the 16th century — the belief that God has ordained a select group of white people to claim land — regardless of who might already have been on it — as a God-given right. It started with a particular strain of Christianity that reinterpreted the Bible to mean that white people are the “chosen ones” and the New World is the “promised land.” It is an ideology that justifies taking land and resources from non-whites, and using Africans for slave labor. This sounds abstract and long past, but if you consider the current crisis in housing in Atlanta, including the patterns of gentrification, the historical waves of white neighborhoods springing up to displace black ones, you can see its influence even today. Our problem nationally, and locally, is race, but not just race — the displacement of peoples as a result of taking land from communities of color.

Say No To Hate 2

Elizabeth Corrie: From a policy perspective, Atlanta needs a coordinated, strategic plan for affordable housing in the region that takes seriously the dynamics of race and the impact of our ever-increasing wealth gap. Atlanta will soon become unlivable for anyone other than the wealthiest among us. Nationally, we need to establish policies that address wealth inequality. From a community perspective, we need to find ways to break out of our echo chambers and engage people across race, class, and geographic lines. This is more than learning to “tolerate” the other — although even that, today, is a low bar we seem unable to reach — but rather this should be engagement that allows you to be changed. I know I live in a particular bubble and can live quite comfortably surrounding myself with people who think just like I do. That insularity distorts my understanding not only of others, but of myself. We have got to deliberately place ourselves in conversations with people who think differently from us.

Say No To Hate 3

Elizabeth Corrie: I am a firm believer in nonviolent strategies for change and believe they can be effective. However, such strategies have to be truly challenging to the power structures we want to change. I think there is a place for big rallies and marches — it helps to find allies and be reminded that you are not isolated — but our current system has made room for symbolic protests and co-opted their power to make real change. It is not for everyone, but some people will need to take greater risks, including arrests and injury to themselves, in order to force those in power to change and to dramatize to the rest of the world how serious the problems of race, violence, and theft of resources are. I also believe that multiple strategies need to be operating at the same time. While some folks are taking resistance to the next level, others need to be consistently applying pressure through the electoral process, staying in contact with their representatives and working to vote out people who are not responsive, or even running for office themselves. Still others can be working on the person-to-person or community-to-community level. When it comes to dismantling racism and fighting gentrification, it is going to take people making change on the structural level while others are working to change individual hearts and minds, so that there are more and more people ready to support those structural changes. To me, that is what grassroots activism is — action for change bubbling up in all sorts of places through all sorts of people in different ways at the same time.

Say No To Hate 4

Elizabeth Corrie: Because at this point most of us have such heavily pruned social networks of people who already agree with us, I think social media is best used for education and information to help people know what to do and where to go. I think it can be a great tool for preparing for action, but at the end of the day, we have to get offline and place our bodies into public spaces to make change.

Say No To Hate 5

Elizabeth Corrie: The national Black Lives Matter group, BLM Atlanta, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ-Atlanta), and various Facebook events.

Say No To Hate 6

Elizabeth Corrie: If you are white, explore Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ-Atlanta) or another organization that seeks to address whiteness and trains white folks for engaging in activism. It is very important to spend time working on understanding how you as a white person can most effectively engage race without creating further harm. A lot of well-meaning white folks show up to actions or to organizations working for change and try to “help” by essentially taking over, or by making the group a place to work through their guilt or anger. We as white folks can’t effectively say no to hate until we are able to see all the little ways we contribute to that hate, sometimes without realizing it.

For all of us, do whatever you can to ensure that young people and people of color are fully enfranchised as voters. We must do everything we can to make sure that their rights as citizens are not denied. While our problems as a country are much deeper and more pervasive than who is running our federal government, there is no denying that leadership at the top is encouraging hate. We must elect leaders who are working to appeal to our better angels, and giving us a vision of a country that looks towards a future of greater inclusion and equity, rather than one that clings to a mythical past rooted in fear and hate.




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