Series 29: For the Love of Black Lives | Episode 10
Black in White Spaces: Marcie Alvis-Walker on Racial Intersections
To be Black in America means living at several different intersections. Writer and thinker Marcie Alvis-Walker joins For the Love Podcast to share the inspiration behind her beautiful, thought-provoking space called Black Coffee with White Friends. Marcie shares about her experience having to code switch as she grew up—she’d have to adapt her language, her likes and dislikes based on the group she was with—and what it’s like for her family to navigate the world being members of different races. Marcie leads us to think about what it means to “celebrate” holidays like 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day when your skin isn’t white, and how siblings of different races can use their influence to help their Black siblings.
Marcie: To be anti-racist, it does not matter what race you are, we are in the soup. And the only way to know that we are the rabbits in the pot with the heat turning up is to constantly be aware of the temperature.
Jen: Welcome to the For the Love Podcast with me, Jen Hatmaker. Today, we’re talking about the conflicted history of Black identity in America with my good friend Marcie Alvis-Walker.
Jen: Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show, you guys.
Right now, we are in a series called For the Love of Black Lives, and it has meant so much to me, and I am grateful to you, the listening community, because you’ve told us how much it’s meant to you, too. You have wildly shared this series with your friends, with your communities, with your churches, with your families, and that just means so much to me. This is just an important conversation in our national reckoning right now and we wanted to be a part of it, definitely. If you know me at all, you know how much this matters to me.
So, obviously to be Black in America means that your life falls on many intersections. This is especially true if you’re a Black woman in America. So to live in a land where your ancestors were brutally forced beyond their will to be brought here, abused, raped, treated as possessions, and then for generations denied the freedom and dignity to live as full citizens as this country. We’ve talked to many women in this series who have family members who knew sharecroppers and slaves during their lifetimes. They worked tirelessly to build a life, a beautiful life, to give their children a hope for a brighter future. We’ve watched our Black brothers and sisters march off to war with the American flag sewn onto their arms, who fought, and bled, and died, but in the last century were still being treated as lesser than their white counterparts.
It’s important that we lean in and listen and learn right now, and that’s step one. Listen, learn. Listen, learn. And in some cases, re-learn. Unlearn. I’m so grateful that today we have a wonderful thinker and teacher and writer to guide us through this discussion.
So Marcie Alvis-Walker until very recently lived right here in Austin. She is the creator of the Black Coffee with White Friends blog, where her very candid but also artistic writing, she’s so artistic, demonstrate how it feels, what it is like to be a Black woman in predominantly white spaces, okay? And so, she uses memoir, letters, devotionals. She narrates the legacy of her life and times today. Most recently, Marcie created Mockingbird History Lessons, which I’m really excited to link to for you, where she shares the missing narratives of history, the ones that make all the difference in the world in the way that we see ourselves, our ancestors, our country, our brothers and sisters, what’s real and true.
Marcie and I met, I asked her to confirm this, I think it was four years ago. She and I were a part of our local, one of our local Be the Bridge groups. You’ve heard me talk many times, and she’s been on the podcast a couple times, with Latasha Morrison, and her organization called Be the Bridge, which is just this incredible organization that works on racial literacy and reconciliation. And so there’s little small local groups all over the United States, and Marcie and I were in the Be the Bridge group. And so, we have been in each other’s homes, and on each other’s porches, and we have broken bread, and we have laughed and cried together, and she is a real special leader. You’re going to love to hear from her and to listen and learn from her experience and what she has to teach us, those of us who are white, in a predominantly white environment. We have so much to learn, you guys, and today’s conversation is going to move the needle forward for all of us.
So, I’m so pleased to share my conversation with the wonderful, my friend, Marcie Alvis-Walker.
Jen: Well, I am delighted to welcome my real tried and true friend, Marcie. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. I’m so, so happy to have you on today.
Marcie: I am just thrilled to be here. It sounds weird to be thrilled to be anywhere at all these days.
Jen: Right. You’re right.
Marcie: But I am. I’m thrilled that these conversations are happening, and anytime that someone is generous enough to offer a place to land a conversation, I am so there for it, so thank you.
Jen: Well, the pleasure’s mine.
Just for everyone who’s new to you today, could you just start, could you roll it back a little bit for us? Can you talk a little bit more for my listeners about who you are, about where you’re from, how you got to sort of where you are and what you’re working toward in the world right now? Those are big, huge, high-level questions.
Marcie: Yeah. Yeah. I first want to say that I am on this podcast and I do have an Instagram feed and a blog, and things happening in my world.
So, I enrolled my daughter into this very white school, very prestigious, very conservative, very exclusive, very… And when I say exclusive, very purposefully excluding people from the school, all in the name of Jesus. And I thought I would come in and change them.
And I heard one night at a parent meeting that there were going to be these slave debates that my daughter would have to participate in in her junior year. She was a freshman. I freaked out. Did a lot of praying, a lot of searching, and just met with the school, the teacher. They came to realize that they shouldn’t be doing slave debates.
Jen: Meaning, just for everybody, just for clarity, meaning that one person was going to be tasked with arguing for slavery.
Marcie: Yeah. No. It was worse than that, Jen. They had to do both sides. So, my daughter would have had to research and defend slavery. My Black child in a room full of white patriarchy and Christianhood was going to have to defend slavery. For a grade.
Jen: It’s just unbelievable.
Marcie: And then she was going to have to roll it back and do the cons.
Jen: That’s hard to believe. I remember when this happened, and even as you’re telling it again, I’m sitting here shocked again like it’s fresh news.
Marcie: Yeah. Yeah. And this is not 1952.
Jen: That’s right. Yeah.
Marcie: This was 2013, ’14, ’15. Somewhere around there.
So, eventually we left the school because they… Trump got elected and things got worse. And so, I realized that the school just never saw my daughter coming. They never thought about her or me when they planned the school.
So, that’s how I started the blog, because I’d been writing letters to my daughter. I had been writing letters to her before she was born. I’ve always written. Went to school for English literature. Kind of had some family things done and things kind of taken away from me, and just never really had the… I would go back and forth. Should I do a blog? No, I’m not going to do a blog. Should I do a blog? I’d drive my husband crazy.
And then finally I just said, “I have to write this all down because I want my daughter to know that I cared.”
Jen: Yes. Good.
Marcie: And that I tried. I don’t want her to look back—because I didn’t have that from my family. I don’t have any record of my family being at civil rights marches, or what happened the day that Dr. King died, I don’t have those stories in my family, because they buried them. And I did not want me daughter to have to look for me through the dust and the ashes and come up with nothing.
Jen: That’s great.
Marcie: So, I wrote. I started writing and thought, “Well, I might as well write some letters to these white friends of mine.”
Jen: “I mean, while I’m here. While on my laptop.”
Marcie: While I’m here. So, I started writing these letters to white friends and then I started the Instagram to let people know when I posted something. But then I started to realize that, “Oh, this Instagram thing is a place where I can create something beautiful.” And I went to my husband, I said, “I really want to do something beautiful. I want to do Instagram where it looks really pretty.” And he’s a graphic designer and letterer, and I know that’s not fair, but that’s what it is.
Jen: It’s the cards you were dealt.
Marcie: I have this handy—yeah. And I just said, “I want to show my whole self. Not just my pain, not just my angst, not just the problems of Blackness,” because our problems are very small in comparison to the whole culture of who we are.
Jen: Yeah. I love how you always say that.
Marcie: Yeah, so I wanted to show that we too love Shakespeare, and we too love Margaret Atwood, and we too are nerds. And that’s something that I think white people don’t know, is that we are nuanced, and we have our Black nerds, and we have our Black… My ex-husband, I am not kidding you, wore Western wear. I’m talking boots, hats, shirts, in Chicago, on the South Side, for a good few years.
Jen: Sure, like, unironically. Yeah.
Marcie: That was his thing. That was his thing. And he was into country music, and he went hunting, and I mean, this fool was raised on the South Side of Chicago. So, I just need for white America to know that we are not just protests and hurt.
One of the things that just… I think it’s Michael Brown’s mom. I think it’s Michael Brown’s mom said that we… I posted it. She said, “You do not know how hard it was for me to get him to graduate.” And that was a real mom moment, because if you’ve ever been through a junior and senior year and your child is saying things like mine was, like, “I think I’m going to go to France and become a ballerina.”
Jen: Totally. Marcie!
Marcie: You’re doing all the praying and you’re doing all the trying, and they’re saying, they’re telling you things like their SAT isn’t that important. And it’s not, but it is-
Jen: The labor to get these kids over the finish line is the stuff of motherhood. It’s real.
Marcie: It is stuff of motherhood, and when she said that, I was like, “That is why it matters that we support these mothers.” It’s not just that Black Lives Matter, it is also that these moms work just as hard as any other mother, and a lot of times with less resources, to get our children whole, and healthy, and across that finish line.
Jen: That’s right.
Marcie: So, to share those things was really important in the feed.
Jen: We’re about to unpack some of your work with Black Coffee With White Friends, but I want to go roll it back one notch more if you don’t mind.
You’ve talked a lot about what it is like when your skin carries a weight with it, when it affects the way that you hold space in the world, that you move through the world, and what to do when the world tells a story about who you are and what your role is or is not.
Can you go back, you alluded to this a second ago. Will you tell me a little bit about your family’s history and what you know to be true from that firsthand knowledge, your childhood, your growing up years, what you heard and what you saw and what you experienced?
Marcie: Yeah, so growing up I grew up in two places, so I spent the school year with my grandparents in an all-white community in Northfield, Ohio, and we were one of maybe three or four families, so we were Black families in a very white community. And kind of working class, middle class, which doesn’t exist as much these days, but that’s what it was. And then in the summers and on weekends, I was in this all-Black community with my mother, which was also working class, middle class. So I was going back and forth between thee worlds and there was a lot of code switching, but without any tools to navigate either space.
So, I had these two worlds, so my worlds have always been either I was in a all-white space where my color was a problem, and it was clear that was a problem. We were one of the first families to integrate. Cleveland schools in the suburbs in Cleveland didn’t even integrate their schools until the ’70s, so I was going into that school being one of the first families to go into those schools.
And so, I’m living that life, and then on the weekends I’m living a life where Blackness is everything, and it’s something to be protected from whiteness. And I can’t bring any part of the white culture that is obviously part of me, because I’m in it, to that culture because that’s being a traitor. That’s not safe for them.
So, having to code switch what I like, what cartoons I watch, what music I was interested in—nobody when I was a teenager in my mother’s neighborhood, I could not have gone in talking about REM. It wasn’t going to happen. So, there was a lot of code switching. A lot of figuring out identity. I decided, I don’t know how I came up with this, but I decided that I was just going to be it all at some point. I just decided I’m just going to be this girl who talks like a white girl wherever I go, because I can’t keep going back and forth. And my sisters just adored that, like kind of like a pet, an interesting pet that lived with us. My brother, they’re like, “Oh, just listen to her talk to her friends on the phone. Ain’t it something?”
They were just like, “This is just who she is. She’s a little strange. She listens to REM and someone named Seal. She just says these things that we don’t quite understand.”
Marcie: They were just like, “Look at her go.”
But that was my background. So, I’ve been in that world, because that’s the thing, even when I was in Black spaces with other kids who were like me, we were the one or two kids in the AP class. You know? Just the one or two. In college, the one or two Black students in the honors program. And so, there’s just all this segregation. I know we don’t believe that we’re still a segregated society, but when it comes to education, we’re deeply segregated. Even when we’re in communities where there’s integration, within the school often the bright kids are pulled out and separated from the other kids that usually tend to be the kids of color. So, that’s my world.
Jen: Let’s talk about your world right now a little bit, too. This is why you’re so funny. You call your husband, “My viking Hobbit that makes no sense.” You know, I always want a tattoo that says that. It’s the best description of a spouse ever.
Can you talk a little bit about how you met your husband and how your family has navigated the world with members of different races inside your family unit? And I’m curious if being married to a white man has changed or altered the way maybe that you look at yourself as a Black woman, or maybe even the way that your family views you or interacts with you? I’d like to just hear your experience there.
Marcie: Yeah, it’s really funny. So, my viking husband, Simon—and his name’s Simon. Come on, now.
Jen: His name’s Simon, for Pete’s sake.
Marcie: I mean, come on now. He’s my second husband, my second and last husband.
Jen: Yes. I like it.
Marcie: So, I married as I was expected to marry, because we were brought up not to date white boys, because they weren’t safe. That was just the way it was. My grandparents made that very clear. My mother made that very clear. So, I grew up, I married my college sweetheart, we had a beautiful child. That marriage imploded not because anyone was particularly evil, just because we were just very, very human, and we did not know how to be better than that to one another, to elevate ourselves to being more for one another.
When I met Simon, I was pretty much sure, I even told my life group that I was pretty sure that I was celibate and that—
Jen: Bless. Oh, bless.
Marcie: And his sister, who was in my group, laughed. She laughed the loudest and the hardest. She’s just like, “Oh my gosh, what are you saying?”
And I just kind of said to God, “You know, I’m just done. I’m done. I can’t do this and raise a child.” To be broken hearted and raise children is so hard. I can’t express it. I could not deal with that, so I just decided, “I’m just going to wait until she’s good and gone.”
Jen: Because she was little, right? She was young.
Marcie: Yes. She was two when we divorced. I met Simon when she was six. And so, I was just like, “I just am going to focus on this little being, which is the joy of my life, and it’s just going to be us two.”
So, I met Simon, he was visiting his sister, and we were in the back yard of a friend’s and I just saw him and we just fell in love. We talked about classic movies. And I was just really being flirtatious just for fun, never in a million years thinking that this man, who I thought, “Oh, he can surely date any quirky Zooey Deschanel type girl.”
Jen: Sure. Sure.
Marcie: Because he’s four years younger. I was like, “That’s probably what he’ll do, but I’m going to be the creepy older friend, his sister’s friend that just flirts with him and makes him blush and that’ll be fun.”
And then he asked me out, and we dated over the phone, and he traveled to visit, and we just… We laid it out. We had a seven-hour conversation. We laid it out, all the problems of being divorced and coming together again, and how we would have to rebuild trust.
We talked about race from the beginning. We did not pretend that that was not a thing. And I think you asked an interesting question, like how has it, what has it done for me and being Black. I think it’s done more to highlight his whiteness, if anything, and his maleness.
Jen: Interesting. Yeah. Oh, right. That’s quite an intersection right there.
Marcie: I never play down my Blackness, so he knows all about the shea butter, the cocoa butter, the head wraps, the ash. He knows all about the things. He knows about don’t throw water into a situation without me being prepared with the hair.
Jen: Not if you want to live.
Marcie: He knows all the things. Right. Exactly. But he also knows the real things.
Jen: Yeah, of course.
Marcie: Because he’s not just having to navigate me as a Black woman, he’s raising a Black woman.
Jen: That’s right.
Marcie: So, he is having to understand where he has to advocate for her, and that’s been a real thing. And my family has… Me marrying a white guy was no surprise. I was listening to REM, so they were shocked when I married a Black guy, I think. I think my sister said something to the effect of—one of my sisters said, “Well, you know, it’s not for me, but if he treats you well and he loves you . . .” And now my sisters just adore him.
Jen: Oh, I like that.
Marcie: They adore him. And I think it’s because he has not required me to be different or them to be different. And he has allowed their stories without judgment, without him having to be the sole purpose of the room, which so often happens with white men. The sole purpose of the room.
Jen: Oh, I love that.
Jen: Kind of want to go back, because you’re such an experiential expert of what it is like to navigate primarily white spaces. This is a conversation that has been really centered this year and so worthy of attention and furthering this discussion.
I wonder if you could talk for a minute about in this country, when we celebrate holidays like the 4th of July, like Memorial Day, or Veterans Day, Columbus Day, I wonder if you could talk about what you feel on those days and how those days mean something differently if you are a white American, if you are a Black American, how those have been established in our dominant culture vernacular. History aside, that could all… That’s secondary, if not third. But you know, it’s a story we’ve told ourselves.
And so I would love to hear you pick up that baton and talk to us a little bit about those sorts of days in this sort of country.
Marcie: Yeah. This is big. Here’s the thing: When Black people first heard, “Make America great again,” when we first heard that, we didn’t know how that could possibly include our collected history. How can it? Dial it back to 1980s and the stop and frisk, and all the policing that was just beginning to happen.
Jen: The war on drugs. Yeah.
Marcie: Right? Dial it back to, okay, 1970s. Most schools were still being integrated. There were still riots happening. Dial it back to the ’60s. Dial it back to the ’50s. So, when for us would we… What timeline would we pick where we would say, “Okay, this is when America was great”? Right? And that’s not just for Black people. You have to think about the gay and queer community.
Jen: That’s right.
Marcie: What that would feel like for them. You have to think about what that would feel like to the Asian American community in internment camps and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
So, when all these things were happening and America is celebrating its freedom, the oxymoron of that is that so many people were still captive. But they figured since they’re not going to consider them to be people, they’re just oxen, and they’re just tools, that that’s okay. They’re not real people. They’re something else.
So, I have no problem with Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but I want to remember the soldiers and the veterans who never got their proper due. A lot of people don’t know that Black veterans and women didn’t receive this G.I. Bill. They didn’t get parades. And the history shows that when these African-American soldiers came back and were in uniform, they were attacked by white men who were disgusted that they were proud of their service. And so, we have riots that happened because of Black men who wanted to be recognized as humans after fighting a war—World War II, in particular—where Americans were saying, “Humans should not be treated this way.” And yet at the same time, Americans are putting Asian people and Italian people in internment camps.
And so, it’s very hard to celebrate 4th of July, very difficult to celebrate Columbus Day because we’re celebrating colonization when we celebrate those things. And so, I am not saying that you cannot have your barbecue, and your cannot have your grills. I grew up with men on the block, Black fathers on the block, they all would bring out their grills and they would celebrate these holidays. But we can’t celebrate them blindly and without any sort of reverence or any sort of understanding of what it means to say that America gained its independence without giving independence to all human beings on this soil. We have to understand that when they wrote, “We the people,” it didn’t include poor people, poor whites, it didn’t include people who didn’t own land, it didn’t include women, it didn’t include children, and it didn’t include Black people. It didn’t include Native American people. It didn’t include anyone but white “have” men. Men that had land. That they’d taken.
The beauty of the Constitution I think is that we have all these amendments and we have all these acts, which have really saved our country from being locked into this patriarchy that we don’t have to participate in. We don’t. We choose to participate in it. The laws and the amendments have made it so that we can freely not participate in that, but we choose to participate in it.
The 13th Amendment needs to be totally redone with how we treat inmates, but it’s not affecting white America right now, but the more that that affects white America, I think there will be changes to that, too. When their children are being incarcerated for the same crimes, because eventually that’s what power does. So, right now-
Jen: Sure. It’s a good point.
Marcie: Power is all about stamping out brown and Black people. That’s what it is. But eventually, when it’s beneficial to the powers that be to stamp out white middle class and lower class and poor, they’ll do that, too. And when that starts to happen, then white Americans who vote will see that you voted against yourself. You’re voting against yourself. You are voting against yourself, and you are allowing power to stay within only a selected few. I mean, just look at our government.
Marcie: Look at our mayors, look at our governors, and you will see that they do not represent-
Jen: They don’t.
Marcie: … the people. Even if we took color out of it, they still wouldn’t represent the people who are most affected by laws, and amendments, and acts, and bills.
Jen: Yeah. Thank you for that.
I want to talk about another space. Our culture has done a deep disservice over time obviously in how beauty is defined—
Marcie: Oh, God.
Jen: Which sometimes seems no larger in scope than thin, sleek, and white, right? So, deeply affects the way little girls view themselves. All little girls, but especially little girls of color. I read a study as recent as 2005 where young Black girls had two dolls put in front of them, a white doll and a Black doll, and said, “Point to the one that is smart or pretty.” And overwhelmingly they point to the white doll.
I just wonder if you can talk a little bit more about this space, too, about what it is like to have to fight to be recognized with beauty, and dignity, as a Black woman in a white culture that defines beauty as largely white.
Marcie: Yeah. And if you Google “beauty,” you’ll get mostly white, thin, young women.
Jen: Yes. Young. I forgot that. I forgot the age. Young. Yes.
Marcie: We could do a whole podcast. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. And I am feeling that at 51. I lived for a long time with young and thin privilege—and that’s a privilege—for a long time. I may not have had white, blonde, blue eyed, but I had young and thin for a long time. And now I don’t. And so to live without those privileges, what that feels like, it feels like an invisibility, like you’re just invisible. You’re just not seen. And when you are seen, you’re seen as a nuisance. I don’t know if you know of Roxane Gay-
Marcie: … or Tressie McMillan Cottom. Her book Hunger wrecked me. Roxane Gay’s book Hunger wrecked me, and then right after that, I read Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Did not know the two of them knew each other. Did not know that they were going to do Here to Slay, but the way that they talk about the beauty problem, the problem of beauty in our culture, is so brilliant. I highly recommend those books.
But as for me personally, to raise a daughter, I remember having a conversation with Nadia, this was to put a point to it, where I said to her—we would notice that there were boys who clearly liked her when she was going to this all-white Christian school. We could see that these boys truly liked her, like we could see it, and I’m not lying. My daughter’s as cute as a button. Just adorable in every, beautiful in every way that you could think, inside and out.
But I told her, and it was really kind of a heartbreaking night, I said, “You know what? It’s going to take a very brave boy to cross that barrier.” I said, “Because all of his life, he’s been told that what he wants is something like his mother.” He wants someone who looks like his mom, who’s beautiful in the way that his mom is beautiful, who’s white, and thin, and it’s going to be very hard for a boy to extract himself from that identity and date who he wants. And so, time and time again, we would find that she was the girl sitting on the side, even though these boys would text, and they would clearly like her. They always picked the girl that they were expected to pick. And so, just like the dolls in front of kids, I have to pick the girl.
When we moved to a more diverse school, she was blown away with how much that didn’t matter, and boys were… We were a little worried because boys were coming-
Jen: They’re coming over the walls.
Marcie: They were coming hard and fast. Yeah. And lucky for us, she’s just not… She wasn’t there yet.
And I think we also have to realize that the beauty standards, and this is where I say so often we shoot ourselves in the foot, especially white America. The beauty standards that are set up there are out of a racist ideology that came out of eugenics, that’s all in our history of how white people were going to make themselves look different than Black people, right? And that this is what the beauty standard was going to be, and if you didn’t fit this, then you were somehow slovenly, lazy, all these things that we attach to Blackness or difference.
And so, when you have that happen, you lock white women into impossible standards, too. So, this is not just worth it. It’s not just worth it for Black people to break down that.
Jen: It’s a good point.
Marcie: It’s good for the health of all of us, especially our daughters—and our sons, because we also have this culture of young men who have a certain idea of what they’re entitled to have and missing the whole point of what makes a beautiful relationship.
So, I think we really do have to talk about the history of racism within the world of beauty. The products for lightening skin.
Jen: All the hair. Yeah.
Marcie: Oh my gosh. The diets. The diet, that you had to eat these things and not these things, because that’s what poor people, and that’s what… You don’t want to be that. And we are still doing it. We’re doing this eliteness with our food and I’m just as guilty of it, and I have to catch myself. I’m undoing that.
Jen: Me too.
Marcie: There’s this great book called Fearing the Black Body by… Oh gosh. It’s the history of fat phobia. And the racist link to it. And it’s extraordinary.
Jen: Oh great. Okay. I’ll make sure that we link to that in the podcast.
Marcie: Yeah, so this is not by chance.
Jen: Yeah. Of course it’s not.
Marcie: We weren’t always this way. We weren’t always dieting and we weren’t always doing this stuff.
And the church, it’s important that we talk about it, because what we’ve done is we’ve washed… Every time we hear that word “beauty,” that Sarah was beautiful, that Esther was beautiful, we have them plucked, shaved, coiffed, white, it’s ridiculous. I’m like, “No one was doing SoulCycle.” There was no waxing happening. These were Middle Eastern women. There were unibrows happening.
Jen: That’s right. It’s a great point.
Marcie: I am quite sure. And yet we have made this European beauty out of them.
Jen: That’s true.
Marcie: When more than likely Sarah was past the age, she was menopausal. We know, I know what that looks like. I know exactly what that body looks like. I see it every day. And let me tell you, it’s not the pictures that we see people making of Sarah, where she has a slim waist and she’s just… Her skin is just supple. None of that is happening. There’s no skincare products. They lived in the desert. I mean, so what they perceived as being beautiful looked nothing like what… I don’t know what it looked like, but I do know what it didn’t look like.
Jen: Good point.
Marcie: And it didn’t look like a skin peel. And it didn’t look like Botox’d lips. It just didn’t look like that.
Jen: Yeah. Great point. I like that you brought that in, because those were visuals and ideas that were implanted in a lot of our spiritual psyches super early, which finds its way into our—
Marcie: Yes, super early.
Jen: … all of our the way we perceive the world, and beauty, a million things.
Jen: I’m going to ask you this one last question before we kind of begin to land the plane here. Your work on your blog and your social media accounts is really powerful and profound, and I can’t wait for everybody to get off this podcast and go follow you just to see the way in which you lead. You have a very special wisdom to you.
So, let me ask you this: When we come to those spaces that you and I have been talking about, where Black people have been failed tremendously in our country, the holidays, the history books, the way our schools are set up, the beauty standards, all of it, how can me and my white siblings use our influence best here? What do you think it looks like to hold space and center the stories of our Black siblings in the most useful way possible that is genuine and sincere? It is not performative. It is not incomplete.
Marcie: We are in this fight together.
Jen: You are right.
Marcie: Because like I said, it’s all connected. You know, when Jesus says, “The least shall be first and first shill be last,” I think of it as a circle. We think of it because we’re Western, we think of it as some sort of punitive thing. Like some sort of weighted scales. But if he didn’t come to condemn and he came for unity, it can’t be scales, like it just can’t be. Jesus can’t be about scales. What I think it was is if you think about it, if the least shall be first and the first shall be last, that’s circular.
Jen: It’s good. It’s great.
Marcie: We’re just in it. But what I would say is the way to use your influence is to influence those that you… conversations that I can’t have. I’ve said this so much. And the best way to have those conversations, the best way to feel most confident going into those conversations is to know this country’s history.
Marcie: And I mean the untold stories, especially know how the Civil War came to be, because were still fighting this war. So, we need to know, like, how did we become divided? How did the Democratic Party become the party of the liberals when it used to be the party of the conservatives? How did all this stuff happen? So that when you go to your parents, when you go to your uncles, when you go into your church setting and things are said that are not true, and things are done that are damaging, especially in the schools. When you read something in your kid’s textbook, you know the history and you know where that stems from, and you can see it. Because if you don’t know the history, you’ll read it and you won’t see it. You won’t see it because they don’t want you to.
Jen: Of course.
Marcie: So, I think that is like one thing. Know your history. Get to know the history. I can’t stress that enough. And I think find your broken, white, young men and boys, and love them well.
Marcie: Every story I hear, I do a lot of listening to ex-white supremists and how did they land there, and I can’t tell you how often the story is that this young boy was looking for an identity and the church didn’t give him one, parents were a mess and couldn’t give him one, or their identity was whiteness. We need to be able to give these boys a different identity that doesn’t make them load up a gun and have their mother drive them to a protest because they have the identity of patriotism. We have to-
Jen: That’s good.
Marcie: … give a different identity to these young boys. But they’re not going to come to my house to get one.
Jen: That’s right.
Marcie: But they’re going to go to yours.
Jen: That’s good.
Marcie: And you know, I just think there’s a lot to be done with our young white men.
Jen: Yes, there are.
Marcie: I do. But I think there’s a lot of power there that we tend to not tap into,
Marcie: And I think to have young white men who are in the streets protesting on the behalf of Black Lives Matter, to me is more profound that any other demographic, because they absolutely don’t have to be in the streets. They don’t. They don’t have to care.
So I just feel that if you’re going to… Sure. Read our books. Definitely sign up for my Mockingbird History Lesson. I wish, as much as I love my Black Coffee With White Friends feed, it’s sad for me that the history lessons are maybe 10% of the people who follow me on Black Coffee. So, there’s this thing where I’m like I love that you guys love this space, because I love it too, but I also want you to do the work.
Marcie: And the work is Mockingbird History Lessons, so it’s like yes, I want you to do that, and I want you to read the books, but this is something that you have to tap into on a regular basis. This is not something where you read a book one month and then you go back to your life. To be anti-racist, to undo for Black and white and yellow, it does not matter what race you are, we are in the soup, and the only way to know that we are the rabbits in the pot with the heat turning up is to constantly be aware of the temperature.
Jen: That’s good.
Marcie: And that’s the purpose of Mockingbird History Lessons for adults, is that adults be constantly aware of the temperature. The history that we’re seeing today is the history from the past. The protests that we’re seeing now, after the pandemic in 1918, guess what? There were riots and protests over race. This is no surprise. And guess what else? We had a racist president at the time, so this isn’t new. Trump is not new.
Jen: Right. You’re right.
Marcie: This isn’t new.
And so, we need to see what has happened, so that when we see it happening right now, we have this election coming right now, and our president is using tactics to frighten white people into believing that their lives are at stake, their religious freedom is at stake. And we need to know the history of this.
And the church is too silent. So if you are pastoring a church, and you’re not teaching about this, and you’re not preaching about this, I think the biggest grief and sadness I’ve had is the church’s lack of attention. And the performative attention. So, it’s like either there’s a lack of attention, or there’s a performative attention, where when everything happened with George Floyd, all these churches were all about it.
Jen: For a minute. Yeah.
Marcie: For the first time. Yeah, for a minute. And then they’re just not bothered anymore, and they’re only about it for Black people, and I’m just like, “You cannot be in this-“
Jen: That’s good.
Marcie: You cannot be in this Black Lives Matter and not always be about Black trans lives that matter. You just can’t. You have to be willing to say that, “I serve a God who cares about all life,” so I’m really just… I’m waiting for this church to undo a lot of the damage that they have allowed and been complicit with from the beginning.
Jen: Here, here, and amen. Okay. Thank you for that. That’s a good word. That’s preaching. You’re preaching to us.
I want to wrap up here, Marcie. These are some questions that we’re just asking everybody in this series, and just top of your head.
Jen: These could be long. You’ll have to just pick, because this could be an endless list of amazing names, but just for you, who have been some of your greatest role models?
Marcie: Right now, I am following Black people doing regular things in the world.
Jen: Oh, I like that.
Marcie: Because I think so often we forget that we have regular lives, so I’m following Black florists, Black coffee makers, Black artists, Black fashionistas, Black surfers. If I find Black people doing things that you just don’t see us doing that, I’m so there for it.
Jen: That’s great.
Marcie: I’m following this woman right now called @HillHouseVintage, and she is living her best life in England like she’s Grace Kelly. I mean, you’ve just got to see these photos.
Jen: Well, I’m going to follow her.
Marcie: I am following now a woman who is an African-American woman, married to a white guy, who adopted white children. I’m following that—
Jen: I like it.
Marcie: Because these are narratives that you just don’t see.
Jen: I love that.
Marcie: And I need to see Black people doing, just being regular people.
Jen: I love that you said that. That’s a great answer. I haven’t heard that in the series yet. How fantastic.
How about this one? Again, you’ll just have to pick. Who are some of your favorite either artists, or teachers, or leaders, or entrepreneurs, theologians, whatever, that you’d like the rest of us to be paying attention to, and listening to, and learning from or supporting?
Marcie: Yeah. I would love for everyone to know Howard Thurman. He’s long gone, but his books, it’s like he’s just wrote them.
Jen: They’re so relevant.
Marcie: I can’t tell you how… Yeah, they’re so relevant. I just read Jesus and the Disinherited, and I’m reading his biography right now, and I’ve read his meditations, so that’s one of my mentors, I would say. I also love, love, love everything that Austin Channing Brown is doing with The Next Question.
Marcie: I hope and pray that with this pandemic that she’s able to still carry on those shows. They’re so important. But I am loving The Next Question.
Jen: Yeah, me too.
Marcie: And the conversations that she’s having there.
Another role model for me, I’m a poet girl, so there’s… Right now, Pádraig Ó Tuama. Just the way that he’s navigating the vision in Ireland that has a huge history, and he is this soft-spoken, poetic, beautiful spirit, who is doing communities there to bring people from two different sides of the fence together.
Jen: Oh, that’s great.
Marcie: And I’m learning, I’m looking at the Black and white narrative of our country and kind of seeing how he’s doing that and hoping to learn how I can be better with that.
Jen: That’s great.
Marcie: And what kind of spaces I can even create, so that’s another person I’m learning a lot from.
Jen: We’ll link to him. Well, all of these. We’ll link to all of this.
Marcie: Yeah. Yeah. And I am learning a great deal, I can’t say it enough, from Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Hear to Slay, because what they’re doing with that podcast is they’re bringing on people that you’ve never heard of, and it does my heart such good to hear that there are people doing work that I don’t know their names, but they’re out here and they’re doing this important work. They’re now doing a series on schools that has been blowing my mind. It’s a two-part series. I listened to the first part and this one woman who does a lot with after-school programs, and I hadn’t even thought about what this pandemic is doing for those kids who rely on those resources.
Marcie: So, I’m learning a lot. I need to learn from the people that Christianity affects.
Jen: I hear you.
Marcie: And so, that’s who I want to learn from, and that’s who I want to hear from right now.
Jen: That’s good. That’s a powerful thing to say.
Marcie: Yeah. I want to be like Jesus at those tables-
Jen: That’s right.
Marcie: I want to be at the table with the people that the Pharisees and the scribes would never dine with.
Jen: That’s right.
Marcie: And so, that’s the table I’m sitting at right now.
Jen: That’s the table you’re setting.
Marcie: That’s where I’m learning. Yeah.
Jen: That is the table that you are setting, my friend.
Last question. We ask everybody this. It’s from Barbara Brown Taylor. And so-
Marcie: I love her.
Jen: Feel free to answer this however you want to answer it. What’s saving your life right now?
Marcie: Right now what’s saving my life, and my husband’s life, and my daughter’s life, is a cartoon named Bob’s Burgers.
Jen: Lady, I know Bob’s Burgers. I don’t even mean to, but it makes me bark with laughter.
Marcie: We are watching, like, we’re doing this thing where we watch one episode, and then we say, “One more.” And then we go, “Okay, just one more.” And then we get sad after we’ve watched three or four, because then we realize, “Oh my gosh, we’re running out of seasons and pretty soon we will have seen them all.” But then one of us goes, “Oh, but then we’ll just begin again. We’ll just start over.” So, we are—
Jen: It’s amazing.
Marcie: … all about Bob’s Burgers right now in my home.
Jen: I mean, look. We got to do what we got to do right now. I’m so happy to bestow on you the honor of the one and only person on this podcast that has said Bob’s Burgers to that question. It’s yours. You’re going to hold that spot forever. No one will ever unseat you.
I’m so glad to be your friend, Marcie, and I feel so lucky to learn from you, and I want to just affirm one more time how powerful you are in the world right now, how much your work matters, how meaningful it is. I’m proud of you and I’m so proud to be your friend, and I’m so happy to send my community kind of to sit at your feet and to just listen and learn, and so you know I’m in your corner, and cheering you on in every way, my sister. Every way.
Marcie: Oh, I so appreciate that.
Jen: Well, sis, until we can just wrap our arms around each other and sit on the porch again, maybe have a little bourbon as you mentioned, I don’t know. We’ll just see what happens. Where the night takes us.
Jen: I just love you. Thanks for being on today.
Marcie: Yeah. Love you too. Thank you.
Jen: Okay. Yet again, thank you for joining us in this series, you guys. Thank you for being here. Thank you for hitting download. Thank you for listening and learning. I love this community and I love this podcast as some sort of avenue that we can come together around these conversations that matter most.
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And by the way, Amanda will have everything up over at jenhatmaker.com on the transcript page underneath the Podcast tab. Every single thing. The transcript of this interview, all the links, all the people, all the references, all the places you can find Marcie’s work. And so, that’ll be a one-stop shop for you guys. Please be using that as the incredible resource that it is.
Okay, so with that you guys, I thank you for being here and I’ll see you next week.