I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know: A Southern White Woman’s Story About Race, Echoes The Words Of White Evangelical Leader, Russell Moore

Hours after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death on December 3rd, Moore spoke out, saying, “African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers in this country, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed.” Author and proud daughter, Kathryn (Kaypri) Marcus says, “I think it’s awesome,” about the recent statements by white Evangelical leader Russell Moore.

Garner’s death, of course, sparked the popular “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” slogans being used as the banner statements for protests that have been taking place all across the country.

Garner’s case is the most recent in a string of highly controversial deaths of young African-American men and women in this country, thought to be due to racial profiling. The divide between blacks (and other people of color) and whites appears to spread in difficult times such as these. Not necessarily because whites and non-whites are divided on the court rulings, but because many other races simply can’t understand that these highly publicized deaths are not rare occurrences, but something people of color have been living with on a daily basis for years. This “living in oblivion” is what Kaypri Marcus, like many others, refers to as “white privilege.”

“White privilege is when you don’t have to think about your child or loved one of any age leaving the house and not coming home alive, you don’t have to worry about your loved one being harassed by a cop or a wannabe cop because they feel threatened…” explains Marcus. “You don’t think about something terrible happening to your loved one, you don’t have to think about racism, period; you can just live your life.”

Marcus has a unique perspective on racial divides such as this. While she was raised in a “little United Nations” suburb in Northern New Jersey, she was no stranger to racism’s existence. Her mother, Dorothy Hampton Marcus, is a white woman from the South who began working in civil rights from the 1950s until her later years. Dorothy married her black husband, Kaypri’s father, whom she met in the seventies and secretly dated for well over a decade. Both of her parents were raised in the South and Dorothy even referred to herself as a “recovering Southern Baptist.”  Kaypri recently co-authored and completed her mother’s autobiography, I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know: A Southern White Woman’s Story About Race, which details her “falling into” civil rights and making it her life’s work.

The book details Marcus’ life, from leaving behind “The Southern Way of Life’” to a more inclusive and diverse existence working in race relations that took her throughout the United States. During this process, she discovered Riverside Church in Harlem, New York, which reflected the diverse community she had sought. It was here that she found a socially conscious and progressive church that represented the possibility of an integrated society that easily welcomed her black husband and biracial child to its fold.

Throughout the book, Kaypri includes “Daughter’s Notes” where she reflects on the lessons that her mother shared with her from her experiences and adds her own insights. Some lessons that she still carries to this day are to never let one example cloud your judgment about an entire group of people and always try to understand the other side’s point of view. It is this last point that Kaypri believes is the beginning of eradicating racism from our society.

“I think we have to face our fears of others, find out who they are, and really dialogue,” she says. And that doesn’t just mean your neighbors or people you already interact with, but people out of your comfort zone. For example, she says, “I am part of an interracial group here in L.A. where we sit in a circle and talk about [racial issues]…When you hear other people’s voices and other people’s points of view… you start to think about things you haven’t thought of before…you get a new understanding…and you are forever changed.”

This is an idea that Russell Moore (a white Evangelical leader) expressed as well, saying, “It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls, not only by learning and listening to one another, but also by standing up and speaking out for one another.”

As a people and a country, we have always persevered. It is with hope and the awareness of recent events that we move forward, black, white, and otherwise, together into a better future.

You can get more information about I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know: A Southern White Woman’s Story About Race on Amazon. Also, check out Facebook’s page for I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know.


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