Confession 368: Why I Keep Talking About Racism Even Though I Really Want to Stop

diversity

All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:27-29 (CEB)

When my boys were toddlers, they asked me what color they were?  I took their pudgy little peachy/pink hands in mine and pondered the question.

“Hmm…” I asked.  “What color do you think this is?”

“Kind of peach,” my oldest said.  

“Well,” I replied.  “Peach it is.”

A few months later, my oldest saw an African-American man in a restaurant.

“Mommy!” he cried.  “That man’s brown!”

“I know,” I said.  “Isn’t it cool?  God makes us all different colors!”

“What color is God?” my son sagely asked.

“Well…” I hesitated.  “I think if we saw God, we would see all of the colors he created.  I think God’s kind of like a rainbow.”

My boys accepted that response.  And, at almost 8 and 10, it’s a response they still accept.  But I worry, as we live in a predominately white community, that their acceptance and appreciation of diversity will wane.  Because, while my husband and I discuss racism with our boys and try to teach the importance of diversity and equality, I can’t change what they hear from schoolmates, the media and society in general.  And the message sent by many in white America is not one of inclusivity.

This is the point in the blog when some (or many) of you will want to tune out.  Sara, you’re thinking.  Stop harping on about racism!  I mean, we have a black President for Pete’s sake!  Move on to something else.

The thing is, I would love to stop talking about racism.  Really, I would.

But yesterday, Fox News had to shut down their online comment section because of all the racist comments that were being made regarding Malia Obama’s college decision.  And when I drove to the grocery store I saw Confederate flags flying in front of houses and plastered on cars and trucks.  And the two men vying for the Republican Presidential nomination openly spread racist sentiments which, for some reason, thousands of Americans embrace.

So, as a white American, I can’t stop talking about racism.  Because racism is a white problem.

Several years ago, when I was in seminary, a group of us white students were sitting around our apartment steps discussing the growing divide between black and white students on campus.  One of our neighbors, an African-American man, came down the steps in the middle of the discussion.

“Cedric!” one student called out.  “We’d like your opinion on this issue.”

Cedric took a deep breath.  “Look,” he said.  “I think it’s great you all are talking about this.  But, honestly, it’s not my problem.  Until white people change their thinking, there’s not a lot I can do.  You all are the ones who need to do something about it.”

Initially, that comment felt a bit like a sucker punch.  But as I thought about it, I saw he was right.  White Americans are the problem.  No, let me change that.  I’m the problem.  The burden of change falls on me, because I (as a white American who has benefitted from white privilege) am the problem.  I am the problem.

This is one reason why I can’t stop talking about racism.  Because if I am part of the problem, then I want to also be part of the solution.  I can’t be part of the solution until I acknowledge I’m part of the problem.  Do you see the cycle, here?

Yet, there’s another reason I can’t stop talking about racism, and it the reason that compels me most of all to speak.  I am a Jesus follower.  And in Jesus’ kingdom, there is no room for exclusivity.  Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, makes this perfectly clear.  Regardless of our race, our cultural heritage, our economic value, our gender or even our political party–we are one in Christ.  All of God’s children share equally in his rich and everlasting inheritance.  God’s mercy and grace are offered freely to me.  God’s mercy and grace are offered freely to you.  God’s mercy and grace are offered freely to those society considers “inferior” or “other”.  God’s mercy and grace are offered freely.

So, I’m going to continue to talk about racism.  Because I’m the problem.  Because I want to be part of the solution.  Because there’s no room for racism in the kingdom.  And, because I want my children to love God’s glorious rainbow of color.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

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