Racism. What an ugly word. And yet, one that is still so prevalent in our American society. As a white person, growing up in a predominately white town, it took me awhile to understand that my realities of equality, justice, and fairness were very different from the realities of my black and brown brothers and sisters. And yet, the evidence of the inequity that still exists in our nation is all around. It’s in the disproportionate numbers of black men who sit behind locked bars. It’s in the disproportionate numbers of black and brown men and women dying of Covid-19. It’s in the disproportionate numbers of black citizens killed by the police.
While I am as close to a pacifist as you can get without marking the “conscientious objector” box, I understand the outrage fueling the protests over the killing of George Floyd. Moreover, I support those who are making a stand and demanding change. That’s why I am, once again, lending my voice to the call for change.
For too long, the burden of ending racism in our country has been relentlessly pressed onto the shoulders of black and brown Americans. White Americans, so afraid to confront our racist past, bury our heads in the sand instead of tackling the issues head-on. But…change will never come if we don’t pull our heads up and engage in the hard conversations of inequity and systemic racism that not only built this nation, but keeps it moving today. It doesn’t make you, as a white American, a bad person for acknowledging the fact that racism exists. It doesn’t make you, a white American, a bad person for understanding that being white in America comes with certain privileges that are not offered to people with black or brown skin. It doesn’t make you a bad person (or unpatriotic) for admitting that our law enforcement systems (not people) are inherently biased against black Americans. Acknowledging, understanding, and admitting the problem is the first step to solving it. And, I believe we CAN solve it! Moreover, I think that we, as Jesus followers, MUST work to solve it. God calls us to engage in the hard work of rooting out racism…of bringing his kingdom, in which there is no division based on race, ethnicity or class, to fruition. But how do we start?
As I’ve been praying over what to do this past week, God brought Micah 6:8 to mind. As I prayed over this verse, it came to me that following Micah 6:8 is a great start for seeking an end to the legacy of racism.
Look closely at what Micah tells us:
- Micah makes it clear that God has already given us the tools needed to do what is right. God gives us his Word…that Spirit-breathed knowledge passed down from generation to generation in which we see God’s character manifested in black and white. In Scripture, we receive God’s instruction on how to live, how to treat others, and how to follow God’s path. We KNOW what God calls us to do because he tells us over and over through Scripture.
- God requires justice to be done. As followers of God, therefore, we are called to fight injustice. Our call to fight injustice supersedes any political view we might have. If there is an injustice, God compels us to speak up. One of the most damning things Christians have done in this country is to politicize our faith. God and the American government are not the same. God is above our politics. Whether we lean left or right should have absolutely no bearing on our understanding of justice. God fights for the oppressed, for those who do not have equal opportunities, for those who are unfairly treated and cast down by society….and so should we. As a white American, it is my job to speak up when I see racial injustice, not because I live in a red state, not because I took a Democratic primary ticket, but because God compels me to do so.
- God compels us to show mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is compassion OR forgiveness shown by someone who has the power to punish or harm. In a hierarchical relationship, mercy is the compassion shown by someone in power to those who have less power. Compassion opens the door to justice because we feel empathy for those who are being treated unjustly. Compassion leads us to fight for justice for those who are oppressed. White Americans, myself included, should seek to look at the struggles of many of our black and brown brothers and sisters with compassion, not judgement. How different might our nation, our world, be if we could look at others through the lens of compassion?
- Finally, God tells us to humbly walk with him. I want to key-in on the word humbly for a moment, because I believe it is this word that opens the floodgates of compassion/mercy and enables us to fight for justice. It took me many years to be able to admit that I was prejudiced. My prejudice wasn’t intentional, but it was borne from being a white American living in white America. Society taught me preconceived notions about black Americans…from television shows where the perpetrator of any crime was always black or brown, to conversations with adults about the dangers of “the city”. My grandparents used racist language because that’s what they were taught (one of my grandfather’s points of pride was when he started using the phrase African-American). I have ancestors who owned slaves…imagine that. In my family tree, people owned other people. That is an uncomfortable understanding to sit with. But, it’s important to sit there…because it’s in the uncomfortable soul-searching and tending that true changes takes place. I believe that it is time for white Americans (myself included) to humble ourselves in regard to racial equality. We need to do some digging, and allow God to uncover our own preconceived notions about race. We need to have the humility to stand up and say, “You know, we got it wrong in the past, but now we want to make it right.” THEN, we need to continue to walk in humility and LISTEN to the experiences of our black and brown brothers and sisters. It is when we are humble enough to listen to the experiences of injustice and prejudice that we grow our compassion for others and are enabled to fight for justice.
So, what is the Lord requiring of you today? Is he asking you to humble yourself and to listen to the voices of those whose experiences are different from yours? Is he asking you to show compassion to those who are hurting? Is he compelling you to speak up and lend your voice to the fight for justice?
My friends, there is so much work to do! Change takes time, it takes effort, it takes unwavering commitment to a vision of a better world. But change can happen. Will you lend your voice to the change?
Blessings and Peace,