Racism is a sensitive subject whenever and wherever it is approached. As an American Christian I am disappointed once again that we have not moved enough toward equality and understanding between races in this country. Since Ferguson and other racially complex events in the last few months, we should be asking if Christians are making a differnce in society? I ask myself the difficult question, Am I a racist?
Every February during Black History Month, we baby-boomers relive some of our own history as we watch it portrayed on television. For me it is important to be reminded that I lived in Chicago during the riots after Martin Luther King was murdered. I lived through the marches and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. I worked with homeless mothers and children during my MBI years in the neighborhood that I now pass every visit to Chicago. These events sparked my own high school level social conscience and grew it into a more mature social awareness…just moving my awareness in incremental ways. I don’t want to ever stop growing in that understanding.
I will add that this morning, in a classroom of 30-somethings at our church, we heard some honest reflection about discerning our social and spiritual conscience about racism. First, just to bring up the subject for open discussion is a very worthy effort. Second, the honesty of these GenX’ers is always refreshing, as statements were made like, “I didn’t know my parents were racists until my sister married an African.” and “I don’t know why but it doesn’t seem that this subject is as important to me as it is to others”.
It was also shared that the level of our own personal racist attitudes are often hard to recognize since we live with such “white privilege”. We can be blind to where we are on the racist spectrum unless we unpack it and analyze it honestly and continue to educate ourselves with God’s perspective.
The subject quickly moved to the importance of knowing what and how to talk about these sensitive subjects with children, (and as we realized, our grandchildren). It is true that conversations about race are important to initiate and so is what we don’t say…after all, we know as much is caught as taught.
All of this great discussion with this class prompted a conversation afterward between my husband and I. Our own efforts back in the day with our daughters were around exposing them to the real world. Minorities were not far away. And though we did live in Africa for months at a time during their formative years, the dialogue still needed to happen. How to treat immigrants and refugees around us in our suburb and our schools was a subject to talk about. The city of Chicago afforded us ways to educate and experience life in black communities. We tried to instill the value of reaching out in Jesus’ name.
This morning our church also reminded us of how we can help welcome refugee families into our area. Being intentional is the key.
Granted, one great divide is race, but it should be acknowledged that a greater divide is often based on the economic divide caused by poverty. Our prejudice is often aimed at those who are poor or under-resourced more than actual racial differences alone. Our resources can separate us more than the color of our skin. The solution starts with understanding, which usually moves us to compassion. Understanding comes by getting involved with someone who is from another race and/or lives in poverty. There are many who would say that there is NO other way. It is Jesus’ example. It changes our minds and our hearts.
The most important foundational truth is that we are ALL made in God’s image. Imago Deo. We are all valued equally in God’s sight. We must treat each other as equals in every situation. This is God’s design for how we are to live as His followers.