Racial injustice. Color blindness. White privilege. Reparations. Christian unity. Woke up. Systemic racism.
A few years ago these were terms that I as a white woman knew little about and rarely even considered, much less understood. I grew up in the Jim Crow South surrounded by people who looked just like me. Although Brown vs. The Board of Education had demanded an end to school segregation years before, the reality was that my schools were as segregated as ever until high school. My parents were strong Christians who had been taught that white people were superior. But I noticed the inconsistency of their faith and actions and wondered.
After the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, the progress that was made blinded me to the lingering issues. I thought that being colorblind was the answer and that time and greater opportunity would heal.
The past few years have opened my eyes to see that the issues aren’t fixed and our land is far from healed. I couldn’t ignore the reality of the problem any longer. I knew how much weight Jesus put on our unity (John 17), which meant that racial reconciliation was a kingdom issue. To show the world that Jesus is real, things have to change within the church. We can’t turn a blind eye to the problem in our midst.
All of us are made in the image of God, and we belong to one human family. The church is united in Christ and should know and love each other as brothers and sisters. We are to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). Would I weep with my brothers and sisters who were devastated by the shootings of unarmed black men? I had no frame of reference to understand their pain.
My first baby step was listening. I sought out the stories of African-American Christians and books about black history in America. I began to realize that my assumption that everyone had the opportunities I did if they studied and worked hard with honesty and integrity was totally wrong. My empathy grew as I listened.
I haven’t arrived, but I continue to seek understanding. I share my story to encourage others to take baby steps in this important gospel work. I know it’s easy to simply ignore the problem and decide it’s for others to fix. It’s been so hard to face the truth about my family, my own prejudice, and the systemic racism in our land. But I don’t intend to allow my uncomfortable feelings to deter me. I keep taking baby steps by listening to my brothers and sisters instead of speaking, weeping with them instead of ignoring their pain, and learning how to best express the love and unity found in Jesus.
Some places to begin listening:
Kyle Korver, "Privileged". New York Times. April 9, 2019.
Strauss, Valerie. "Mass Incarcerations of African Americans Affects the Racial Achievement Gap—Report". Washington Post, March 15, 2016.
Be the Bridge (racial reconciliation organization with many resources)