Friday, July 15, 2016

What About Racism?

We are faced with another moment of national crisis. After police shot and killed black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, and five police officers were killed in retaliation in Texas, tensions are high. Many in the African American community feel persecuted by the police, and police officers are feeling hunted. A sober look at the facts of the situation would show that the dangers, while real, are not as pervasive as they seem. Not all police are racists, not all black people are agitators, and not all of either are murderers. But at times like these, it is hard to allow reason to guide us. It is easier to lean on emotion and to speak in general terms. Sadly, that simply perpetuates the stereotypes and leads to the hardening of positions, resulting in an almost ironic defense and obscuring of those who really ought to be condemned.

The First Solution

In such a moment, I can only recommend one solution. How can we hope to heal, unless we turn to God in repentance and pray for His peace? As we have previously discussed, however, some people see that as no solution at all. To them, prayers are only empty words. What other starting place would they suggest, though? Because trying to fix things on our own is clearly not working out. Prayer is a starting point for practical action. Without God’s guidance and blessing, no action of ours can go anywhere.

Broadly speaking, prayer is what we need. But what should we pray for, and after that, what should we do? I am not entirely sure. This article is partly so I can ask you. We need to be able to talk about these things, to brainstorm and to work together, with Christ at the center, in an effort to find a better way.

Adding to the Discussion

I do not know what I can add to the discussion about racism and reactions when it comes to police and black people. I do know that politically, I could not be considered an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement. Too many of its loudest voices rely on overt racism and a refusal to admit it, along with an unwillingness to be reasonable. It is largely reactionary, and since I would not be willing to stipulate to every one of its demands, it seems I would be immediately branded as an enemy. That is a shame, since I do at least want to talk. But how am I supposed to do that with those who say I am automatically racist for being white? That is no place to start.

Police are by no means perfect, either. I am sure there are racists among them. But police forces are not inherently racist institutions. I also feel we have lost sight of what racism itself is. It is not, as is so often claimed today, the noticing of racial differences. Those exist. It is a fact of life, and it is only common sense to consider those distinctions. That, however, is prejudice. Some prejudices are bad, most are merely preferences, and a few are even helpful. Racism is something else. It not only notices racial differences, but it hates those who are different. It seeks their harm. And many racists are becoming subtle, saying they do not hate other races, they merely want to look out for their own. But they treat life as a zero-sum game, meaning the advancement of their race must come at the expense of others. That, not a white man wearing dreadlocks, is racism. And that is what all good people should be fighting against.

Approach to Racism

This is the best thing I can think to offer now, once we have begun to pray. It is my promise to notice racism, real racism, and hate it. That hatred, that righteous indignation, will lead me to speak out and hopefully to convince others to hate it. And then we can perhaps go from there to confronting it.

Hating Racism

It seems strange to talk about noticing and hating racism. Consider the second aspect first. Racism is hatred, so how can hate fight hate? Shouldn’t love fight hate? Well, really, that is another way of stating my case. You see, racism is the hatred of people on the basis of factors that they cannot control and for which they should not be condemned. We should not hate people. But we should hate some ideas, because ideas can be evil and they can lead to evil. My love for humanity is the reason I hate racism. I hate it for the sake of those who suffer as a result of it, as well as for the sake of those who engage in it. I love the former enough to want to protect them, and the latter enough to want to lead them to repentance. My anger is aimed at a bad idea because it goes against the will of God, and I love the Lord and the people made in His image.

That is the real reason behind why I see racism as wrong. The Bible never shies away from racial difference, but it does make it clear that God’s love is not restricted based on the accidents of birth. In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The point, of course, is not that these differences do not exist. It is that they do not matter when it comes to the way God values us. God loves us all, enough to create us with free will and to provide for our salvation through Jesus Christ, no matter what we look like. We are all equal in His sight, equally stained by sin and equally covered by His grace if we accept it. If that is how the Father sees us, it is how we ought to see one another.

Racism is a way of refusing the light of God’s revelation to us. That is what makes it hateful. I have long been aware of this truth. Sadly, the other aspect I mentioned is only beginning to dawn on me. I need to be better about noticing racism.

Noticing Racism

I have seen it all my life, of course, so I do not mean simply observing it for the first time. Nor do I mean noticing it everywhere as so many guilty white people try to do. That would be to live life under siege. No, I mean noticing it. When I see it, I need to take stock of what it means and devote myself to countering it. I have never really gone quite that far. I have looked at it without really thinking about what it might do to its targets. It is a matter of empathy.

As a white person, I do have a sort of buffer, sometimes deceptively labeled “white privilege.” I live in a rural part of Western Pennsylvania, and we occasionally see people drive around with Confederate flags flying from the tailgates of their pickup trucks. My thoughts when I have seen that have generally been along the lines of how cowardly and stupid it is. It seems unlikely that they do it to honor the memory of the Army of Northern Virginia, and doing it in an area that has to be 99% white is hardly a sign of bravery. But I have usually missed the most important part.

What does it feel like to be part of that 1%? What must a black man think for his family when he lives here and sees something like that? I can only imagine. To me it is annoying, to him it must be terrifying. I could not blame him if he feels surrounded. After all, that is probably what it is meant to make him think. It is not true, of course. Most of us do not share the moronic, indeed satanic, vision of “white power.” But is that likely to be a black person’s first thought? It would not seem so.

I do not see a threat every time I see a Klan flag on a truck or a swastika in a men’s room stall. But I need to. We all need to. We cannot experience the fear, but we should notice what these symbols are meant to instill. If they do not scare us, it should at least anger us that they terrify others. It is only a starting point, but it is better than thinking they are meaningless. And they need to be our focus. These expressions of racism should be countered. We cannot ban them. The freedom of speech does not extend only to speech we like. But we can speak against them to show the racists there is a better way and to show their targets they are not as alone as they are meant to feel.

Make a Start

These are just a few starting points. I realize that, but nothing changes in an instant. Take the first steps. This is a call for all of us, black and white, man and woman, young and old, to pray for the Lord to guide us to healing. It is a call for black people to see whites for who they are, just as they wish to be seen. Lastly, it is a call for white people to notice, not just that racism happens, but what it does. And when we notice, we need to offer something different. I do not know what form that needs to take. Probably, it will vary with every opportunity. But when they occur, we must act. The more insulated we become, and the less aware of God’s love for all of us, the worse things will be. With humility, though, we can do better. Let us pray for that.

(From the Skalduggery blog)

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