Some people aren’t going to like what I’m about to say. Because it goes straight to the heart of a very pernicious attitude that is only expressed in certain company. An attitude the Church doesn’t like to address because it would be “too uncomfortable” for the well-dressed membership and the leaders who may be entertaining it in their own minds.
I’m talking about racism.
With the news of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, this issue has been heavy on my heart the past few days. People in Ferguson are protesting, and with good reason. A police officer unloaded six shots into Michael’s unarmed body – while, some witnesses say, the black teen was standing with his arms raised in surrender. And this is hardly the first time such a thing has happened. This ought to concern us all, no matter what color our skin is. This represents an abuse of power, of a trampling on our rights as citizens under the law.
But most of my friends have been strangely silent on the matter. Some have expressed more concern about the backlash against the police than the crime that has been committed. There have even been reports of the Ferguson police attacking and arresting journalists attempting to cover the story in the aftermath. First Amendment rights, anyone? Where are the Constitution huggers now?
Racism is real, folks. Oh, no one likes to admit it. I hear people say all the time, “This is the land of opportunity. Anyone who works hard and does the right thing can have the life they want. And with Affirmative Action and corporate diversity quotas, black people don’t have any more excuses. The days of discrimination are over.”
But then those same people say things like:
– “I don’t want my kid going to that school. There’s too many black people there.”
– “I don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart. There’s too many black people there.”
– “I wish we could move to a different state. One where there’s not so many black people around.”
Then I look at them and ask, “What’s wrong with black people?” An uncomfortable squirming occurs, and then, “Well, I only mean ghetto black people.”
Logic says it’s a very short leap from “I don’t want to shop with black people” to “I don’t want to give a black person a job.” And the recent recession proved for my generation that it’s also a short leap from “That person is struggling to find work” to “That person is just lazy and won’t try hard enough.” This is what makes racism so pernicious. It worms its way through a person’s soul until an entire group of people is cut off from that person’s compassion and sense of justice.
Racism is evil. It is the work of Satan. It is a form of spiritual wickedness that we must pray against.
Because of this:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. 1 John 2:9-11
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:20-21
If you’re racist and call yourself a Christian, God doesn’t know you. God isn’t acquainted with racists.
Ever since I asked God to allow me to see people as He sees them, I no longer see ghetto people. I see people who just happen to live in ghettos. Most of them will tell you that they don’t want to live there. They don’t want to work for minimum wage and have their kids on food stamps. They don’t want to be surrounded by drugs and gangs and violence. They don’t want their kids shot in the streets by police who are supposed to be protecting them.
But we have a system of privilege that keeps black kids trapped in the worst school districts, black families in the lowest-earning income bracket, and black men the most likely to be incarcerated. And it starts with “I don’t want black people living next to me.”
White people are screaming that African Americans are rioting over a white cop shooting a black kid but aren’t saying anything about the black men who are shooting each other in the streets every day. Actually, they are. They have been for a long time. We just aren’t listening. We have been wandering in the darkness of our racism, succeeding so well at keeping black people out of our lives that we’re no longer acquainted with anyone with a skin tone darker than California tan. Our police don’t care about black-on-black crime, and neither do we. When a story comes out in the paper about another gang shooting in Chicago, white people shrug and say, “Well, they were just druggies anyway. They were ghetto rats. It’s just five more future criminals off the streets.”
This was not the attitude of Christ, who approached the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews did not associate with Samaritans. They considered Samaritans to be sinners, heretics, people completely devoid of any knowledge of God. Yet, Jesus went to this woman and showed her compassion. Treated her as a daughter of God. He is our example.
When are we going to get out of the dark?