I don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to live in a world as sad and messed up as ours seems to be right now. But I can’t hide my head in the sand. I can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Even though Food Shelf Friday is primarily about hunger, I have to address the racial situation in our country. After all, a big part of the hunger crisis in this world is about inequality.
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill, 1867
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. – Isaiah 1:17
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
As many of you know, I’m an historian by trade. I have a degree in history, and am just a few thesis revisions from a Master’s in public history. I work at a history museum. My specialty is 20th Century America, with an emphasis on local history. Mostly what that means is that I’ve read a lot of books…
When I was working on my B.A., we once had a welcomed day off while our professor attended a conference on slavery in the modern world. When she returned, she shared with us this thought: by talking about slavery as if it ended in 1865, we have done a great disservice to those living in slavery and those trying to fight it today.
As I watched the news these past few weeks, especially the happenings of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area where I live, I couldn’t help but think: by talking about racism as if it ended in 1965, we have done a great disservice to those living with unfair racial prejudice and those trying to fight it today.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended the practice of de jure (by the law) segregation. But even more difficult to pinpoint and control is de facto (in actuality/in fact) segregation. De facto segregation is segregation as it plays out, not in the legal system or the school districts, but in unregulated social practices and in people’s hearts and minds.
We don’t like to think that we’re racist. We prefer to believe that racism was a southern problem and that it ended when President Johnson signed those laws. After all, we know mixed race couples, have black friends, and even elected an African-American President. We’re so much more enlightened than we used to be, right? It’s progress, sure, but if a black man doesn’t feel safe innocently driving around town, we still have a problem. If sports teams’ money and “traditions” are more valued than an entire race of people whose feelings are hurt by a racial slur, we still have a problem. If race limits employment or educational opportunities for anyone, we still have a problem.
I know the answer. And no, I’m not going to say, “can’t we all just get along?”though it is that simple, it’s not that easy.
The answer is, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40).
- Examine your heart: I know you’re a good person with good intentions, but see if there is any aspect of your life where you can be judgmental or self-serving. Really look deep, past the layer of tolerance, and see if in your heart of hearts you have followed God’s commands to seek justice, to fight for the powerless and abused, to share with others who are not like you. It’s not easy, but we have to get past excusing ourselves and even patting ourselves on the back for getting away from de jure segregation when the residue of de facto segregation still remains and clutters our hearts.
- Take responsibility: After you have examined yourself, resist the urge to blame society or your parents or whatever made you who you are, and start taking responsibility for your own attitudes and actions. Recognize your imperfections and commit to change. You’re not a bad person or a racist, but I’ll bet you make snap judgments now and then. I know I do. The first step to healing is to admit that there is a problem, even if it’s a small one.
- Get involved: Now, I’m not saying you have to go out and protest, and I’m definitely not advocating violence. What I am suggesting is that you start giving of yourself to love people who are not like you. Get to know your immigrant neighbor. Write a letter to your elected officials. Give or serve with an organization that fights for justice or creates opportunity. And most of all, pray.
If you spend time on behalf of another, it will change your heart. You will stop seeing “other” or “threat” and start seeing “child of God.” If you get to know someone, serve, and pray, you will learn to love.
If you have something to say about current events (and it seems like EVERYONE has A LOT to say these days), feel free to leave a comment. You don’t have to agree with me, I’m open to discussing different opinions, but you do have to be respectful. I will remove comments that I deem to be offensive or rude.