A recent survey showed that 80% of Americans believe that the country is out of control. If your social media feed is anything like mine, you can scroll from #blacklivesmatter to “all lives matter” to “what’s the big deal?” in a matter of seconds. Every opinion is on display, often without regard for the pain and offense it may cause. So while we agree that the country is out of control, we cannot agree on what is not right in our current situation! Why is this so difficult to understand? Why are we so divided? Right now, I am discouraged because I feel the racial divide has worsened.
I know this is simplistic, but I believe that part of the problem is that we see things from two different perspectives. (see diagram)
Perspective #1 is fixated on what has been done to overcome racism. This group reminds us that there are no longer slave owners or Jim Crow laws. There are new initiatives and civil rights in place. They share statistics that convince themselves that they are doing all they can! They declare, “I’m not racist” and “America is not racist.” Let’s move on!
Perspective #2 is fixated what has NOT been done to overcome racism. This group sees the injustice and pain that still exists in the black community. They are angry and believe that this is a defining moment so they protest and want the world to know, “Black lives matter!” They declare, “You are racist!” “The system is racist!” Let’s change everything!
We are in trouble! We must slow down and look at this in its totality, not just the bits and pieces that support our narrative. Yes, we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go.
So what should we do? Continue to our strive? Or look at both sides and learn from one another? Here are three things all of us can do.
- Realize. Hundreds of years of racism doesn’t go away easily nor quickly. It kind of reminds me of an abusive husband who expects his wife to “forgive and forget” after a few counselling sessions. The fact is, prejudice and injustice still shows up between individuals as well as in our society. We must call out racism for what it is. It is always wrong. It is always sin. Denial does not change it’s existence. We need to face it wherever and whenever its poison spreads.
- Repent. Without God, there is no long-term solution. God wants us to turn to Him and seek forgiveness. To repent means to “change our minds.” Ultimately, this is a heart problem for all of us. Jeremiah, a Bible prophet, warned that, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:19). Only God knows our hearts and only God can change our hearts.
- Reform. Things can’t remain the same! But how do we move forward? Our Wesleyan heritage can help us. In the 1700’s John Wesley was a strong advocate for the marginalized. In fact, he was one of early leaders who stood against slavery; he believed government authority was derived from God rather than from the people, so he didn’t support the dismantling of institutions. He worked with and outside existing structures to realize social reform. We need to do the same. Together, not apart, we can see real change and reconciliation.
BEFORE YOU GO
Our life experiences form our understanding. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it means that we have to purposely and intentionally listen to the stories and life experiences of others. I’d like to invite you to a Zoom Meeting tomorrow (Thursday, June 11th) at 9:00 a.m. (PDT). The topic is Racism and the Church. We’ll be hearing from our Pastors Heather Carmichael, Herman Green, and Dr. Charlene Williams. Here is the Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82389721620.