Racism

Racism

 

The world is on fire, once again.

I know that there are some that will disagree with me, but we have a serious problem with systemic racism in our Republic. It is woven into the very strands of our collective DNA.

Since the first African Slaves arrived on the shores of this continent Four-Hundred-One years ago, racism entered our system as sure as the Novel Coronavirus has invaded the bodies of more than one and one half million people in the last three months.

Since 1619 Africans and Americans of African descent have been treated as property, less than human and the “other.” Slaves were routinely beaten nearly to death for seeking freedom or learning to read or teaching others to read or sassing the master or overseer, or sometimes just for the hell of it.

We even use terms like “interracial marriage,” reinforcing that belief that anyone with African blood is not human. The hardest thing for a great number of people to understand is that people of African descent are indeed Human Beings, not some separate race, made of the same genetic material as white people.

This lack of humanity seems to justify brutality against an entire group of people based solely on something as arbitrary as the color of their skin, or the shape or their nose and lips. Which, unfortunately, leads us to our current situation…

The images of three policemen holding down a handcuffed suspect, one with a knee on his throat, was horrifying. To hear Mr. Floyd beg for his life just over a week ago was heart-wrenching. To see the video of his lifeless body be so gracelessly put on a gurney for a trip to the hospital, when it was already too late, in another video was even more so.

One of the most disturbing images from the George Floyd homicide was the image of the policeman with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck with his hand in his pocket, as if killing a man while that man begs for his life is a daily occurrence. That nonchalant spirit and look of smugness on that policeman’s face as the life was drained from Mr. Floyd was, to me, like looking at pure, unadulterated evil.

Not all policemen are corrupt or biased; a few bad apples tend to make all policemen look bad. In spite of the fact that most policemen are not corrupt, most people of African descent are still afraid of the police. That needs to change.

As a Christian, I am called by Jesus Christ to  “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[i]

 As I read it, there are no qualifications on who my neighbor is. My neighbor, in my mind, therefore, is all my brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter their ethnicity, creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, lack of religion, or any other criteria.

I am a United Methodist. I joined the United Methodist Church for many reasons, chief among them was the UMC stance on Social Justice. According to the Book of Discipline:


Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons

Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. Personal racism is manifested through the individual expressions, attitudes, and/or behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and that maintain the benefits of this system. Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racist value system. Racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. In many cultures white persons are granted unearned privileges and benefits that are denied to persons of color. We oppose the creation of a racial hierarchy in any culture. Racism breeds racial discrimination. We define racial discrimination as the disparate treatment and lack of full access and equity in resources, opportunities, and participation in the Church and in society based on race or ethnicity.

Therefore, we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access”[ii]

A United Methodist Pastor I know, Rev. Don Hanshew from Dublin United Methodist Church in Dublin, Virginia, had these suggestions that he has collected and modified from sources of influence in his life for helping to deal with racism:

We All See Something, So Say Something:

Speaking out against racism, regardless if you feel influential or not, is critical in helping local and national representatives make better policy decisions. Being silent makes us complicit and only lets the cancer of racism grow.

First Contact:

What would happen if any time a racially charged event comes across the news you became the first to contact a friend you suspect may be impacted or overwhelmed by the event and offer yourself as an ally? Likewise, respect that a person may not want to talk or may not be able to yet process what they are feeling. Do not underestimate the power of an offer to love someone even when what they are feeling is messy.

Talk in Your Bubble:

As we physically distance ourselves to stay safe, we also socially stay connected with specific loved ones. You have influence with these people. If you see or hear discrimination in someone who is close to you, be willing to risk an awkward moment and call it out. To make change we must vigilantly confront prejudice and racism first with the people in our bubble.

Life-Long-Learner:

We all struggle with some degree of racism until we get to heaven, so acting like we are color blind or post-racial is not helpful. There is power in naming and claiming our biases so that we can prevent these biases from bubbling up and into some form of discrimination.

He also strongly urged white readers to boldly read the book White Fragility.

Above all, I am a Human Being. As such, it hurt my very soul to see those videos, as it did with Eric Garner. It hurt my soul when the news about Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston broke…a white supremacist had killed all those people, just because of the color of their skin after they had invited him into their Church to Pray and study the Bible. That was five years ago this month.

All the Mother Emmanuel shooter wanted was a race war…he did not realize that we have been in a race war for four centuries.



[i] Matthew 22:37-40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

 

An Open Letter from Senator Mark Warner

I’m sure folks have seen the protests this weekend in response to George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers, and years of violence against the Black community. As of writing this email, three of the officers involved have not been charged. We need a full investigation and accountability for all involved in this crime.

Black Americans have been denied justice in our country for far too long. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others should still be alive today — and the painful truth is that if they were white, they probably would be.

For some this moment is a wake up call. For others, this is the America they have always known — simmering just below the surface. We all have a responsibility to challenge racist systems and demand not only justice, but accountability, and meaningful change — starting at home.

It’s easy to simply say hate has no place in America, but as your Senator it’s my duty to do more. Throughout my time in the Senate, I’ve supported measures to prevent discrimination against people of color at work, at school, and at the ballot box. You have my promise that I will continue to fight for legislative changes that make our Commonwealth — and our country — a more just place.

This is a moment to act. I hope you will join me in confronting biases, hate, and discriminatory systems in place in our communities, schools, and in our justice system.

It is not now, nor has it ever been enough, to simply say we believe in equality. We have to show up and do the work to fight against injustice and racism. For some, that means joining protests, or signing a petition. For others, that may mean making a donation amid this challenging time in our country. If you’re looking for ways to take action, consider supporting the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, or an organization in your community focused on securing justice.

And, I leave you with this: the fact remains that the vast majority of us want to live together and want justice for everyone in this country. We must join together to achieve that goal.

Thank you,



— Mark Warner

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