Our Complicity in Charleston

It’s an inflammatory thing to call someone a racist, and we probably don’t have a shared understanding of what a racist is; but if you are a white person reading this post, you are probably a racist.

Please keep reading.

As a white male, I know the immediate response to the accusation of racism is to quickly categorize all the ways we are not:  we have friends of all races and cultures, we treat everyone the same, we own a Chris Rock dvd, etc.  But,  set aside your defensiveness for a moment and hear me out.

Racism is a human-created evil that begins with one race or culture believing it is superior to others, and then using the power structure to establish and perpetuate that belief.  For example, whites in America justified enslaving Africans by saying they weren’t as intelligent.  Then whites, who had the power, limited African-Americans’ access to education, so that they would continue to appear to be less intelligent, to justify their continued enslavement.  This is only the most obvious example:  a close look at most of the structures of our society (housing policies, location of highways, etc.) shows a perpetuation of self-justified oppression.

And once evil has a foothold, it doesn’t need a lot of help to grow and entrench itself.  It’s like a canal:  once the opening is made to the river where it can draw water from, the water just flows down the canal on its own.

And that is where we find ourselves today:  somewhere far down the canal, miles back from where some people ( scared and greedy, probably, who didn’t trust in God’s abundance for all) deliberately carved a path out of the river of life, where they believed they could ensure prosperity for themselves at the expense of others.  We were born into a boat on this canal, and that isn’t our fault, but as soon we became aware that this isn’t the river of life, and we didn’t begin doing the hard work of carving a path back to the river to prevent the canal from going any farther; we became complicit in its perpetuation.

So, what is that hard work?  Racism thrives on self-deception, so it begins with honesty.  If you actually do have deep relationships with people of color, get to a place where those friends can share painful truths with you.  In your relationships with other whites, do not permit untruths to go unchallenged:  why is a crime or act of violence committed by a white person always “an isolated incident”, but any wrongdoing by a person of color is demonstrative of true nature of millions of people?

Honesty is just the beginning – it must then move us to action.  We aren’t responsible for how and where we found ourselves in this world, but we are responsible for how we leave it for the next generation.

I learned a long time ago that we can be one of three things:  an active racist who engages in actions to keep other races oppressed; an active anti-racist who engages in actions to help liberate the oppressed; or a passive racist, who does nothing and allows racism to perpetuate.  There is no fourth option of being a passive anti-racist.  To do nothing, to throw up your hands and say there is nothing you can do, is to allow society to continue to flow farther from life as God intended it.

And that makes you a racist.

So let’ s drift no further, but get out of the boat, that we might find our way back to what God intended, instead of what fearful man created.

If you still feel defensive, ask yourself what you are doing to actively end racism.  If you are actually doing something, invite a friend to join you in that work.  If you aren’t then this message was for you.

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