“Racism is a system of inequality based on race prejudice and the belief that one race is innately superior to all other races…We believe that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ. …” The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church.
Throughout my life and ministry I have witnessed the destructive effects of racism in our culture. I have sought forgiveness and reconciliation for the racism in my own life — much of which I didn’t even know existed. Racism is both insidious and violent in its damning impact. Moreover, it denies that God is the Creator of all people.
Most us of think we are nice people and because we know a black person, for instance, then we can’t be racist. This is a false notion and must be uprooted for reconciliation and equality to flourish. Racism is so institutionally and culturally ingrained that it can go unnoticed and seem normal … UNLESS you are the one experiencing it.
So many people have experienced the violence of racism that protests have erupted all over our country and world. Violence is not the answer — it never is, according to Jesus. Violence only leads to more violence. But as Christ’s holy church we must decry racism, offer the hospitality of Christ, and actively seek healing and reconciliation.
Unfortunately, the reality of racism and the need for change can get buried in the discussion over whether all cops are bad and whether all protestors are anarchists. Obviously, not all law enforcement officers commit murder in broad daylight while being videoed. And not all protestors are violent and destructive radicals. The larger problem (underneath all) of the video and burning buildings is that racism is a horrible reality that has not gone away. We need new attitudes, new understandings, new relationships, and better laws/structures/justice. Work ahead …
One of the most important things we can do is listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters who have been damaged. What was it like to be racially profiled? What is it like to be in an inter-racial relationship? How did you deal with the cashier ignoring you in the check-out line. How bad was it to have your car vandalized and then smeared inside and out with human feces? What did you do when you returned to work and found a “rope and noose” over your work station? Did it hurt when you were not allowed to attend the funeral dinner — until the pastor stepped in? Really? You were not allowed to use the restroom in your white roommate’s home during spring break? These are only a few stories that I have listened to. I have wept, I have wept …
May God open our hearts and minds and forgive us for our conscious or unconscious participation in racism. May God’s mercy and grace be with all the victims of racism. May we celebrate all human life and the God who so loved the world. Lord, hear our prayer!
The Rev. David Brian Smith is the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Winfield.