I have had an incredibly formative last couple of years, and one of the things that I have been researching and learning about is the issue of race in the United States. I have to admit my own extreme ignorance of the topic going in, and I definitely do not claim to have become an expert in the topic. I still feel I am only beginning to learn about the many interconnected ways race impacts the way we think and act in the United States, as well as the deep history of racial tensions in our country.
I admit, to my shame, that I had kind of rolled my eyes at some of the discussions of race and its impact today. After all, slavery ended in 1865 with the 13th Amendment, right? Why are people still complaining about it? Why do people complain about things that happened before people today were even alive? I ignorantly–foolishly–assumed that we had gotten over it. That I could say that because something happened more than a hundred years ago, we could safely say it was relegated to our past as something that no longer impacted us. I was deeply, badly mistaken and I apologize for my ignorance.
As I read many of the books that have become formative for me, I shared things that I learned and was alarmed to see many people reacting the way I used to. I shouldn’t have been surprised, as I had done the same, but I was and am nevertheless. I’d see people scoff at the term “systemic racism” and dismiss it as a myth. I’d witness bald incredulity when I mentioned how some of the reasoning used regarding people of color to defend slavery parallels arguments today about refugees and immigrants. People would ask for facts, but when provided with them, would filter them through their existing biases–as we all must–and find that the facts did not, in fact, provide evidence for broad, systemic racism. And, as I write this, I know many of these examples will be dismissed as merely trying to appeal to emotions or pandering to liberalism.
Yet I cannot be silent. I cannot continue to learn about the deep, abiding ways our country has managed to continue to recast issues of race in ways that negatively impact people of color. Over some indefinite period, I would like to share with you parts of my journey. My hope is that you will find it informative and interesting, and perhaps we can talk about the issues we need to work to change. I hope we can work together to bring healing and understanding where there has been very little of either. I hope we can change so that American Christianity is not silent in the face of these systemic wrongs, but rather seen as a powerful group of people working together to crush inequity.
I want to issue a true challenge to those who read this. Do not remain in ignorance. It’s not enough to simply rush to search for an article online to “refute” every fact you are uncomfortable with. And yes, I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But time and again in discussions of issues related to inequality–whether race or gender–I find that when I present historical facts based upon digging through many books on the topic, the response is frequently a link to an article that demonstrates little-to-no understanding of those facts and distorts their context. Such historical ignorance is unfortunately common–again, I admit it in myself as something I am seeking to amend–but it is something we must seek to remedy. I want you to join me in this resolution:
When discussing issues of race and faced with a fact or statistic that makes me uncomfortable, I will not rush to find a way to make the fact more comfortable for me as a first reaction.
We need to be uncomfortable. We need to find out things about the past of our country–and perhaps even our ancestors or, even more importantly, ourselves–that make us uncomfortable and make us realize change is needed.
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