“So my mom and I are light [skinned], but my dad and brother and sister are dark. My sister said I should use it to my advantage if I ever get pulled over by the police. I know this [panel] is about racism, but I saw you up there, and I thought, ‘Why is she up there?’” A courageous middle school student ended her sharing a little sheepishly as she asked the question other students may have wondered but wouldn’t voice. What am I, a white woman, doing on a panel about racism at my church’s youth group?
The truth of the matter is that because I am white in America, I can choose to not think about race. When I go shopping, store clerks do not follow me around to check if I will steal something. When I am pulled over by a police officer, I do not have to worry about whether or not I will be unlawfully detailed. If I am detained, I do not have to be apprehensive about my safety. When I am in need of medical attention, my concerns, health, and pain are taken seriously—which is probably why a black woman is more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. (See story here: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/20/why-are-black-women-at-such-high-risk-of-dying-from-pregnancy-complications)
As a white American, I can choose to not think about race.
As a follower of Jesus, I must not only think about race, I must confront the evils of racism within myself, my community, and my country’s history.
Throughout the Bible, we see time and time again that God’s heart is for the oppressed, and we don’t have to read very far into our American history textbooks to discover a theme of racial oppression. We will spend some time in the coming weeks looking at stories and passages in the Bible about how God fights for the oppressed—and we should, too—but for now, we can start with the fact that Genesis 1:26-27 says God created people in God’s own image. Whenever we diminish the value and importance of a people group, we are refusing to recognize the image of God in them. Treating them unjustly is a direct attack on God’s image, and the most disgusting practices of evil come from this.
On the panel that night, I acknowledge the student’s question about why a white woman would be on a panel about racism as a great question. I explained that this was a topic that I took seriously as someone who follows Jesus. Then I encouraged the white students and leaders in the room to do something that I think we should all do—let’s dig a bit into our history of racism. It wouldn’t take long for us to discover stories that would make us feel uncomfortable. The temptation when faced with that discomfort is to either minimize what happened (It wasn’t that bad.), explain it away (They didn’t mean it like that.), or simply ignore it. Instead of rushing through the discomfort, let’s sit in it. It’s the least we could do really. Let’s sit in the discomfort and pray for God to use it to weed out the racism in ourselves—the conscious and the subconscious. Let’s sit in the discomfort and ask God to use it to shape us and move us to action. Let’s sit in the discomfort and be amazed at the transformation we will see in ourselves and the subsequent healing we will witness in our communities.
O Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble and oppressed; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to hear, To vindicate and obtain justice for the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer terrify them. Psalm 10:17-18 AMP
Movement Step: Ask God to search your heart and show you what you can do as a follower of Jesus to address racism in yourself and in your community. Invite a friend to journey with you as learn about racism in our country and what the Bible says about it.