Let's Have a Conversation About Racism
The murder of a black man has triggered another conversation about racism.
If you have not had one, you need to.
Racism is not an American issue. It’s a Canadian issue, a New Brunswick issue, and a Saint John issue and so often, it lives quietly, in subtle ways, taking many forms. Regardless, it is an issue here, and we need to talk about it. Our nation has a disturbing reputation on how we have treated Indigenous peoples. We continue to hear stories from African Canadians in Saint John, of how they are discriminated against. We hear it from our Syrian friends who get called “terrorists.” And most recently, our Chinese friends have experienced varying forms of discrimination because of Covid-19.
Racism exists, right now, in our city. And, sadly, in our church.
Now, most of us will not have any problem recognizing that the problem exists. We see it, we hear comments. Our challenge is, what do we do about it? How can we be part of the solution?
Great question, thanks for asking :) ….
Bryan Stevenson has deeply impacted my own understanding and thinking around issues of racism and justice. He’s an African American lawyer and justice advocate. If you are looking to read a book, check out his book, Just Mercy, where his Christian faith shapes a godly response. He offers 4 ways we can be involved, so let me share them with you (watch a 3-minute summary here or a longer explanation here, go to the 29-minute mark).
1. Get Proximate
Do you know someone who has experienced racism? Have you heard their story? He encourages each of us to get close to someone who is a minority (racial, economic) and ask them about their experience. Give them permission to tell their story. We need to only hear the story, and to feel the weight of the injustice. For when we feel the weight, when their burden becomes our burden, then we will be moved to take action. Many of you who have volunteered in our Community Outreach ministry have experienced this as you got proximate to people, your view of their lives changed.
2. Change the Narrative
The temptation with any form of discrimination is to make simple, and unfair judgements about people. “They are poor because they are lazy.” “Racism has always been a problem and it can’t be fixed.”
Stevenson says, we must resist a narrative that allows us to dismiss our responsibility to engage and be helpful. When we reduce someone to a simple statement or phrase, we rob them of their dignity as a person created in God’s image. He has a favourite line when working with people in prison, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we ever did.” This is such a Gospel message.
What narratives do we tell ourselves about groups of people? What lines do we hear repeated? After we get proximate, we can learn how to change the narrative.
3. Be Hopeful
We need hope now. Yes, we can be angry, but we must hold on to hope. We must remember that God’s ultimate vision, as seen in Revelation, is the “nations” of the world gathering before the Lord, together, united, equal. As Christians, our King and Leader called us to be people of peace and reconciliation. We are called to love all people, with the love of Christ. We are called to be agents of peace.
4. Do Uncomfortable Things
We cannot have peace until we have justice, and justice is always doing things that are uncomfortable because it often means challenging the status quo.
Let me make a few suggestions:
o Examine our own heart: allow God’s Spirit to search you and show you any attitudes, stereotypes that may reflect a discriminatory spirit. Friends, this is where true change starts.
o If you have kids, this time we are living in, is a teachable moment.
- If your kids are younger, here is a podcast that offers some advice on how to do it, but the messaging must be clear, it is sinful and evil.
- If your kids are older, watch the movie Just Mercy, and then have a conversation about the themes it raises
- Learn: grow in awareness of the issues of racism that persist in our province and our city. What is our history? How has it shaped our communities? Read about Black history in NB.
o Speak out: whenever you hear jokes, comments that reflect a racist or discriminatory attitude, do not let it pass. You must say something, kindly and clearly, every time.
o Pray: pray for people who have been on the receiving end of discrimination; pray for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
14 यहूदी और ग़ैर यहूदी आपस में एक दूसरे से नफ़रत करते थे और अलग हो गये थे। ठीक ऐसे जैसे उन के बीच कोई दीवार खड़ी हो। किन्तु मसीह ने स्वयं अपनी देह का बलिदान देकर नफ़रत की उस दीवार को गिरा दिया।
14 因 他 使 我 们 和 睦 （ 原 文 作 ： 因 他 是 我 们 的 和 睦 ） ， 将 两 下 合 而 为 一 ， 拆 毁 了 中 间 隔 断 的 墙 ；
以 弗 所 書 2:14
14 Pois ele é a nossa paz, o qual de ambos fez um e destruiu a barreira, o muro de inimizade,