"I am not a racist . . ."

“I am not a racist.”

I cannot count how many times that statement was part of a conversation about this difficult topic.

Racism occurs because a person ignores the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. When this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other, and—all too often—hatred. Where there is fear, racism is possible. Where there is ignorance, racism is possible. Where there is misunderstanding, racism is possible. Where there is in equality, racism is possible. The list can go on.

Racism comes in many forms. It can be seen in deliberate, sinful acts. In  recent times, we have seen bold expressions of racism by groups as well as individuals. The re-appearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public spaces, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animosity.

Extreme nationalist ideologies insinuate themselves in American public conversation by xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants, and refugees. Too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission (“what “we have left undone,” BCP, 360), when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered.

Racism can often be found in our hearts—in many cases placed there unwillingly or unknowingly by our upbringing and culture. As such, it can lead to thoughts and actions that we do not even see as racist, but nonetheless flow from the same prejudicial root. Consciously or subconsciously, an attitude of superiority can be seen in how certain groups of people are vilified, called criminals, or are perceived as being unable to contribute to society, even unworthy of its benefits. Racism can also be institutional, when practices or traditions are upheld that treat certain groups of people unjustly. The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence that makes us all accomplices in racism.

We continue to read headlines that report the killing of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement officials. In our prisons, the number of inmates of color, notably those who are brown and black, is grossly disproportionate. Despite the great blessings of liberty that this country offers, we must admit the plain truth that for many of our fellow citizens, who have done nothing wrong, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even danger. At the same time, we must reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes law enforcement personnel who labor to keep our communities safe. We must also condemn violent attacks against police.

With the positive changes that arose from the civil rights movement and related civil rights legislation, some may believe that racism is no longer a major affliction of our society— that it is only found in the hearts of individuals who can be dismissed as ignorant or unenlightened. But racism still profoundly affects our culture. In short, it, in any form, has no place in the Christian heart. What can we do now and in the future, to rid the beloved community of God of this sin?

Source: Rector’s Blog

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