Do you remember when the man who murdered nine people during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston said that he hoped to start a race war? I remember thinking that was 1) crazy and 2) incredibly unlikely. I’m starting to believe I’ve been naive.
Many of my conversations these days are with local civic leaders and church people regarding the deep divisions regarding race. The divisions reflect long-established understandings and misunderstandings about who we are as human beings and how the world got this way.
Here’s what I’m learning in terms of the continuum regarding what we believe about race: we come from very different places and different extremes.
In most White congregations, there will be people on both ends of this continuum. We disagree on “what happened” in this country and whose fault it was. The Rev. Denise Anderson, Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (and my sister) tweeted over the weekend “My ancesters were not slaves. They were enslaved.”
See the difference?
I’ve had conversations with White friends and family about The Wealth Gap between White people and Black people. Prosperous White people tell me that people are poor because they’ve made poor decisions, when actually you can make all the correct decisions in the world, but if the rules were not made for you, it’s extremely difficult to lift yourself out of poverty – especially where I now live in Charlotte, NC.
Will these injustices lead to a race war? I hope not.
It’s also true that when people seek justice for a long, long time and nobody is listening, things indeed get violent. I researched the history of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument in Chapel Hill, NC when it was torn down by protesters in 2018. Students, faculty, and civic leaders had been asking for its removal for over thirty years. The entire History Department of the University of North Carolina had asked for the statue’s removal for decades.
The Bible calls for justice over and over and over again. And when there is no justice, there is no peace. It’s not just a protest chant.
Sooner or later, when there is a lack of equity for people with black and brown skin and it’s been that way for – say – 400+ years, there will be rage.
But a race war is not inevitable if we – White people – take the time to listen to our Brown and Black siblings. We must listen to personal stories and familiarize ourselves with the lesser known history of Native and Black people in America.
I believe this is required of every human being whether or not we believe that we are created in the image of God. We have a responsibility – especially in the Church – to teach parents how to identify if their children are becoming radicalized by white supremacists. We have a responsibility – if we are Christians – to see each other through the lens of Christ.