Racism in America: Let’s Get to Work

Early Tuesday morning, a black actor named Jussie Smollett was attacked in Chicago by two men. They beat him, poured a chemical over his head and one of them put a rope around his neck as they screamed racial and homophobic slurs. Obviously details of the incident are still emerging and the men are not in police custody. But one thing I know for certain: racism is surely not dead in America. Updated to add: we’ve since learned that sadly, Jussie fabricated his own attack. This has grieved many, including myself, deeply. While this story turned out to be false, it in no way falsifies the hundreds of thousands of racist events that have happened and continue to happen across our nation. The fight for unity and healing still remains. 

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah first to a Samaritan woman at a well. At first glance it seems like no biggie…but with some history and context it gets real interesting real quick. Samaritans were considered “half breeds” by the Jews. They married with non-Jews and were therefore considered un-pure. The two groups hated each other. Women in those days were seen as second-class humans. They were not given the same rights as men and had little say in how they were treated. A divorced woman was even worse—even though at the time a man could divorce a woman for no reason at all. The Samaritan woman had “all the things” going wrong for her. A Samaritan. A woman. And a multiple-times-divorced woman at that. Yet she was the first missionary. She was the one that Jesus chose to reveal His true identity and purpose to. Wow.

This is such a profound revelation because it reveals the Father’s heart for society as a whole. Who we may consider the lowest in society, He considers a treasure. His heart beats for racial and social equality. As His children (but honestly even, just as decent “civilized” human beings) our hearts should be after this as well.

Our society is in stark contrast to the mission of Jesus and kingdom of God. We are so far from what He would have us look like.

Don’t tell me racism is dead in America when black men are attacked on the street like Jussie.

Don’t tell me our society doesn’t still function off of racism and segregation when a part of town is considered “bad” based off of how many black people live there. Or a school is considered a “great school” because there are fewer black kids in attendance. Or when we still have “black churches” and “white churches” and “diversity” is when we have a single black singer on the praise team.

Don’t tell me we value other cultures when we joke about how Hispanics should all know English because “if you live here you better know how to speak our language.” Or when I can go to small southern cities and see Hispanic men and teens working the fields but not managing a restaurant.

Don’t tell me racism doesn’t exist when we would rather teach our kids to be colorblind than to actually immerse them in other cultures and people that definitely don’t look the same.

Gosh yes, we are all so different. Different histories. Different cultures. Sometimes even different languages. Different preferences. So many differences…..but those are to be explored, celebrated and adored. Not hidden, ignored or feared.

So okay yea, there’s racism in our country. Racism in our cities. Often….racism in our own individual hearts. But what can we do? The problem of racism can seem so large and awful that we can be quickly overwhelmed and frozen into inaction. Here are some suggestions….

-First, you educate yourself. Education breeds empathy, compassion and action. Be The Bridge is a great website to get started. I can’t tell you the invaluable resource this website has been to my own personal growth.

-Next, you look around. Who do you see gathering at your dinner table for parties? Who do hang out with on the weekends? Who do you sit next to at church? Who is in your small groups? Becoming anti-racist involves so much more than just tolerating people of different color in your personal space. It means developing real-life, authentic friendships. “Friendships” is intentionally plural here. Having one black friend is not enough.

-And then, you use your voice. This part can seem daunting but it’s not if you follow the steps. Because once you have the knowledge and you’ve developed relationships with people you love and now call family, it’s easy to stand up for them. It makes instances like Jussie’s attack turn your stomach and it makes you want to use your voice and privilege for the good of the ones you love.

I ordered these specifically for a reason. Just going out and getting a bunch of friends from different races is probably not wise if you are a person who believes racism is not a problem anymore. You’re going to do damage to others’ hearts. Using your voice without education just means you’ll probably say something foolish or flat-out wrong.

Yes, racism is alive and well in America and throughout the world. It’s a sin-issue that is as old as time and as evil as Satan. And yet. It is not an issue that we are powerless to change. We have a voice. We have a Love to share. We have answers and solutions and insight. So come on, let’s get to work.