White folks need to get their own.
It’s hard to call out a friend or relative over a racist diatribe or comment, but it’s necessary if we’re going to see change happen in our lifetime.
A first step to confront racism is to listen. Listen to the stories that are unlike your own. (The following video is NSFW because of language.) From there, generate a response.
Emboldened by the 45th President, racists initially found new ground to fight for white power and the inheritance afford to white skin. The KKK is literally back out in the open (they never really went away), and alt-versions of white supremacy–casually called white nationalists now–are alive and well. It seems on the surface that racist hate filled ideologies are growing, but they’re not. (Added in 2020) George Floyd became the symbol that broke the dam against anti-Blackness. The streets flooded with protest, angst, and violence. Those voices are loudest and getting louder. So where do Christians stand with the unfolding call?
Light will win over the darkness…and in the end, love wins.
The light is winning.
Yet there’s still work to be done.
Welcome to the part 5 in a series on racism and the church. In this edition, we prepare the community to join the push to end racism.
At the cross Christ defeated sin through his death and resurrection. The power of evil was then robbed. But it’s a liminal power shift. “Liminal” being a fancy word for the “now but not yet”. Evil has been conquered totally, but in the same breath it’s not finally defeated until the end of all things. In the meantime, evil is pissed because it’s losing ground. The light is winning. Justice is winning. Need proof? Scroll through social media and notice how many new voices have joined the fray. There’s momentum behind doing what is right and now is the time to join forces.
Political Intrigue in Canada and the US
Stories of goodness and the rejection of resurgent racism are evident. Examples include, of all places, one of the mainstream sources that spearheaded the renewed race conversation in the past year. Charlottesville, VA.
It’s the place where white supremacists dubiously took up torches in the night’s sky to confront a small band of monument protestors. The next day the numbers were higher when a different group showed up in the same square, only this time calling for reconciliation. It’s also the same place the 2017 off-year US elections provided a preview of incoming change. Where abject evil tried to rear its ugly head, the people responded in a different way.
The President’s war on diversity turned in Virginia’s 13th District, where the Republican incumbent, triumphantly responsible for writing the state’s bigoted transgender bathroom bill, lost his re-election bid to transgender woman Danica Roem. She is the first openly transgender state lawmaker in the United States. At the local level, in the city of Durham, human rights attorney and black lesbian Vernetta Alston, was elected as a city councillor. In Virginia’s 12th District, a former news anchor whose girlfriend was fatally shot, beat a man the NRA bolstered. Trump supported Ed Gillespie also lost in the race for governor vs. Democrat Ralph Northam.
In Canada, a similar political race took shape in Calgary, where North America’s first muslim mayor was looking for a third term in office. The race was hotly contested by a right-wing candidate propped up by local billionaire businessmen. The challenger ran without an articulated platform yet pollsters were declaring early victory. The source of his momentum? All out character assassination from the white challenger against the brown incumbent. Few locals could articulate why they wouldn’t vote for the Mayor, other than, “I think he’s arrogant.”
Arrogance has never been an issue for the variety of past celebrated political figures from the province or city. In fact, it’s a positive quality when pitted against political outsiders (particularly from central Canada). But this time was different; race was different. Not that a conversation about race could happen. Whenever it was tenuously broached, white people were in an uproar.”I don’t see colour,” declared the challenger, a stupid statement to make only further highlighting his inherited privilege. It didn’t matter overt and subtle racist comments were religiously posted to the mayor’s social media posts.
Election night had the highest voter turnout in over a generation. Polls had to stay open because they ran out of ballots. In the end, a convincing, win for the incumbent. The majority in the city decided they were going to be defined by what they stood FOR rather than what they should stand AGAINST.
That’s an important quality, and I think it’s because deep inside we’d all rather stand for dreams and ideas that make the world in our world better, rather than being defined by what or who we should be against.
This isn’t to say everything has changed. Trump’s tenure has barely dented white evangelical support over his first year in office. It still remains around 80%.
Where Does the Church Stand?
This has been a hard series to write because I’ve intentionally chosen words that are honest rather than palatable. It’s hard to call our whites to become the leaders in overturning the re-emergence of racist ideologies, and dismantle the systems that grant them inherited privilege. Racist ideology has always been around, but lately it’s become emboldened. In its face should be a united church standing at the forefront to confront this evil. What we have instead are levels of indifference, some passivity, and a white evangelical church that’s complicit. Can we even have this conversation?
I know many churches ARE at the forefront, but many live in a context where they can believe they’re far enough removed to ignore racism. In America, the extremes are far more public and violent. You can’t help but notice there’s a problem. In Canada, the privatization of religion shelters the church from fully addressing racism in its culture and in the pews. Until we change the story of indifference and acknowledge with listening ears the next small step towards restoration, little will change.
In an culture of power and privilege permitting change is a threat to stability. Pastors are trained to protect the institution. It doesn’t matter if the church no longer holds the inherited power of Christendom, it still wants to act as if it does. Going against the grain means facing the demons of who inherited privilege was possible. Most are not ready, despite cultural disintegration, to address their colonial heritage.
So where do we go from here? I want to provide some active solutions. Not that we can solve the entire problem on our own. But I believe you CAN make a huge difference in your community. In the next post I will outline these ideas.