ON RACE & INDIVIDUALISM
At the talking-race-symposium my church held over the weekend, the facilitator explained that no matter how individualistic our culture gets, we can’t break the connection that we have to other humans. “When I walk in a room, the drums of a continent beat alongside me, slave ships sail beside me, the gold tipped pyramids rise above,” our facilitator explained.
In pretty much every Christian tradition, there’s an understanding of sin as a part of human nature. People are culpable as individuals, but they are born into a broken world where sin has already severed the way things should be– perfect relationships between and among Creator and creation. This sets up the need for redemption to be experienced both as an individual, and then as a collective.
Racism is sin, and it fits that framework to a tee. It’s frustrating then, that a lot of Christians -and others- don’t confront racism with self-examination and repentance, but with defensiveness or turning-the-other-way. What’s with the defensiveness? Perhaps it’s out of fear of upsetting folks or even losing congregants or one’s standing with a church like Robert E. Lee’s great-grandson did, but you can’t expect to be part of a following that restores the world if you can’t take the discomfort. Love crosses lines.
To me, “I’m not a racist” sounds like someone saying “I’m not a sinner.” So you haven’t murdered or scammed anyone. Great. But you were still born into a world where our nature is to put ourselves before others. So you’re not in the Klan. Great. But you were still born into a system birthed out of the idea that darker skinned people are only 3/5ths human.
Even if you haven’t committed any horrific acts, you’re still born into a broken system that takes root within you, unless you practice repentance. People are people, and it’s what we’re in need of.