When Barack Obama became the 44th president of United States in 2008, some Americans believed this was the last page turned in the history of racism in America. Surely, electing an African-America man as president signified the beginning of a new age of integration. This was the position I unquestionably adopted as an eleven-year-old growing up in a white middle-class family. To my embarrassment, I soon realized that what I had assumed to be true about racism was false. Racism was, and continues to be, an epidemic in American society. It is a social justice issue Christians can no longer ignore.
As I too have been guilty of ignorance, I ask that you consider my words in a diplomatic manner. I pray that you read for understanding before forming an answer. While I write with profound sincerity, I must not continue before acknowledging my limited knowledge and lack of experience on this subject. As a white person, I do not (and hope I never try to) pretend to grasp this topic completely. However, as a Christian, I have accepted my responsibility to address this issue that is prohibiting the growth of God’s eternal kingdom.
Put simply, racism is defined as the unequal treatment of an individual due to the color of his or her skin. The idea is rooted in the concept of civil rights which demands the equal treatment of all individuals regardless of physical or emotional attributes.
Racism has been present since the formation of the United States and its poison flows through the veins of our social, economic, and political structures. Today it is evident in areas like policing, mass incarceration and education, to name a few.
Despite these instances, racism continues to be spoken of in the past tense. By not acknowledging racism, we will leave the following generation blind to the inherent problems of treating an entire race as subhuman.
Ignoring racism is like using a band aid on a broken foot. Because the foot is not stabilized by a firm cast, the foot will heal in an awkward, unnatural position. Eventually, the foot will have to be broken again and placed in a mold to heal properly. The foot is our society and the band aid is our reaction to the crippling effect of racism. We have sought to mask the problem with a band aid instead of establishing systems which will force healing. By not thoroughly educating the next generation, we are prolonging the problem, allowing the bones to to settle in a deformed structure.
Sometimes I am surprised at how people act. But then I consider: how can a generation reared in ignorance be expected to act any differently? That is why education must be the primary instrument of race reconciliation.
That is why the goal of this letter is not to reprimand the young who merely mimic the ways of their parents. The purpose of this address is to call parents to educate their children on the complete (from 1776 to the present) history of racism and use education as a springboard off of which to foster reconciliation.
Education is the most effective tool by which to alter history, especially within the family unit. Proverbs 22:6 acknowledges the importance of education from parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (NASB). Jesus uses education by means of parables and examples to teach his disciples as seen in the four Gospels. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 is also grounded in education, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (NASB). Most American Christians would agree that education is a vital part of our role on earth.
Education has been an instrument of change since Adam and Eve. If not for the human ability to process and retain information the human race would still be stuck in time. Progress would not exist. If we fail to educate the present and future generations about racism and how to fight against racism, we as a race will be stuck in time.
Not acknowledging racism has also hurt the body of Christ, because we have failed to fulfill our call to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” according to Romans 12:15 (NASB). Christians have not wept together in response to racism, but have remained comfortably segregated. It has been suggested that the most segregated time of an entire week is Sunday morning during the hours of church. I believe this is largely due to our failure to acknowledge and respond to racism.
Therefore, if we as Christians view all humans as made in the image of God, then we must use education as a weapon to fight for human beings to be treated as such.
Please do not misunderstand. This is not a cry for All Lives Matter, as I believe that campaign misses the point of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a cry for Christians to openly acknowledge the racism our brothers and sisters are experiencing, intentionally educate future generations on steps for reconciliation, and actively join in the fight to end racism.