Recent events have made many to think and others to react. We see organizations hiring “experts on racism issues,” bookstores selling large amounts of books on racism, schools and universities desperately requesting conversations and workshops on racism and white supremacy. Churches suddenly want to have conversations on racism, sermons written about racism, Bible studies focused on white privilege. Today, everyone is scrambling to learn about racism!
If an outsider would view what is happening today, they would see a country in a state of panic. A country that suddenly found themselves face to face with a monstrous racism that for centuries they had carefully built and protected, and like good Americans, must quickly eliminate so that it does not disrupt our life.
The notorious individualism of American culture priding itself on its achievements is once again challenging individuals and corporations with the history of slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, and constant obstacles to immigrants who didn’t meet the standards imposed by white supremacy. No matter what economic level can be achieved, what scientific advances may be obtained, our individualistic culture has not been able to cope with the legacy that was (sadly) institutionalized in the past.
Today, we don’t see literal slave markets on the main streets. We don’t read any more of the laws that allowed this malefic institution to be visible as it happened between 1648 and 1865. Today the markets have different names, are promoted differently, yet they continue to exist and are backed by laws and regulations not necessarily written on paper, but written in the DNA of a nation that has been carefully passed down from generation to generation.
Today, we don’t see entire Indigenous nations being forcibly removed from their homeland to inhospitable places because the land and its riches are to be used and enjoyed by a race that considers itself superior. As with slavery, it is very difficult to face the broken treaties and the thousands of deaths of people classified as savage and ruthless.
American history was written and protected by those in power, without consulting the other side. Why would we want to tell the story of the vanquished? Our country needs a host of victories, triumphs, and achievements because that feeds national pride, gives courage and a sense of security.
For generations, we have learned the official account of historical events, which has benefited and privileged a certain group of people and crushed others. How can we now face a reality accumulated over centuries? If we confront this reality, we run the risk of seeing our castles, built in the air, collapse and that is absolutely unthinkable.
Why is the individualistic American culture suddenly so desperate to learn about racism and white privilege? Is it perhaps, that we’re finally ready to face the evil monster of racism and deal with what was carefully created and protected for centuries?
Is the CRC ready to confront and deal with the monster of racism that was carefully protected for all these years, causing pain and trauma in the lives of so many people in the past and even today in the present?
For more than 25 years, the Office of Race Relations has been working, educating, promoting, raising awareness about racism and its consequences, but feeling we needed to fight to survive and keep the ministry going because for many, racism does not exist in the church. If racism does not exist in the church, why then is everyone suddenly wanting to talk about it?
If society, organizations and churches, and specifically our denomination wants to honestly face and deal with racism, it needs to ask itself if it is ready for the first step: meet our past. If not, the church must pray for that. Without this first step, everything else is nothing but noise.