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Bear witness to the truth of the Gospel

In light of Black History month, I want to take the time to provide a tangible example of how racism in the U.S. has evolved from what we’ve recognized it to be in the past— an overt individual act of discrimination—into a more elusive existence in the present, a systemic injustice that disproportionately affects certain populations. While these two things have always been intrinsically connected, we haven’t thought, or even taught, about them as such.

IMG_6580In light of Black History month, I want to take the time to provide a tangible example of how racism in the U.S. has evolved from what we’ve recognized it to be in the past— an overt individual act of discrimination—into a more elusive existence in the present, a systemic injustice that disproportionately affects certain populations. While these two things have always been intrinsically connected, we haven’t thought, or even taught, about them as such.

Throughout U.S. history the most notorious and recognizable manifestations of racism have been deemed as individualistic bigotry or acts of personal discrimination, things like: owning a slave, the KKK lynchings, or deciding to partake in “white flight”. However, slavery, lynching, and redlining (discriminatory housing practices based on race), as well as restricting the access that minorities had to certain vocations, educational institutions, the right to vote, marry, or even enjoy certain social leisure (things such as going to movies, eating at restaurants, or being able to swim in communal pools) just because of the color of one’s skin are all things that have always been under-girded by institutional and systemic injustice. While there’s an element of personal discrimination embedded within each of these egregious acts, structural and institution corruption is what afforded individuals the ability to enact these injustices, and to do so with little to no punishment for their acts of hatred.

In today’s society, what’s happened is that most individual acts of overt racism have been socially deemed as unacceptable and archaic, unfit for a “civilized” and a democratic society. While this shows progress, great progress in fact, this shift is not and must not be understood as the end of or even a moratorium concerning racism. Unfortunately, this has become the perception of many citizens.  Much of our national media has ceased upon this shift within the national mindset, and has exploited it as an opportunity to lull many people into believing that we now live in a post-racial nation. Due in large part to the coercion of propagated messages reinforcing a message of post-racial/colorblindness, this perspective has now become the opinion of the majority of the nation. People currently believe wholeheartedly that we presently enjoy a time beyond racism, a time beyond the unfortunate mistakes of our fore-parents. But this propagated media façade of racial relations ceases to unearth the institutional and systemic injustices that enabled and emboldened individual and personal racism in the first place.

Nevertheless, as a consequent of the prevailing mindset of most of our nation’s citizenry, the pervasive ethos of the U.S. is that racial suffering and injustice is a past reality. The following interview with Michelle Alexander, who will be serving as a key-note speaker at this year’s CCDA conference, will help us as the Body of Christ gain the eyes to see racism as it currently is and the ears to hear God asking us to intervene on behalf of those being victimized by an unscrupulous system. Alexander was gracious enough to sit down and do an interview about her latest book, a seminal piece of scholarship entitled The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and its implications for both society at large and the Church in particular.

Please watch the video and let’s collectively reflect on the implications it has for us, our ministry, and our call to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel, to embody our faith and be the Church that Scripture calls us to be and to truly be a river of life existing as a glimmer of hope in the under-resourced communities in which we serve. 

 
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