So, there’s been a recent uproar over racist remarks from a certain political figure. Have you heard? Someone may have mentioned a thing or two about it. If you’re weary of hearing about race-related issues, you may want to quit reading.
I’m weary, too. I’m weary of the need to speak out against racism and saddened by the many *Christians* who’ve responded in defense of said political figure. Trying to navigate the silence and shrugs both sobers and saddens me. Where is the collective condemnation and call for lament, especially from white *Christian* public figures who are so quick to denounce other sins?
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right.
A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice.
A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
If these words have merit, death might be imminent for our country–we’ll choke on the [white] *Christian* moderate response that says, “Be bothered but not too bothered. Don’t speak up or you might offend your family or friends. Play it safe. Best to keep these ‘controversial’ issues off the table.”
There are many who continue to read the history of our country, slavery, police brutality, peaceful protesters, and comments like ‘s***hole’ countries through their lens, which is usually white. Historical facts on racism, white supremacy, and mass incarceration have been distorted, covered, or ignored. I’ve observed *Christians* turning away, refusing to see that racism runs deep in this country.
The past several months have reminded me that many in the white *Christian* culture have an empathy-deficit in matters of racial justice. Oh, we’ll cross the ocean for 10 days with our church groups and take selfies of poor, black kids who don’t speak English. We’ll sponsor brown kids all over the globe in the name of ‘doing good’. We’ll even give our money to fund transracial adoptions. But move closer to our black neighbors? Invite them into our homes? Reach out to minorities to hear their stories? Stand up to racism in our own country? Nah. Too personal. Too uncomfortable. Too risky.
In the wake of Charlottesville, I observed silence. Toward peaceful protesters, I heard outrage. With these recent racist remarks from 45, I heard excuses. What do these responses say about the white *Christian* culture?
I liken this empathy deficit to how we feel about our favorite pair of shoes. We like our shoes. They’re comfortable, well-worn, and conformed to the shape of our feet. Stepping in to the shoes of another feels awkward, maybe even painful, and often forces us to adjust our gait. Who would willingly choose that discomfort?
If we’re going to be a nation that believes in ‘justice for all’, those of us in the white majority need to wear the shoes of our black and brown brothers and sisters. Yep, it’ll be uncomfortable. Awkward at first. And likely painful. Most of us don’t want to do this. We might be asked to explore our deeply held beliefs, presumptions, stereotypes, or sin. We might have to adjust how we relate to those who are different from us. We might need to connect with the pain of another, to confess that we’ve been complicit in racial inequality, and to repent for turning our backs on those begging to be heard.
Good readers, we don’t have to agree on every issue. But can we agree that racism exists? Can we agree that our silence and excuses prevent healing and empathy? If we want to move forward in the ways of Jesus, we must be people of empathy and compassion as we pursue racial justice. We must be humble enough to try on their shoes.
Many of our black & brown brothers and sisters are telling us that they hurt—they’ve been hurting from years of oppression, no matter how subtle. The white majority doesn’t get to decide whether that’s true. Our minority friends have spoken. Our responsibility is to listen, reach out in love, collectively grieve, confess, and repent.
Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To honor his dream and in my (tiny) effort to make his dream a reality, I’ve compiled a list of resources that I hope will aid in your efforts to build personal and communal empathy and create a more just home, community, city, nation, and world.
The list below, which is certainly not exhaustive, has helped to increase my awareness and better understand the deep layers of racism, specifically in America. Check Google for specific story lines and use your own discretion on what is appropriate.
Books for Kids:
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carl
The Bear That Wasn’t by Frank Tashlin
A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
Ruby Bridges Goes to School by Ruby Bridges
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leslie Staur
I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Books for Adults:
The Color of Water by James McBride
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander
Night by Elie Wiesel
One by Deidra Riggs
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
Book of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
The Bible by several authors
Books for Adults-on my list to read:
Racism: America’s First Sin by Jim Wallace
Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew G.I. Hart
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Movies: Listed with rating and year
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Not Rated,1967)
The Color Purple (PG-13,1985)
Ghosts of Mississippi (PG-13,1996)
Glory Road (PG,2006)
The Help (PG-13,2011)
12 Years A Slave (R,2013)
Hidden Figures (PG-13,2015)
Movies on my list to watch:
A Raisin in the Sun (1961. Remade in 2008)
The Central Park Five (Documentary,2012)
Fruitvale Station (R,2013)
Dear White People (R,2014)
I Am Not Your Negro (Documentary,2016)