Distilling Racial Prejudice — What it Means to Me
Cities are reeling from mass protests across America since the tragic death of George Floyd. People of all races have banded together to protest what they believe are systematic injustices toward people of color. They see the repeated behaviors of injustice as being actions that are incongruent with a land of liberty, where “all people are created equal.” They protest because they feel a need for fundamental change in the nation’s culture.
I’ve been a Christadelphian all my life, and a white person for that matter! Sometimes I can spot discrimination rapidly and feel obliged to address the wrong with dispatch. But, I must also admit that there is a good amount of racial and gender discrimination that I may not be sensitive to as a white male. So, I have been looking for answers about how I should think of my own role in light of the ongoing consideration of racial bias and discrimination. What can I do? What am I not addressing?
Let me share an example from business that may be helpful in this consideration. During the 1970s, legislation began to be created at both the federal and state levels about sexual discrimination and harassment. Initially, laws specifically dealt with explicit threatening behaviors and inappropriate jokes. But as time went by, companies recognized that in order to prevent sexual harassment, one needed to nurture an environment that was not hostile or intimidating. Today, this is defined as a “Safe Work Environment” which works to eliminate fear and intimidation and values all employees and the diversity they represent. But to get there, this could not just be a corporate policy posted on the bulletin board above the coffee maker. Each person had to take responsibility for creating a safe work environment. Further, we needed to accept that if a person was feeling uncomfortable, it was legitimate and needed to be addressed. Over the next 20-30 years, the culture has continued to change.
I need to nurture the love of all men – wherever it takes me.As I apply this experience from business to my ecclesial life, I can see that there are some clear similarities. In many ways, it is about our own desired ecclesial culture.
- I must personally take responsibility to ensure my family, ecclesia and community are free from racial and gender bias. his means I cannot turn my head when I hear jokes or comments that target racial or gender-based groups. In the loving spirit of correction, I need to ask that person, that group, to refrain from such comments. I need to ensure that everyone has the assurance of a safe environment. Harassment and discrimination is inconsistent with our desired “culture” of the people of God. I need to listen to my brothers and sisters when they express concerns about things I can’t initially see. It is not acceptable for them to feel marginalized in any way.
- When I look at my ecclesia’s make-up, I see noticeably low representation of minorities. I need to push myself and my ecclesia to change how and where we preach. When I accept low diversity in my ecclesia, I have bought into wrong thinking and a wrong culture. The Apostle Paul stated that he adapted himself to win over people. He understood his role in helping those who were from vastly different backgrounds to feel comfortable in the new culture of the ecclesias of our Lord.
- Lastly, I need to have a mind that is open to positive change. One could argue that our culture as a community has resulted in us being largely a non-diverse group. To change this, I will need to think differently and trust in God to lead me. That may take me to different communities and maybe I will feel somewhat uncomfortable at times. The global growth in our community teaches me that God is moving in this world far faster than I would ever have predicted. He can lead us to dramatic, positive changes if we will be open to His promptings.
I do have a stake in this battle. I know there are things that will require confrontation in my own life. I can’t comfortably stand on the sidelines. My “protest” must be to embrace what I believe our Lord teaches about love. I need to nurture the love of all men – wherever it takes me.
Surely, others may have better insights into these issues. Feel free to share your thoughts. May God bless us by helping us to have personal, family and ecclesial lives that welcome and embrace all people and eschew any behaviors that would create barriers.