Fighting the Evils of Racism
Throughout our country, we see mayhem. Protests filled with anger, cities burning, and utter chaos. After two months of quarantine from a pandemic, we now confront the even greater threat and evil in our society with the terrible virus of racism raising its ugly head once again.
We’ve all seen the protests that have turned into rioting. For anyone who watched the video of George Floyd dying from the knee of a police officer pushing down on his neck for eight minutes – the same George Floyd who may have used a counterfeit $20 to buy something in a convenience store, yet was treated as a dangerous criminal and killed without any justice in broad daylight – for anyone who watched this horrible video, you have to be shocked, deeply disturbed, terribly saddened, and quite angry.
I’m sure many of us have also seen the video of Ahmaud Abery, the black man who was simply jogging through his neighborhood in Brunswick, GA and who gets accosted by a white man and his son who took it upon themselves to stop him – why? because he was a black man jogging down the street?!? – and to shoot and kill this man in cold blood. An unarmed jogger who wasn’t disturbing them or anyone else? And neither of the white shooters were arrested for 58 days! Imagine they killed an unarmed man for no reason at all, and the police don’t even arrest them for 58 days!!! Both of these incidents just seem so unbelievable, unimaginable for all of us. I can say that I could never conceive of someone hating me, judging me, and killing me simply because of the color of my skin. It’s hard to comprehend such appalling racism and hatred.
And then what about the interaction in Central Park between Christian Cooper, the black man simply watching birds and Amy Cooper, the white woman with an unleased dog who ignored his requests for her to leash her dog and instead calls the police on Mr. Cooper. Why? Because he’s black and he asked her to lease her dog? Quite a different form of racism than the first two stories, but still a form of racism none the less.
It almost seems like we’re making up these stories, and yet here we are in 2020 with the most recent incidents of racism that have made the news. And only moments of racism caught on video. And how many instances happen that are never recorded for others to see?
Today, I want us to try to sincerely think about what it must be like to experience such racism? To live every day knowing that such incidents could happen to you. Can any of us say we really understand and truly empathize with those who suffer such racism? Have any of us ever felt deep rooted hatred for no other reason that the color of our skin?
I’m seeing throughout social media those who acknowledge and condemn the police brutality against George Floyd, yet some of these same people just can’t understand why people need to protest and criticize when such protests turn to chaos and violence. Think about this. Remember when Colin Kaepernick, the NFL football player, tried to peacefully protest the injustices in our country by simply kneeling on one knee during the national anthem before football games? What did that type of protest achieve? And how annoyed did people get, even in the highest office in the land, to his peaceful protests? Did society want to listen to what he was protesting about, and how many people actually did something concrete to address the evils of racism he highlighted?
Well, maybe it’s hard to for some to understand why people protest and why some protests turn violent, but it’s hard to understand simply because we don’t want to acknowledge the deep hurt, pain, and humiliation that lead to the anger. Racism is a scourge in our country from its foundation with slavery and the way we treated the indigenous peoples of America, then took on different forms even after the Civil War and abolition of slavery, and continued yet again in other forms after the Civil Rights Movement and the witness of such people like Martin Luther King.
Racism is alive and well in our country, as well as throughout humanity because its egocentric root is in the heart of our fallen human nature. Only people who have truly, sincerely, deeply cleansed and purified their hearts from the deceptions of their ego, of the arrogance that makes them think they are better than another, can overcome the temptations of racism, or any other form of labeling other people. Until we truly and sincerely repent and allow God’s divine light to purify our hearts, a light which will help us see every person in this world as a fellow child of God, only then will we overcome this curse of racism.
I’ve heard very sincere and well-meaning people actually say to me, “No, I don’t believe racism still exists in our country.” Are they blind? Or are they just insensitive to the reality of others? Racism and all forms of prejudice and bias will always exist because of our fallen human nature. Thus, we have to constantly be on guard and battle against these temptations of evil within ourselves, and within our society as a whole.
Another well-meaning person told me just recently, “Well, it’s a lot better now then it used to be.” Well, that may be true, yet this is NOT an acceptable attitude! Sure, we don’t have slavery anymore. Yes, we don’t have blacks treated as second class citizens by law. OK, we had a black president and we can see plenty of African-Americans who have succeeded to the top of society. That’s all fine and good, but none of that takes away the fact that racism is still very much alive and active, because it’s a part of our fallen, egocentric selves. Countless lynchings occurred in the South during the Jim Crow era, yet imagine, two months ago a black jogger runs down the street for exercise and gets shot and killed, for absolutely no reason at all, and the two white men who killed him only get arrested after 58 days because a video pops up and goes viral. The spirit of lynchings seems quite alive and well in the hearts of some people!
Today, I want us to try to understand and empathize with those who face various forms of racism every day? If we want to understand how peaceful protests can turn into violent riots, try to put yourself in the shoes of those who have been discriminated against, humiliated, and treated unjustly.
I read a moving facebook post yesterday that helped me realize how insidious racism is. Listen to this story that Deltha Katherine Harbin posted:
"My husband Phillip is 31 years old. My husband can proofread a paper to perfection. He makes the best pork chops and neckbones. My husband was raised in an extremely wholesome home where they were not even allowed to watch Harry Potter. My husband has never tried any drugs, not even weed. He has never stolen from anyone, not even a corner store. My husband treats me and our sons like royalty. He serves at our local church faithfully and helps anyone he can. None of this stopped my husband from becoming a suspect in Semmes, Alabama.
My husband wanted to do me a favor one night when he got home late from work. He got my keys and drove around the corner to fill my tank at the gas station. While there, an older white woman was at a pump across from him and he noticed she appeared very nervous and stared at him. He said she got in her vehicle and got on her phone and pulled off to an area near the gas station. Within minutes, police cars pulled in and surrounded him. He was questioned about why he was out. He was questioned about his activity earlier in the day. He was told he fit a description. They asked whose car he was driving. He was told he could not leave. He was told the description was simply a black man. Not a 5 ft 7 inch black man of around 220 lbs who loves WWE, macaroni and cheese, and the Temptations. Just black.
The older woman was watching and the cops revealed she had called in his suspicious behavior of pumping gas. And now he was a suspect because he fit the description of being black. He was humiliated. He was emasculated. He was angry. He was helpless. He was on his way to being cuffed when a white man stepped in. An older white man told the officers they were wrong and that my husband had come from a different direction than the robbery they had mentioned. The officers released my husband after this. Not because my husband told them multiple times he was innocent. Not because there were two car seats in the back of my car. My husband's voice meant nothing. The only voice that penetrated those badges was a white one.
My hard working, kind-hearted, silly husband was guilty because of his skin and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. The sight of him caused a woman to call the police. He said he wanted to scream. He wanted to fight. He wanted yell at the top of his lungs that he was a man and he mattered. If he had, he would be deemed aggressive. He would be resisting so he said he kept telling himself he had to make it home to me and the boys. He knew these men could kill him and justify it.
He came home a changed man. I am a changed woman. We cried. We prayed and we have healed since this took place but it changed us. Issues that once felt somewhat distant became our reality. So, when you dismiss the plight of black men in America, you diminish the ever present fear within our community. You are willfully ignorant. If you think people make this up or are only apprehended by the police when they deserve it... YOU are part of the problem.
Open your eyes but more importantly open your hearts to the reality of being black [or being a minority] in America. We don't get the luxury of ignoring it because we live it. [In the post I saw a beautiful picture of Deltha’s husband and their two precious children.] This picture of my precious family looks threatening to some people. My boys are cuddly and cute until they aren't anymore and then they become a threat, too. My heart aches for our country and I feel so helpless. Lord, please heal the hearts and minds in our land!"
Wow! This woman gives us a clear picture of what racism does, how it makes someone feel, how it dehumanizes a person. Can any of us say something like this has ever happened to us? I can only imagine that if such an event did happen to you, and you constantly heard other stories even worse that happen to people simply because of their skin color, you would get frustrated, and even angry? And maybe your anger would turn into violence.
Any form of racism is evil. Racism poisons the people who hate, and it tries to poison those on the receiving end, tempting them to return hate with hate, to return violence with violence.
Martin Luther King described the only cure to such evil: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence in a descending spiral of destruction ... The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
But what about us who are bystanders? How will we respond? When racist acts occur around us, do we stay silent, do we stay indifferent, do we become indignant for a short time and then go on with our lives, or will we truly try to empathize with those suffering such discrimination, and push for change – change within our own hearts, as well as change within society.
During all the horrific injustice that Martin Luther King and his people faced during the Civil Rights movement, King lamented especially about the apathy and passivity of most people.
“Those who passively accept evil are as much involved in the evil as the ones who help to perpetrate it…. Anyone who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it…The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over such racism by the good people.”
We can’t stay silent. We can’t stay passive. We have to fight the roots of racism and any other forms of our ego that leads us to label and despise others. We must fight this evil within our own hearts, and then fight against it within society as a whole. We must never forget that every person is a child of God, created in His image and likeness, and thus, we are brothers and sisters with all. Every true follower of Christ should always deeply respect, honor, and love this other person, no matter how different they may seem.
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