The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!
One of the most depressing activities to be engaged in in the American society is the work of racial justice, and the imperative of racial reconciliation and harmony in Christian churches in America. Sometimes, it seems to be an isolated or lonely journey. (You will lose friends, and people will call you names, stop talking to you or will not interact with your work.) However, racial justice and racial reconciliation are a necessity for human flourishing, to heal America’s “sick soul,” and for the triumph of the Gospel message of grace in our society.
While we must continue fighting together against systemic oppressions that seek to tear us apart as a people, and those that devalue human life and dehumanize the image of God in targeted racial groups and ethnic communities in our culture, we also have an equal responsibility to teach little black, brown, and white boys and girls about the success and triumph of these underrepresented individuals and communities in our society. Their triumph and success is also ours and ultimately America’s triumph and success.
The little white girl needs to know it is okay to have a black hero.
The little Asian boy needs to know it is fine to have a black heroine.
The little black boy needs to know it is all right to have an Asian role model.
The little white boy needs to know it is acceptable to have a Hispanic/Latino/a role model.
They, too, sing America!
In The Vocation of the Elite, published in 1919, Haitian intellectual Jean Price-Mars discusses the importance of affirming the contributions of other peoples and nations in the process of creating a new humanism and move forward toward a more promising human society. He writes perceptively, “Our task at the moment is to contribute to a national way of thinking indicative of our feelings, our strengths and our weaknesses. We can do so by gleaning ideas generated by ideas contained in the masterpieces which are the pride of humanity’s common heritage. This is the only way in which the study and assimilation of the works of the mind play an indispensable part in the enrichment of our culture.”
It is a very unfortunate phenomenon that in American Evangelical circles, the racial factor and sociological ties are stronger than the spiritual bond that should have been the catalyst or the fuel to ignite the inextinguishable flame toward intentional unity and friendship, and a relationship of mutual reciprocity and selflessness. Gospel reconciliation ministry is a doing and a practice. We need to do more of it and write less about it.Although we Americans have never been a “united country” and “united people,” we have to strive together for unity and common understanding. Unity regardless of our race, ethnicity, social class, economic status, gender, sexuality, and religion is what this contemporary American society desperately needs. On the other hand, we understand that genuine unity and reconciliation will not happen among us until we learn to talk to each other, listen to each other, and bear one another’s burden. We are a society of profound wound. A lot of us are hurting. A lot of us are suffering. It is time for healing. It is time for unity. It is time for repentance. It is time for forgiveness. It is certainly the time for reconciliation.
Churches that continue to be silent on the problem of race, gender, and ethnicity, and ignore the painful experience and history of the black and brown christians and other disadvantaged peoples in our culture are not Gospel-transformative and human-senstive communities of faith. These congregations will soon be declined in the twenty-first century American culture. Their ineffective lies in their consistent refusal to help heal the wound, suffering, and pain of these people.
In a recent article, “Many Americans have no friends of another race: poll” (Reuters, August 8, 2013), it is observed that “About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll.” The author of the same article affirms that “Younger American adults appear to confirm this, according to the poll. About one third of Americans under the age of 30 who have a partner or spouse are in a relationship with someone of a different race, compared to one tenth of Americans over 30. And only one in 10 adults under 30 say no one among their families, friends or coworkers is of a different race, less than half the rate for Americans as a whole.” Evidently, there is not only a crisis of American friendship, there is tremendous problem to be relational in the American culture.
We need to validate each other, rejoice in one another’s accomplishment, and bear one another’s burden. Without being relational, interconnected, and interdependent, we will not move forward as a community of faith and as a nation. We need to cultivate more interracial and interethnic friendship in our churches, communities, workplaces, and neighborhoods. The work of racial justice and reconciliation is hard, but it is very rewarding at the end.