Have you been troubled over the last 10 days or so as we have seen demonstrations and riots engulf cities in our neighbour to the south? I have been. There have been disturbing images of rioting and looting that have not been supportive of the actual intentions of the demonstrations to bring attention to the issues of racism and the treatment of Black persons at the hands of police. In contrast there have been a few encouraging images of police putting away their weapons, expressing support for the demonstrators and joining the march. I am praying for the success of the demonstrations and for the end to the violence of rioting and the corresponding violence being used to control those situations.
I recognize and confess my “white privilege.” It does at least two things for me. First, it has provided me with many automatic societal benefits in my life that have come easily and with minimal effort. Second, it has blinded me to the absence of these societal benefits in the lives of the few Black persons, Indigenous persons, and other persons of colour who have been a part of my life over the years. These realizations have only come to me in the last three to five years or so. I know that some people (perhaps some reading this) will not understand the term or feel that it does not apply to them. I invite you to consider the things you do every day with the assumption that you can do so without concerns about being watched or judged and then consider the everyday experience of Black persons who consistently share that their experience of such everyday things is considerably different. Here is an explanatory page from the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre.
I have been challenged in these last few days to drop my self-perceived nature of being “not racist.” Whether or not that is an accurate self-perception, it represents, at best, a passive, non-committed attitude to do anything about the racism that is evident in so many ways around me. Instead, I am being challenged to actually be “anti-racist,” meaning that I actively become aware of situations of racism around me and begin to do something about them. It means calling out a racist joke that I might hear from a friend. I think I can do that. It means being aware of racist comments of people around me and having the courage to say something to correct them. Can I do that? I don’t know.
The best commitment I can make, and that I encourage you to make, is to seek ways to become better informed about issues of race, racism, and anti-racism. A new resource has been released online in just the last week or so by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (No, I had never heard of it before either.) Talking about Race covers topics such as being antiracist, bias, community building, and many more.
If you might be interested in a theological treatment of the Black experience let me recommend James H. Cone’s “God of the Oppressed.” It is not an easy read, but it is a worthwhile read.
Why am I concerned about this – other than because I am disturbed by the images and stories of the last several days? It is because I take seriously our mission initiatives to “Abolish Poverty, End Suffering,” and “Pursue Peace on Earth.” And because I feel a commitment to the enduring principles of “Worth of All Persons,” “Pursuit of Peace (Shalom),” “Unity in Diversity,” and “Blessings of Community.” May we always seek to “let the oppressed go free, (and) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:19).
Grace and Peace,
Canada West Mission Centre President
community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537