Pastor’s Corner (7/9/2020)
“This book is ultimately about the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.”
Ibram X. Kendy
Whenever I want to deal with something, I turn to books. I’ve been described as “bookish” throughout my life and I embrace that description. We find ourselves in difficult times and in my desire to grapple with all that is happening, I turned to a highly recommended book How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendy. Dealing with COVID-19 has put us in uncharted territory. Sadly, dealing with the protests and cries for justice puts us in an all too familiar place. There have been cries for racial justice throughout my lifetime and throughout the lifetime of our nation. As we move past the celebrations of Independence Day, I find myself wondering how things could be different. How can we help create a world of love and justice for all people? I believe this is God’s vision for us, and yet it seems so elusive. I want to be a part of the world God envisions and I suspect many of you feel the same way. Perhaps you turn to other sources, but I turn to the Good Book and good books like Kendy’s.
Part of the power of Kendy’s book is the author’s desire to take us deeper into an often troubling and uncomfortable subject. He uses his own story to share the journey from racism to antiracism. He goes on to say: “This is the consistent function of racist ideas-and of any kind of bigotry more broadly: to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them.” Kendy invites us to look deeper, beyond individuals and personal preferences. He also encourages us to take an active stance. For Kendy, saying we are “not racist” is a neutral stance and does not equip us to actively respond. He comments that “Denial is the heartbeat of racism, beating across ideologies, races, and nations.” It’s so easy to feel defensive and to respond out of that denial and defensiveness without looking at the heart of the issue. He succinctly describes the difference between a “racist” and an “antiracist”:
One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equity as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.”
Kendy realizes that this is challenging and uncomfortable, but also essential. Kendy goes on to say “the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it-and then dismantle it.”
I believe that we also face the challenge of confronting the theology that has often supported racism. As people of faith we have a challenge before us, but I strongly believe that with God’s help and support from one another, we can embrace this challenge. I invite you to join me as we name, confront, and challenge racism. I welcome anyone who wishes to join me in reading Kendy’s book. Perhaps you have a book you like better, I’m open to suggestions. I also know plans are being made for a Regional conversation regarding racism and antiracism. Let’s be the agents of change God calls us to be. Let’s be instruments of God’s love and justice for all God’s children. The irony of it all is that as we confront these issues we make the world a better and more loving place for us all.
With love and peace,