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Racism: “A Sin Issue”

The systemic racism and white supremacy trainings I’ve attended are backed with mounds of data. On leaving the last training, I felt emotionally drained and exhausted because the current laws and systems that have oppressed people of color for centuries showed me how much more work we have to do. Feelings of despair came as I stared at systemic mountains of injustice and questioned my work in underserved communities. These feelings returned after the murder of George Floyd as it felt like the more questions I asked the deeper and wider the problems grew. 

Many [Christians] think they are finished with and immune to such a sin.

For example statements like “Racism is a sin issue.” and “We need to get back to this nation’s Christian foundation.” were made in response to the racial climate. I had conversations with God because I couldn’t get past these statements. I asked follow-up questions like “Is that all that is going to be said about racism—that it’s a sin issue? How can the US be built on Christian principles when it was built on the backs of oppressed people?” 

We can all agree that racism is a sin. [Why? Racism is showing favoritism, partiality, thinking more highly of oneself, and hatred.] However, when I’ve seen “Racism is a sin” stated in light of the events happening in our country, this is what I hear: “Racism is a sin issue in this country, not one that I wrestle with because I am a Christian and as a new creation I don’t have to deal with that anymore.” It’s as if many in the Evangelical Christian community think they are finished with and immune to such a sin. These statements can lead people to stop looking within themselves or searching their own heart for this issue which doesn’t allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. And here’s one reason why we may not see this lurking in our hearts:

It has been covertly passed down through generations.

If you grew up white in America you are in the majority and benefit from a system created for you. It means your ancestors enslaved people from Africa, killed Indigenous people for their land, nearly killing them all. America was founded at the expense of others. That expense being lives. It means America was built on bodies and graves. It took dehumanization for these ugly things in our history to happen. It took shaping minds to fit the narratives for White Americans to be in positions of power and People of color to be oppressed. Unfortunately, the mindsets that dehumanized people, stealing them and extinguishing them didn’t disappear with the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Voting Rights Acts or Affirmative Action, they’re still very alive today. 

What may start in one generation as something explicitly taught can eventually pass through future generations implicitly.

Let me explain it a little further: I recently listened to a conversation between Dr. Anita Phillips and Christine Caine. As a licensed counselor and therapist, Dr. Phillips takes a trauma-informed approach when addressing racism. In their conversation, Dr. Phillips talked about how things in cultures get passed down from generation to generation. What may start in one generation as something explicitly taught can eventually pass through future generations implicitly without a word being spoken. It reminds me of the story of the woman who always cut off the edges of a pot roast before cooking it. When a friend asked and received the recipe, the friend asked the woman, “Why do you cut off the edges of the roast before cooking it?” She replied, “I don’t know, my mom has always done it, let’s ask her.” This same response is given until they ask the great grandmother who reveals it was because she didn’t have a pot big enough to fit the roast in. Just like cutting off the edge of a pot roast was passed down in this story without being overtly taught, racist mindsets have been passed down too. 

There are mindsets and beliefs (though detached by several generations) that have racist roots. Doesn’t that mean there might be things in our lives placed there by previous generations that we have yet to deal with? The emphatic answer is: yes! And we need the Holy Spirit to help us uncover those things, repent from them and grow in spite of them. And this is a starting point, not a finishing point. I encourage you to learn more about the history of our nation and how it has shaped laws, systems, and even your thoughts. I encourage you to meditate on scripture that exposes the hidden things of the heart asking the Holy Spirit to convict you, help you, and guide you in this process. 

This piece was originally published on Krystle Sanders blog.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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