Hi there. You are probably feeling the way I feel. Exhausted…
And I get it, you’ve been at home for the last 3-4 months seeing nothing but emails, co workers and friends over zoom, and google meet, COVID-19 deaths and cases, and the last thing you want to see is all your friends talk about racism, and social issues you may not think are important enough as being able to see your friends and family members.
Maybe you are exhausted because you’ve seen the deaths, I mean- murders, and have been in conversations that seem to be unfruitful; and you may be hoping to ignore the social media posts, stories, and IGTV videos for your days, weeks, and years to go back to normal, but for some of us our normal is going back to living in fear that we could be the next murder that goes viral, or the next victim of injustice that may or may not be heard and or believed.
I’ve been asked by a lot of my friends about how I feel about the current events, what I think the church should do, my own experiences, who I disagree and agree with, and has systemic racism ended. So I would like to accomplish these things by sharing the reason why we disagree, how I have also been racist and experienced racism, and to clear up a misunderstanding. I ask for your patience and your time. This may be your second time reading this writing, or maybe you’ve already lost interest. But if you want me to listen and understand you, I’m going to ask you listen and try to understand me; that’s usually how conversations work, and you can always take a break, and continue reading when you’re ready. But without further, delay, let’s go.
WHY WE DISAGREE
A lot of us disagree on whether racism exists or not is because we have different definitions to what racism is. What is racism? Is it systemic? Is it an issue the church should care about? I’ve had conversations with several Christians and often come out of them more discouraged or confused, sometimes frustrated and angry rather than thankful, because although we profess in many of the same biblical truths, there tends to be very sharp disagreements here.
“What’s the bible’s definition of racism?” “I won’t trust/support anything the world says”. “Are you quoting an activist or a theologian?”
No the bible doesn’t give a clear, explicit definition to racism, but the bible on multiple occasions points out how we should not be treating one another. I think one of the main reasons why Christians disagree on even the definition of racism is because some people want to make racism a sin of motive rather than a sin seen by action, behaviour, or idea.
If you view racism as a sin only of motive, that means Derek Chauvin is a murderer before he is a racist. That means if you are not satisfied with enough “evidence” outside of the context of the killing to prove racist motives, any other reason is acceptable besides the fact that someone can be a racist.
Is the rapist a rapist before he is lustful? Is the thief a thief before he is greedy? Racism cannot simply be “hating another person because of their skin colour”, because you now have a presupposition of what hatred is; and when hatred is disguised, (systemic racism) you will then be blind to racism in even it’s more subtle and gentle forms.
“For God shows no partiality.” – Romans 2:11
I believe racism to be a sin of action, behaviour and idea. I believe racism to be any idea, behaviour, and action that creates racial inequity. Hatred has levels, and so does racism. Partiality and bias has levels, and so does racism. God is not like this, but we are, and I have been racist too.
HOW I HAVE BEEN RACIST & EXPERIENCED IT
I am a Ghanian, born in Canada. My parents are immigrants, and they didn’t speak enough of our language, or teach my brothers and I enough of our culture for me to be like a “Ghanian” in Canada. They were too busy adapting to Canadian culture in hopes to have a better future for us. They wanted us to have Canadian accents so that we wouldn’t sound “unintelligent” over the phone, or a threat when we opened our mouths. But that came with a price, being made fun of by other Ghanians. And even my parents being looked down on or chastised because we couldn’t speak Twi. The culture though that didn’t have any problem with me was Hip-Hop, Toronto Hip-Hop, and even some of Jamaican culture. I just had to listen to the music, wear the clothes, understand the codes of the street to be accepted. I remember wanting braids, or cornrows one day and my parents told me no. They didn’t want me to be Jamaican, or African American. Even though the world views Africans and Caribbean decent people the same “black”. It was shameful to have an afro, so our hair was cut often, and I was always in this weird spot where I had to represent my ethnicity to other white people, and repaint a “better”, more whiter and tamed image of what black people could be to white people, and even other people of colour who’ve had negative experiences with black people.
I have created inequity to other ethnicities in my own life. I have taken advantage and bullied others who were afraid of me simply because of my skin colour, I would ruin first impressions on purpose, walk around with a mean mug, look down on other people of my own ethnicity for being less Canadian and cultured than me, touching white people’s hair because I also want to think “it’s interesting and funny”, and sadly even viewing people of darker skin of less value than me, being more attracted to women of lighter skin, and not wanting to grow darker myself. (Sad because I am chocolate myself!) These are things I have done as an unbeliever, and things I to this day consciously have to shower myself with the gospel that we are all made in the image of God, and that God shows no partiality. If I can be outraged at the obvious ideas, behaviours and actions on another human being based on their ethnic background or race, then I also need to be outraged at even the favouritism of other ethnic backgrounds, and the subtle hatred of other ethnic backgrounds.
My grade 3 teacher told my parents “Philip needs beatings.” There were three black kids in my class I would get into fights because the other white kids would pick on me for my last name and she felt she could speak “real” with my parents because they are both black. (My parents took her advice which I PARTIALLY deserved) I have had my hand ignored in classrooms and picked less and encouraged less than my white peers, I have been told by officers that I should be driving a Honda Civic instead of a Benz. (I did buy a Honda Civic when my Benz died but it was the best bang for my buck at the time). I and a white lady had been pulled over by the same two white officers for speeding and I was the only one who got a ticket, I have been assumed in church to know all the black people who are also visitors in the church, I have been asked along with white peers where I am from, only to have the white peers end with a residential answer, and me going as far to why my parents would come to Canada, unsatisfied with my initial answer. Advised against by parents to not be a man their daughter should date because of the racist stereotypes associated with my skin colour, and the list goes on… and I am not alone. If racism is only a presupposed concept of hate that one already skeptical has to determine, then I am only speaking fairy tales. Red lining, over-policing, mass incarceration, profiling, un warranted searches, policies that result in racial inequities or partialities, murders during restraint, are all not racist; not clear signs of what you think hatred or partiality based on skin colour and ethnic background are. This is why I’m exhausted, and why you should be too. Maybe that’s why you would rather talk about abortion instead, or black on black crime. Tell me not to support BLM for protesting for people like me because they are not gospel centered, but you would vote conservative or republican because your taxes do not fund abortion clinics, and shrug your shoulders to everything else. It is exhausting but I also have hope, and a misunderstanding to clear up.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T MISUNDERSTAND ME
To clear up a misunderstanding, I believe systemic racism exists, and experience it, but I have always been free. To be more specific, there was a time where I was a slave to my passions, desires, thoughts, and hatred to self and others, deserving of punishment for my sins, and the sins I have done to others.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
If I was physically a slave now, I am still free, and though there is a system, and people who create racial inequity based on their ideas, behaviours and actions, I would still be free. My identity as a slave of Jesus, child of God, heir with Christ, does not change one bit. But it’s because of this freedom, that is why we persist of even breaking the chains that have aged into a systemic system or rope that bears strange fruit of people of colour.
“Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let it concern you, but if you can gain your freedom, take the opportunity. ” -1st Corinthians 7:21
I do not have conversations, share content, or speak my mind with others to guilt my brothers and sisters about their privilege, attract attention, play the victim, but simply so that we take the opportunity to freedom while the remnants of partiality remain. We may not achieve this until the Lord returns, but I do want to have Him return to a people who tried. I am thankful to everyone who has and is protesting, my church for speaking out on this issue, pursuing unity in the church not just theologically but ethnically as well, my friends who have sought to encourage and comfort me, and even for the believers who enjoy to disagree with me. I thank God for it all, we are not perfect, but we serve a God who is, and He is coming soon to make all things right. It is now for us to not only share the message of reconciliation, but through being reconciled to Christ, reconcile with one another.
Thank you for reading, I feel much better.