Reflections on Racism Part 2


Reflections on Racism 2


“For now there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, woman or man for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28


Racism didn’t begin with the United States.  We are simply a current manifestation of what has been a persistent human struggle. 


In the earliest period of the Christian community in Jerusalem, shortly after Pentecost, there was a dispute that arose between the Hebrew and the Greek widows who were being served by the apostles (Acts 6).  The Greek widows’ needs were being overlooked in favor of the Hebrew widows’ (an issue of racial discrimination).  The earliest expression of the community of Jesus was also affected by racism!


Over the years as your pastor I have listened to countless stories of the discrimination that you have experienced.  A few stand out to me at this moment…

-A youth group denied the use of the paddleboats at Landa Park because they were brown.

-Scout Troop 52, in uniform, denied service at a restaurant because “they didn’t serve dogs or Mexicans”

-A child made to eat on the ground with the dogs of the household where her mother was a housemaid

-Being passed over in a job for a white person of less capacity and experience

-Beatings in school or at home for speaking Spanish instead of English

-Being chastised by a checker in the grocery store for not speaking English

-A young checker chastised by a woman who spoke Spanish for not being Mexican enough because she didn’t speak Spanish

-Parental preferences for the siblings who were ‘mas guerita’ or ‘guerito’

-And just this past weekend…being followed around in a Rockport store by the staff because everyone knows Hispanic folk are thieves!


To a person you have experienced the evil of racism.  Yes.  Brown Lives Matter too, and the discrimination and prejudice that you have experienced is also very, very real and very, very evil. And though it is NOT something I have experienced, I have heard you and have sought to stand with you in your struggles for dignity, respect and freedom to be yourselves.


But I want to respond to the discomfort that some folks have expressed about supporting the Black Lives Matter demands for change at this moment in history.   (Let me be clear, I do not support the use of violent means to effect this change.  I make a distinction between rioters and protesters.  Violent means yield violent ends no matter which side is using the violence, those defending the status quo with power or those seeking change in the status quo.)  I can say without hesitation or caveat that black lives need to matter right now because, when we finally address the lack of dignity and equality for black lives, I believe all the rest of our lives will matter as well.


I was in seminary during the height of three liberation theology movements.  Black Liberation theology, Women’s Liberation theology, and Third World Liberation theology.  Authors representing each of these movements were decrying the ‘blindness’ of traditional White, Male, European/North American theology.  All of them were correct to call out the Racist, Sexist and Classist bias of the Western Christian tradition.  Each of them offered a much-needed corrective to the status quo of the time.  But what I found fascinating and frustrating was the competition among them about which form of historic oppression was most basic, or the original sin. 


Is classism-the oppression of the rich over the poor-the most fundamental form of oppression?

            Look at the Exodus story of wealthy and prosperous Egypt enslaving the poorer peoples

Is sexism—the oppression of women by men—the most fundamental?

            Look at the patriarchy of the Genesis narrative

Is racism—the oppression of one race over another—the most fundamental?

            Look at Exodus slavery as the story of ethnic/racial oppression of another culture


This seemed a futile argument to me…ALL of these forms of oppression have been around for a LOOOOONG time!  And the gospel message is that ALL of them (should) come to an end in Christ Jesus!  That is what the Galatians passage declares: “For now there is no longer Jew or Greek (racism), slave or free (classism), woman or man(sexism) for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28


All of this is to suggest that today we need to stop debating whether Black lives matter MORE than brown lives, or white lives or police officer lives, or any other lives.  The truth in this moment is that we should be listening to the life experience of the black community and together with them decrying that for far too long their lives have NOT mattered.  We should be recognizing that of all of the oppressions that have and still exist in this nation, only black lives were enslaved, and the vestiges of that history are still with us, and must be undone.


Martin Luther King Jr. declared that “No one is free until we are all free!”  That, sisters and brothers is what the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to help us see, understand and achieve.  When we can lift the last boat, then all the boats will be floating.


I am reminded of a metaphor I learned from my mentor, Father Jose Marins, when he taught on Philippians 2:6-7 “Though (Christ) shared the very nature of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage, but made himself nothing by taking on the nature of a slave.”  Marins would say, “Imagine Jesus coming to the long line of humanity and asking, ’Where is the end of the line?  Who is in the last place?’ Then, when he finally discovers the least important, the least powerful, the least dignified person, Jesus says, ‘OK, now I will take my place behind you, the very last place, because only from here can I embrace ALL of humanity with my salvation.’”


Sisters and Brothers, today Jesus is asking us to stand in the last place with the black members of our human family because only from that place can we, with Christ, embrace the whole family with the freedom and the dignity that God desires for us all.