” God created the human race, humans created racism.” -Jane Elliot
Racism. We all are somewhat scared of and responsible for this word. An upsurge in protests snowballing across many countries in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is shaming racism and racists. Topics that were once sacrosanct are now public discussions. The world is waking up to the damaging effects of institutionalized and systemic racism that has plagued “minority races” for decades. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, activists and protesters are stamping their feet down, pumping their fists in the air demanding equality for all races. These measures are certainly drawing attention to the issue but unless conscious steps are taken by every individual, it “may” be a waste of time. We may not be responsible for racism but we sure do have our work cut out in achieving its deconstruction.
Living in imperfect societies as Christians compels us to do the one thing we’ve been called to do – Love. The famous one-liner, “if you can’t beat them, join them” isn’t a Christian mantra, but rather debunking it is what we are called to do. We can’t stand up to racism by inciting hatred or shrinking into our holes but by loving people of all ethnicity and language like Christ did, unconditionally. Mike Todd in his sermon on racial reconciliation expatiates on a commandment God gave us; “love your neighbour – not your black neighbour, or white neighbour, or affluent neighbour”. The knowledge that in Christ, there are no divisions based on race or ethnicity would be more effective if it were truly practiced rather than stated.
Prejudice, discrimination, structural and institutionalized injustice can be demolished with racial reconciliation which upholds love, tolerance, inclusion and respect as its tenets. Recognizing the problem and actually believing it is a problem is a good place to starting the journey of racial reconciliation. We ought to have a level of self awareness rather than feign ignorance on the issue, only then will we see it as a social problem that needs to be tackled.
Racial reconciliation is not just the sermons but the conscious and consistent love for people, not because of the colour of their skin but because they are human. Love encompasses everything we need to fight racism. There is beauty in diversity, I mean the world will be so bland if everything existed in one shade. Accepting and embracing this draws us closer to the fulfilment of the revelation John had when he saw people of all race, language, nation and tribe worshipping God in harmony.
Reconciling races is possible when we’ve been reconciled to ourselves. No race is inferior to the other, therefore you are not inferior, the spirit in you is not the spirit of fear but of love and that eliminates all fear. We are all worthy of respect and equality and because this decades-long monster has eaten deep into our societies and institutions does not imply we have to settle for and expect less. We are to celebrate our ethnic identity and uniqueness, whether we be African, European, Asian, American, Australian, Biracial, Multiracial, we are God’s ingenious handiwork. We love God and by transforming into His image, we become love and in turn, we love others.
Self-examination reveals who we inherently are. There are social, religious and institutionalized constructs and biases inculcated in us from our childhood which may be discriminatory, this can unconsciously lead us to perpetrate the myths and stereotypes we grew up feeling were normal. Racial reconciliation means evaluating our beliefs and theories about people different from us and ultimately deconstructing the prejudiced, bigoted ones.
The one way racism can be ousted is through love, the God kind – agape. Sure activism raises awareness but treating everyone equally starts from an individual making the choice to love. And how best can we love except we have love in us? There is one who loved us all so much He gave His life for us and if we let Him in, then we too can love effortlessly, regardless of who it is, White, black, brown, red.
In a world where hatred and strife is growing, may we choose to be symbols of love.
IfiokAbasi Okop and Steven Kator Iorfa. ©2020