When everything becomes quiet again, when the media outrage has settled and you aren’t seeing the names and pictures of those gunned down in the name of racism, like we are seeing Ahmaud’s right now, what will you do?
Because racism doesn’t stop existing when social media outrage settles.
And fighting against the injustice of racism doesn’t wait to start until its consequences and social impacts are loud and inescapable.
Do you remember when you were little, and the schools would show you anti-bullying videos? The one thing that I really remember from those is the whole thing about bystanders. If you witness someone being bullied, if you stand there and do nothing, you are also at fault for the oppression of the people you refused to stand up for.
For a really long time, I wondered about what it looks like, as a white person, to speak out against racism. And then I realized something very important, the whole question of whether I should say anything or not is the wrong question. The question I should be asking is: Am I actively seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking with God in the way that I understand and fight against racism?
That answers the whether or not I should say anything question very quickly, then, because to wholeheartedly seek justice, you must use your voice and resources to do so. You cannot half-heartedly seek justice if you are seeking to be like Christ.
The Gospel isn’t the Gospel without Justice. Justice is a critical part of the mending and restoring of human beings to God; and, if a human being is suffering any kind of injustice, it is the very call of the Christian to listen to the cry of injustice and actively pray and act in defiance against it.
When we are silent, when we are ignorant, when we choose to look the other way—that is when our privilege becomes a weapon of oppression, whether or not that is the intention literally does not matter. The result of turning a blind eye, staying silent, watching the battle against racism from the sidelines, persists racism—encourages it to a degree.
You know a lot of people don’t have the privilege of ignoring racism.
In the Early Church, one of the very first issues was racism. And I don’t mean racism outside of the Church, although that existed too, obviously—I mean racism from believers toward other believers. This issue is addressed in the New Testament, more than once, and Paul writes the following verse in Galatians:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28)
Paul beings this statement not with a comparison of class or gender (although both are there and crucial) but with one that addresses the strong tensions of cultural diversity, ethnicity, and race in the Early Church. I may have white skin, and having white skin affords me the privilege (which should not be a privilege but a basic human right) of not being on guard about the possibility of being attacked and/or killed just for the color of my skin. I have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who have been afforded no such privilege. If we are convinced of the Truth of Scripture, and if we believe that what Paul wrote about us all being one in Christ is True, we will be active warriors for Justice against racism wherever we are and however we can. Just because I am not a target of racism doesn’t mean that those who share my Blood, the Blood of Christ flowing through the veins of any believer, are not. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
We are called to be conduits of Justice in the world—to be the most radical, Holy Spirit-filled champions of the mission of the Gospel. We are called to be Light and Salt in this earth, but what does it look like to the world around us when prominent parts of the Western Church ignore the very prominent issues facing many of the brothers and sisters who are a part of these communities?
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
We are all human—we are all made in the Image of God—so if someone is being oppressed for the color of their skin, say something, do something—don’t just watch or walk the other way. Privilege is not an excuse for ignorance and inaction.
I have a lot to learn about what it looks like to stand up against the injustice of racism—I think those of us who haven’t experienced it directly will always have more to learn in the fight against racism. Seek out resources from people who actually know what it is like to experience racism to inform you—seek out people you trust and work to become more aware of the ways you can join in fighting for justice against racism. And pray really, really bold prayers. God does good work with bold prayers in any fight for justice.
I’ll leave you with this:
“If you are so tired of hearing about racism, imagine how tired people must be of experiencing it?” (Bryce Stamey)