Statement on Racial Justice
March 11, 2021
There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
Today, we take these words from the Apostle Paul for granted. In Paul’s day, especially to his Jewish brothers and sisters this was a difficult message to hear. They were raised with the understanding that they were God’s chosen people. They were not allowed to even eat at the same table as a Gentile (non-Jewish person). In Paul’s understanding, Jesus Christ changed everything. God was doing a new thing because God loved every person on this earth. Paul saw Christianity even breaking down the barriers that separated people like slavery. The vision expressed here is so radical that even Paul could not fully live into it. He was a product of his times and so he tolerated slavery because it was too ingrained in his world to fully think beyond it.
This vision is what drives me to want to better understand racial injustice and the systemic racism I was largely unaware of until the George Floyd incident. As much as I had read previously about slavery in America and had begun to realize its residual effects that have led to generational poverty among persons of color, I did not appreciate how pervasive racism is. A light bulb went off in my head when I read a statement on Twitter that said, “Racial violence is not new, it is just now being caught on video.” As someone who has worked alongside police officers as a chaplain and as a SWAT Negotiator, I’ve always taken the side of law enforcement when these racial incidents occurred. I now realize I can no longer make that assumption. I also realize this attitude is a product of systemic racism.
Since that time, our congregation has read Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison. Our church staff has studied together, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi. Our eyes have been opened to how much our history has been whitewashed. Slavery did not end in 1865 in the south and the dehumanization of African Americans and other persons of color has persisted ever since. Yes, we have come a long way in this country and we should celebrate the progress that has been made, but we also need to recognize how this history has created several racial inequities that still exist.
In the United States, as of 2020 nearly 60% of the population identifies as Caucasian or white. That means over 40% of our country is made up of persons of color. Yet, as recently as 2017, the ten richest Americans are 100% white, the U.S. Congress 90% white, U.S. governors 96% white, people who decide which TV shows we see 93% white, people who decide which news is covered 85% white, teachers 84% white. These numbers describe who is in power. They are why we talk about white privilege. Most persons who are light skinned rarely even think about the color of their skin but persons of color, especially African Americans, have to think about that every day of their life.
African Americans make up 13% of our population. I believe it should be our ultimate goal to see a similar percentage of blacks among the ranks of our teachers, doctors, lawyers and business owners. To get there we have to work together to tackle the racial inequities that limit educational opportunities, housing options, voting rights and employment disparities. I often hear white people attempt to redirect blame and start referring to persons of color as “they.” As a Christian, this language is unacceptable. God has called us over and over in scripture to take the side of the marginalized. Jesus said, “When you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me.” We need to start saying “we.” Racial inequity is an American problem that our ancestors created, and we have the power to change if we choose to see it as “our” problem.
At Noblesville First, we will continue to be a voice in our community for racial justice and understanding. We will continue to partner with the Noblesville Diversity Coalition, Noblesville Schools, Noblesville Chamber of Commerce and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church to work for a more inclusive community. We encourage you to check out NoblesvilleDiversityCoalition.org and take advantage of their monthly Ally training. The Social Justice and Advocacy Team at Noblesville First is looking to offer an Implicit Bias Workshop for our community in the future when the pandemic is over. I would recommend reading White Fragility. It has been the most helpful book thus far in my journey. Robin DiAngelo is Caucasian and has provided diversity training for hundreds of companies. She understands the world we live in and the challenges many of us have in understanding systemic racism.
My final advice is to quit worrying about whether you are racist or not. We all are, whites, blacks, Latinx, rich or poor. It is part of the human condition. What matters is if we choose to work to reduce the racial inequities that do exist in our society. Read and learn enough that you can at least begin to look at the world through the eyes of a person of color. Pursue a friendship with someone who doesn’t look like you. Then choose an inequity that touches your heart and start doing something about it.
Your fellow servant in Christ,