We Need to Talk About Race

One year on

He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has his foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality’ (Desmond Tutu). Last year the world was shocked by the murder of George Floyd by someone entrusted with authority to keep law and order. There can be no question of justification for this murder. Protests exploded across the world as the anger at continued injustice and racism experienced by black people and people of other ethnicities boiled over into the streets. As a white male in a comfortable position, who has stumbled through his teaching career and been successful in the world’s eyes; as a pastor who is in a position of influence and authority within the church at least, I didn’t know how to respond or what to say. I felt inadequate, because I have not experienced discrimination and injustice and so I felt unqualified to comment. Like it or not, I am in a position of privilege, because I am white and I am male. That is precisely why I should respond and be challenging the church to look at how it can change to be the truly multicultural worshipping community we claim to be. We have to discuss issues of ethnicity and colour within the church and in wider society so that we can be people who speak up for justice and do justice in our lives and in our church community. Charmaine Mhlanga, a Baptist minister in training, writes:

God’s word helps us recalibrate our priorities, values and self-interest in the light  of seeking the good of our brothers and sisters who remain oppressed and at the  receiving end of racism and racial injustices in our churches and communities.

We have to overcome the tendency to justify past actions and listen to our brothers and sisters and their lived experiences. When the Black Lives Matter movement hit the headlines last year, there was a reaction with people posting ‘All lives matter’ or even ‘White lives matter’. These responses miss the point. We do believe that all lives matter, but history and up-to-date experience tells us that some do not matter as much as others, and clearly that is an issue of justice. A starting point would be to read this blog from the BU (https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/595976/The_responsibility_of.aspx) and the other blogs on the website. The leadership have read Ben Lyndsey’s book, ‘We Need To Talk About Race’ as have some of the church. Do get it and read it for yourselves. We then need to take the step of examining ourselves, so we can more closely follow the Lord Jesus Christ, who welcomed and welcomes people from all ethnicities and backgrounds.

Russell

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