Persons use incidents like the tragic and unfortunate death of Mr. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to say that we are not ready for a post- racial America. They shout down the word, shake their hands and heads at those who use it– both angered and saddened at our ignorance and naivete. They seem to ask, “Don’t you know how wicked humanity is? Don’t you know that we don’t forget? Don’t you know that we will never get over the history American slavery and consequently, cannot move beyond the structures and relationships that it set in place? It’s too hard, too deep, still too painful to the touch.”
Responses like these are troubling because it is not enough to say that our sense of self has been injured, trust has been broken and relationships damaged by race. It is not productive to yell about the wound, to scream, “I’m hurting! I’m bleeding! I am in pain!” We must let someone look at it; an examination is needed and next steps that promote healing and our safe return to society and cross- cultural relationships is necessary.
Actions must be taken that address the wound instead of entertaining the on- going conversation of our woundedness. I understand that you are hurt but what can we do about it? What do we need to do to make our relationships with each other better? How can we remove the pain?
We are always ready to express the pain of race but we struggle to address its wounds. We don’t want to touch it so we talk around it. We do not apply pressure to our private hatreds or remove the comfort of our stereotypes. We do not confront our prejudices. No, we leave the beams in place as if they support our eye sight (cf. Matthew 7.3).
But, what we do not talk about is the damage that race has caused to our relationships. We don’t talk about healing, restoration, reconciling, what we can do to trust each other again. And let me give you a hint: It won’t come from the lips of a president, passed in legislation or agreed upon after a riot.
It is a sad commentary of humanity and Christians that our relationships have not matured beyond relating to persons based on racial attitudes and external appearances, that people of the Book judge persons based on their covers. We are conditioned to look at the externals; but what of the work of regeneration? We are encouraged to hate but what of the command to love? The Church must choose Who or what She will serve, whether God or race.
And let’s be honest, race serves our egos and is a personal assistant to our pride. Letting go of race is but a call to die to the self. Stepping away from race is a challenge to walk in the Spirit and no longer walk according to the flesh (cf. Romans 8.5). It can be hard to find our way as the way of the race-less life does not garner heavy foot traffic.
But, I am not deterred. I’ve decided to leave a trail like other trailblazers in the faith. Joel left a trail when he wrote, “ I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions” (2.28). Jesus left a trail when we said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6). Paul left a trail in Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.28) and again in Colossians: “… Seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal, there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all” (3.9-11)! And he was following Christ’s trail: “Follow me as I follow Christ” (First Corinthians 11.1).
This walk should begin and end with Christ. Our lives should leave trails that lead persons back to Him.