“You people”: How our belief in race makes us self- righteous

330_Llama_churchI get the feeling that oppressed persons have been given the social identity of innocent, that we view oppressed persons as incapable of sinning due to their social condition, that we treat the oppressed as we do the dead and speak well of them out of respect though we know that this is not the whole truth.  Well, let me tell you a story.  We once had a neighbor who lived across the street from us.  He was a young man and was confined a wheelchair.

His caregivers would position him on the porch in the morning and he would call out to his neighbors as they came from their dwellings to assist him in getting down the steps.  “Hey, sir!  You in the brown suit!”

One day, I convinced my husband to walk over and help him.  I felt pity for him.  We helped him get down the steps and an interesting thing happened.  We were both holding his hand but he rubbed mine as to communicate interest.

Now, I was not without a wedding ring or a husband.  This young man had seen us leave our house on countless occasions.  He had the opportunity to see us in the various stages of our marriage to include becoming parents for the first time.

Still, this disabled man who could not walk had crossed the line, sinned against God, my husband and my southern sensibilities.  It was then that I realized that his disability did not prevent him from sinning against me or anyone else.  His disability did not make him perfect as I had foolishly presumed.

Why did I tell you that story?  Because it seems, at least to me, that persons who define themselves as oppressed point the finger at their oppressors as if they are not guilty of anything.  And since they are without sin, they can cast as many stones as they like.  They don’t have to offer grace or mercy because they don’t need it.  “We are oppressed; therefore, we can judge you until Jesus comes back.”

We have made oppressed people perpetual victims whereby they can never be guilty of doing anything wrong.  It is an oppression privilege and another expression of supremacy.  But such a position does not allow for self- examination, mutual accountability or responsibility.  We are so focused on what ‘they’ did wrong that we will not entertain the possibility of our helping to right the relationship.  Because it is not about relationship, is it?  It’s about the punishment and boy, do they deserve it.

Race enables us to exalt ourselves as the wronged or oppressed people.  We are good and even better than them because we did not wrong or oppress them.  We can do no wrong if they have wronged us.  But, this is absurd.

This week while Ferguson burned, I heard persons justify the wrongdoing of looters.  They could break the law because they were oppressed. They had had enough and it was time to send a message.  And it was not wrong because they were (socially colored) “black people.”  I heard this reduction of guilt and innocence from believers as well as unbelievers, laypersons and clergy.

Well, I’ve never been the crowd-pleasing type so there’s no sense in signing up to join one now.  I guess I’ll sit with the sinners.  But, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans3.23).  This means that all are eligible for forgiveness, for a relationship with God, for fellowship with believers, to sit next to you on Sunday.

There are no ‘you people’ in God’s creation except those who exalt themselves as righteous.  Race does not makes us right; only a relationship with Jesus the Christ can do that.

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Seeking to lead words and people to their highest and most authentic expression, I am the principal architect of a race/less world.

One thought on ““You people”: How our belief in race makes us self- righteous

  1. I never thought that oppressed people are automatically innocent. However, sociology would say their oppression makes their choices limited. And, depending how bad the oppression is and the personality of the person being backed into a corner, they can, and should, lash out – otherwise the oppression continues.

    With oppressive imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture rampant in the U.S., there must be a backlash of equal force to combat it. Some would say – by any means necessary.

    Black people are getting lynched day after day by sworn peace officers. This is such an outrage I feel that any looting and burning is a drop in the bucket to EXPRESS the amount of hurt and injustice that is happening.

    Major shifts in society do not happen without a CLEAR outrage. If people don’t think you are serious, they just go about their daily oppressive business.

    We have to connect the dots between the changes that happened in the past and why they happened.
    * Drunkenness and fights prompted prohibition
    – Violent gangs, and peaceful protesters forced us to end prohibition
    * Enslavement
    – Peaceful protesters, then Violent Civil War – (but now we have enslavement through mass-incarceration)
    * Jim Crow segregation
    – Peace marches (Dr King), Show your force (Black Panthers)

    It’s easy for the privileged to judge how the oppressed respond to their oppression.

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