Earlier this week I participated in a radio conversation on Moody’s Midday Connection to discuss the topic of Racial Reconciliation. When Trillia Newbell and I first spoke to the Moody’s audience last month, we barely scratched the surface on the topic. Many emails flooded the host’s inbox after our show, so she asked us to return to continue the conversation. This time around we were joined by Mike Murphy, a pastor at Christ Church and Director of Spiritual Transformation at Breakthrough Urban Ministries. You can listen to our conversation by clicking the tab on the left.
Today, I want to capture a few big picture items and major themes that were brought up through calls to the broadcast, emails received, or Facebook comments provided this week. We have to take the risk to openly and respectfully discuss these important issues if true unity is to occur.
1. The first big question to consider is: Why Pursue Racial Reconciliation? I answered that question on the Midday Connection blog this week.
2. The host of Midday asked another big question is: What are some of the ways we, as followers of Christ, can work for racial reconciliation, whether we live in a multicultural area or not?
Short responses were:
Trillia: Through relationships and relationships with others who are different than us (Trillia is actually writing a book on this very topic. I share the same sentiment in my article on The Help:Watching ‘The Help’ as an African American Woman.)
Mike: We need to be honest with each other, even when it’s uncomfortable. Tell the truth at church.
Natasha: Read. There is so much free information and ways to engage different cultures and expose ourselves to different people’s experiences by reading books, magazines, and searching the internet. The question is, “Do we really want to pursue this? And if so, what are we willing to do?”
From the Facebook audience:
Rachel Galloway said, “Celebrate great men and women of all races in our homes? I grew up in an area with no diversity at all. Still, my mom always taught us about amazing men and women from many ethnicities, who changed the world for the better. She often read juvenile biographies out loud to us on long car trips…I loved it.”
3. From the Facebook dialog, there are two more important questions to consider in this conversation:
Why bother talking about racism in 2013? And what do we mean by racial reconciliation?
One commenter made the point: “Racism from any “corner” has always bothered me no end … it’s so pointless and diverts us from much more important issues that we could be working on together, were we not distracted by concern over color or culture (excerpt).”
I included this comment because I believe it captures the big picture of what a lot of people think. In short, this is the “Why bother” question. My short response is:
It’s important to understand that even the conversation of who determines what is or is not “more important issues” is a conversation to be had. What’s more important to God than people? I do agree that we can start by the way we teach children in our homes…. I hear you and agree that racism is pointless and diverts us. One of the books I read during my independent study on this topic was “Church Diversity” by Scott Williams. One statement he makes throughout the book is, “The only way race will become a non-issue is if we make race an issue.” I think it’s important for people who “blend” well in a white society to understand that people of color in many cases don’t have the luxury of ignoring the race issue. So I would add that this is an important issue that we should intentionally be working on together.
Another commenter wrote: “Would someone please define “racial reconciliation.” To be reconciled, you have to have been estranged. To be estranged, you have to have been in a relationship. Isn’t reconciliation a one-on-one thing? Are we really talking about treating one another better, no matter our race? This would apply to everyone, even strangers we don’t need to be reconciled with.
My short response: This actually a good question and the point you make concerning “re”conciliation is often discussed among those who actively pursue this work. I like one definition included in the book, “Reconciliation Blues,” which states racial reconciliation is “creating a climate where people deal honestly with racial and cultural issues. It should put an emphasis on action, so that leaders make changes based on feedback learned through dialog (both formal and informal) (page 91).”
I like this definition because I believe it implies intentional action, honesty and communication among different people (assuming each is lovingly, humbly, and intensely listening to the other and considering the needs of the ‘other’ among their own needs), and then responding biblically based on what we have learned. The “formal” and “informal” is important because it speaks to the hearts of people through relationships as individuals and community groups, while also taking into consideration systematic structures.
And “Yes” the deeper question is not only “How do I treat a person of a different race or ethnicity?” but “How well do I love my neighbor?” and whether or not I actually understand that according to God, as a Christian, I don’t have a right to pick and choose the neighbors I’m willing to love.
I just finished reading a book by Marl Labberton entitled, “The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor.” In it he writes:
“Changing our world depends on changing our hearts; how we perceive, name, and act in the world. The ways of the heart are reflected in the world daily in how we perceive (see and assess one another), how we name (frame and position one another) and how we act (engage or distance one another).”
Therefore, racial reconciliation conversation is really a conversation that changes the depth of our love, whether or not we are willing to look at our own hearts, and change the way we look at others who are different than us in the world. Are we will to make that change?
Next Friday, I’ll go deeper into the role politics plays in this conversation.
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013