This one has been brewing in me for a long time. It’s been a long process for me, a lot of unlocking areas of my mind that I didn’t realize needed unlocking and pushing buttons that I wasn’t sure even existed. It’s been countless hours of hard conversations about racial issues and endless stories told in history class. It’s been extreme frustration, wondering why I didn’t care enough, and being utterly convicted at the fact that I have been passively oppressive/racist my entire life.
I’m prepared for the opposition I might receive for this post. It’s more than likely going to make you uncomfortable if you are white. So if you want to live a comfortable life, you should just stop here, but if you want what Jesus wanted for us—a completely uncomfortable but full and righteous life—keep reading, friend.
We are oppressors.
You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. Our ancestors did all the enslaving; they were the ones to separate the families. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were the ones denying our fellow African Americans education and suffrage.
Yet we see the drugs, violence, homicide rates, poverty, broken families, and wonder: Why? Why is the African American community so broken?
I was recently told by an elderly black lady about her mother who, when orphaned at the age of 13, was denied the right to education simply because she was black. She worked as a housemaid (as a young, orphaned teenager) to earn her keep and finish high school, only to be told that teaching was her only option as a career simply because her skin was darker. (audible story)
Clyde Ross worked his entire life and served his country for his family, only to be completely cheated out of his home because of a greedy white man who also cheated plenty of other Afro-Americans in Chicago. (Clyde’s story here)
Not to mention those people who wanted only to not be under the authority of men who could separate their families in a matter of a few days. (The story of Mary Meachum: a little history here)
This is only an insanely minute portion of the injustices that past African Americans have faced.
Now, if you’re like me, your initial reaction to this is “well I didn’t do that; that was my ancestors. I haven’t oppressed the African American population.”
Well, let me offer the truth: there are no innocent bystanders in this.
I stand by this claim:
If you, as an able white Christian American, have not fought to right the repercussions of the injustices done to the African American community, then you have taken part in this injustice.
This isn’t an idea of my own. Jesus specifically expresses the danger of passivity in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Samaritan didn’t directly cause the man on the side of the road to suffer, but when he cared for the man, he fulfilled the most important law: love your neighbor as yourself.
If instead, he had chosen not to care for the man, he would be disobeying the commandment of Christ and ultimately choosing sin over righteousness. Instead of being the hands of healing, he would have been a participator in the man’s anguish.
So, yes. As an able white Christian, if I have ignored the cry of the oppressed (in this case, African Americans), then I have sinned greatly against God and my neighbor.
They have been and are oppressed. Sure, it might look different now, but the odds have been stacked against blacks since the beginning of America. I strongly believe that an extremely high majority of us have set aside, subconsciously thinking, well just don’t be poor; work harder. Just own land after being slaves for your whole life and owning nothing. Just outsmart the real estate owners who won’t sell the house to you. Just take out the loan that the banks won’t give you. Just go get paid for the jobs that you won’t receive. Just read, write, and count, with all the quality education you haven’t received. Just be confident in the skin that our society has deemed inferior. Just ignore the fact that your family has been torn apart by drugs and alcohol because we pushed many of your people to illegal measures and the habits have been passed down to the following generations. Just get your act together.
It’s hard to admit, I know. I don’t like admitting that I have done wrong. I don’t like saying that it was me that has been the oppressor. I don’t like seeing my race’s sin and the repercussions of it on the innocent kindergarteners in the low-performing 99% African American public school, but I can’t ignore the truth: As a person who previously did not actively fight against the oppression of the black community and instead stood on the side-lines, I have been the oppressor, and I have not shown the great and unconditional love of Christ in this situation.
A repentant church is one with an open heart, one ready to let go of sin and to hold fast to true righteousness, even if it hurts us. A repentant church takes up its cross and bears the weight of our brothers and sisters. Repentance brings action, and action precedes healing.
So, this is my confession to you, African American readers:
I am deeply sorrowed.
I am sorrowed that I have not spoken out more harshly against the casual racism that infects my small-town smalltalk.
I am sorry that I have subconsciously perceived you—my fellow brothers and sisters—as “others.”
I confess that I have been the by-stander, and as a result of my lack of action, you have had to claim the title of disadvantaged.
I repent of my barely-shaken apathy simply because I was on the upper hand of the deal.
I cringe and lament at the fact that I have subconsciously judged your character on the basis of skin color within the first glance of you.
I admit that I have not fought hard enough to make your voices heard, to fight for your equal treatment, and to make it known that your lives matter.
I’m sorry for my ignorance for so long; my belief that somehow, you didn’t work hard enough or didn’t care enough for the advantaged life that I have received.
I weep at the fact that I when I look at the sweet children from the Bible Club, my sweet two-year-old friend with a toothless, shy smile and a gentle spirit, that I have not fought enough for her right for quality of life as an American—really, as a human.
I pray, Lord, that You help me see the depth of my heart more and look to You more each day for the ability to see all colors, shapes, and sizes completely equal and to love them without restraint just like You do.
And this is my challenge to you, fellow white Christians: let’s lay down our pride and humbly confess of the passivity many of us are guilty of. Then, we can step forward and fight for that justice God’s speaks of and loves so much. Then, we can set things right.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” – Matthew 25: 41-45
“The people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 14: 15-17
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7: 9-10
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan,as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:29-37