Racism Is Not In Your Head

Racism? That’s so last year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week has been an auspicious week for racism. The strange, Saturday night acquittal of George Zimmerman, who admitted to the killing of Trayvon Martin, led the world to discuss the place of race in the criminal justice system. This was salt in the wound of those shocked by the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act just a few weeks ago. [Here’s how “post-racial” I thought we were last year.]

Not surprisingly, these cases hinged on the evideniatlity of racism: particularly in our propensity for defining racism as the prejudice that resides, not in the hearts of the people and their systems, but simply in their minds. Unfortunately, this is completely wrong.

As I’ve written before, the academic definition of racism is about systemic oppression of one race by another. In other words, the content of one’s mind is actually not the purview of racism, but it is exclusively defined by action.

So the elimination of racism isn’t about getting people to have different thoughts. Evaluating one’s label as a racist is not found in trying to pry open their brains and definitively determine racial animus. It is to observe their actions. Did they call a person a name? Did they single a person out because of their skin color? Did they treat a minority negatively because “those people are like that”?

And as I have said before, this is the oppression of a minority by a majority. “Reverse-racism” is, by definition, an oxymoron. Because it isn’t the content of a person’s mindCan a black discriminate against a white? You bet. Can a white be oppressed? No. Whites are the majority. And racism is about the system.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Jesus calls the lust in our minds adultery. Jesus argues that the content of our minds is the same as acting a certain way. Therefore, I certainly believe that the best way to see the end of racism is to help people stop thinking racial animus toward each other.

It may also be hard for some to hear that the problem of racism will always lie with the powerful, because few of the whites I know feel powerful. Most are feeling increasingly powerless. Again, this is a systemic problem. It is also brought on by fear and competition. However, that is not about racism. Until the fearful act to oppress a minority. Then that is racism.

Considering all that needs to be done, and the very nature of our system being the source and purveyor of racism, this summer has been our shame. It is damaging for our culture and for our people to relegate racism to the brains of deviants and absolve the sins of the unrepentant.

This is an atrocious legal standard and goes against the Baptismal Covenant. After listing all that we believe, we make promises for our actions and for our participation in redemption, promising to love and serve. And we conclude by asking each other:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

And we respond:

I will, with God’s help.

We promise to participate in GOD’s Shalom.

Shalom isn’t found in judging another’s brain or heart. Shalom is found in actions. Actions that include loving your neighbor. Not saying “too bad” as we throw them in the gutter and walk away.

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