by Will Fuller Kairos-Milwaukie UCC

Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as subhuman, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods. – Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

There is a strange kind of enigma associated with the problem of racism.  No one, or almost no one, wishes to see themselves as racist; still, racism persists, real and tenacious.  – Albert Memmi, Racism

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, in an essay on Racism Without Racists, calls this enigma “color-blind racism.”  Unlike old Jim Crow, “contemporary racial inequality is reproduced through ‘new racism’ practices that are subtle, institutional, and apparently nonracial.”  This new racism is largely invisible to those of us who are seen as white.  We may sincerely oppose racism and yet support it by blindly doing the wrong thing or failing to do the right thing.  In short, we don’t have to be racists to foster racism.

As welcoming Christians, we are not racists.  We do not believe in or consciously practice discrimination by race.  We believe in the love of God for all, and we share a tradition of social involvement supporting that love.  We have a faith-based call to counter persistent racism, with its subtle, internalized assumptions about race, so that we do not contribute to a system that undermines our beliefs and our tradition.

In this call to understand and act, we have support from many UCC programs.

Beyond any program, we have a simple yet challenging personal ministry – a Ministry of Presence.  In the words of the Catholic Franciscan, Henri Nouwen:

My own desire [is] to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project … But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name,to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

Supported by a loving God, may we have the courage, the strength and the vision to answer the call.

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