January 21, 2008

Ethics Daily has two good pieces today on racism and the continuing struggle to remove it from our society. Miguel De La Torre has a great column entitled "Help Wanted: Black Friend." He mentions comedian Stephen Colbert's joke about needing a new black friend, which is the launching point for the column about trying to ignore deeper problems. He concluded:

I went on to say that it was difficult for me to pray while sitting next to the banker who will charge me an extra point of interest because my last name ends in a vowel. It's hard to shout praises to the Lord while being stared at by the police officer who gave me a ticket for driving while under the influence of being Hispanic. It's challenging to proclaim the mercies of my God knowing that sitting across the aisle is a parishioner who refuses to show mercy toward the undocumented.

Maybe the Sunday morning worship hour must continue to remain the most segregated hour of the week. Attempting to diversify white churches will be a waste of time unless white churches first deal with the social structures of racism and ethnic discrimination that is prevalent outside the church's walls. We will not be able to worship together until white churches begin to actively bring about a distribution of power within society that can dismantle white supremacy. Until that happens, maybe the best that can be done is to advertise for a "black friend."
And in an article, Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics offered a similar argument in response to racist marches today in Jena, Louisiana. He argued:
Racism remains a deep flaw in the American character. ... Groups such as the Nationalist Movement are raw reminders of racial extremism, but less overt expressions and covert forms of racism are just as morally wrong and they worm their ways into almost every facet of our social life.

The rate of incarceration of African-American males, payday lending, predatory bankers with sub-prime mortgages, anti-public school ideologies, anti-immigration rhetoric and anti-taxation attitudes often have the seed of racism in them. ... Yet too many of us deceive ourselves about our own racism when we see the obvious racism of the Nationalist Movement.
These are good reminders for us to seriously consider the implications of our words and deeds to make sure we have not kept the residue of our society's sad racist past. Hopefully, on a day like today we are all open to a time of self-reflection on such issues.