I’m going to be straight up with you and say I often feel the exact same hopelessness Ta-Nehisi has expressed throughout this book, and which so many of you have raised concerns about. There are moments that I want to throw my hands in the air and say, “I surrender.”
Today, my husband and I were talking about a situation in our community. There are many, many layers that make this particular situation complicated and frustrating, but the primary source of the frustration is rooted in differences in race, language, and culture.
The fact that race, language, and culture complicate so many encounters between individuals and among and within different groups of people, is an American phenomenon. Because racism is this country’s original sin, racism will always be a stumbling block for Americans. We work at being politically correct because we are trying to stem the tide of a deadly virus with a band aid of words that sound right but have no healing power.
The only way to begin to fix our racism problem is for the country to find her way to individual and corporate confession and apology, public lament, the dismantling of systems of injustice and inequity, the implementation of a truly just and fair system of government which includes the consideration of reparations, and forgiveness. Here it is in list form:
- Individual and corporate confession and apology
- Public lament
- The dismantling of systems of injustice and inequity
- The implementation of a truly just and fair system of government which includes the consideration of reparations
That’s just for starters. Now, outside of a true and bona fide miracle, I do not see any of that happening. On the days I let my mind go down that road, I always wind up at a dead end. Always. And I am a person of faith.
I completely understand how Mrs. Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates see what they see when they look down the road. If I try to take in the entirety of the sin of racism and how it has twisted us — all of us — inside out, I am tempted to lose my mind. If I’m being honest with you, my one and only hope is wrapped in a very fragile and extremely tenuous faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That, my friends, is all I’ve got and sometimes it is not nearly enough. But it is the Truth on which I have staked my life. My whole, entire life. And, what I know is this: for those of us who say we’re all in with Jesus, the Truth we profess is incumbent upon suffering, sacrifice, and death preceding the resurrection.
So, I’m going to step out here on this limb all by myself and say that people of color and poor people have been cast in the suffering, sacrifice, and death role for far too long, with the goal of keeping this country strong, safe, and secure. The bodies of people of color and the bodies of the poor have served as human shields, with the goal of preserving the Dream.
I am guilty. Simply having brown skin does not make me exempt. Racism has twisted us all inside out. Somehow, people of faith have got to find a way to separate our faith from our love of our country and its wealth, power, and comfort. We cannot serve God and money, any more than we can serve God and country. We will hate the one, and love the other, and we’ll justify our actions when they contradict what it is we say we believe.
What We Say We Believe
And here’s the thing: What we say we believe is the only true way to fix this mess we’ve gotten ourselves in. As we live out our faith among those who don’t believe what we say we believe, our real goal is not keeping America safe or strong or making America great. The real goal is to live out our faith in such a way that people who can’t quite get with Jesus will reconsider their position about that. And, for people who have been broken by racism in a place that calls herself “One Nation, Under God,” one way to make them reconsider might just be for people of faith to find their way to individual and corporate confession and apology, public lament, the dismantling of systems of injustice and inequity, the implementation of a truly just and fair system of government which includes the consideration of reparations, and forgiveness.
The only way to get there is to begin on our knees. For all of the questions that begin and end with, “What can I do?” the answer is to begin on our knees, with some version of this prayer in our hearts and on our lips: “Search me, God. Look me over, inside and out. Please uncover anything in me that blinds me to injustice or makes me confuse my love of where I live with my love of you. Cleanse me of anything that contributes to racist systems or attitudes. Keep me from unjustly using other people to feed my comfort or to protect my way of living, because doing that is just one more form of trafficking in humans. Amen.”
Today, when my husband and I were discussing that situation in our community, I said to him, “It’s impossible, isn’t it? It will never happen. Racism will never end.” I was hopeless. I was honestly ready to throw in the towel in complete and utter frustration. But, my husband looked me in the eye and said, “It’s only hopeless without Jesus.” To that I say: Truer words have never been spoken.
Thanks so much for reading this book with me. Thank you for participating in the conversation in the comments and on Periscope. If I haven’t freaked you out too badly today, I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. I also hope to see you Monday, when we partner with The Red Couch book club for a live chat on Facebook. Click here to RSVP.
Next week, please come back to fill out a quick survey about this experience of Forward and to read a summary of our Facebook conversation. I’m truly grateful for the grace you’ve given me and one another. This was such a great book and I am thrilled that we shared it together. Today, in the comments, let us know your takeaways from the book. How are you different today, as a result of having read this book?