Racism is an insidious evil.
Humans have been tribal since the beginning. And tribalism served a purpose. Tribes protected each other, shared with each other, hunted together. It became instinctual. We gathered within the tribe and looked outside the tribe with suspicion.
That instinct still exists. We spend time with those we are close to…those we like…those who are similar to us. This is not, in and of itself, wrong. It just is what it is.
But racism is tribalism turned wrong. It judges the other. It assumes that because of differences, the “other” is inferior…which automatically implies then that we are superior. To be racist is to diminish one another; it is to judge one another.
And we know what Jesus said about judging.
The events of this past week were like slamming your finger in a car door. They were sudden, jolting, hard, unexpected and very painful. And they were on public display. So not only are we feeling the hurt, other communities, and the whole state of Minnesota are watching us as we go through this. And there is a sense of shame and embarrassment.
The easy thing to do would be to avoid it, ignore it or to distance ourselves from it. It is quick and easy to cast blame:
- We could blame those who made the posts
- We could blame the young people who responded with anger
- We could blame the school, or the administrators, who were just making the best decisions they could at the moment, with the information they had. (Personally, I think they have navigated this well…far better than I think I could have.)
But to jump to placing blame is really to avoid the issue.
The issue is not what happened this week. That was the symptom; it was the tip of the iceberg poking up out of the water.
The incidents this week remind us that we have larger issues of race brewing below the surface. They have been there for a long time, and we have avoided doing the hard work we need to do to come to some kind of understanding and resolution. This week, it just bubbled up…and it surprised those of us who have just been going along, living our lives.
By the way, to be clear, this is not merely an Owatonna problem. Every community deals with this.
“Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth; to every nation and tribe and language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
– Revelation 14:6-7
I think it’s time (it’s probably past time) for us to have these conversations. If we just move past this week…if we simply point the blame and discipline those who said or did these things…and then assume that we’ve resolved the issue, we will have failed in our responsibility to help bring God’s vision of “every nation, tribe, language and people” living together in a caring community a reality. And we will have missed an opportunity to bring healing. And we will have failed our children, who are the ones reeling the most from these incidents.
We are going to work on this. We are going to do so in a way that focuses on healing and wholeness. I expect that it won’t be easy. We aren’t going to focus on blame or anger, but on love and grace.
God’s vision is for all of God’s people living together. This past weekend reminded us that we aren’t there yet. Let’s make a commitment to work towards this vision.
It is God’s work. It is in our hands.