Randy's Reflections
October 8, 2019, 7:00 PM

Randy's Reflections October Newsletter 2019



    

    Over the past few months I have had some deep conversations that have left me pondering the sobering reality of racism in its myriad forms – subconscious, overt and systemic. During college I had similar conversations that forced me to confront for the first time the painful experiences of my peers who were people of color. For a time after the Civil Rights era and culminating with the election of our first Black president, I naively assumed that racism

was no longer an issue. However, now I see that we live in a society that is more deeply divided by race than I was aware of. I think it is important periodically, as a congregation, to address social concerns. The outward expressions of racism, whether directed at us or others, affect all of us whether we recognize it or not.

 

    This summer Joan and I watched a very disturbing documentary series on Netflix called ―When They See Us.‖ The summary of the story is as follows: In 1989 a white, female jogger was assaulted and raped in New York's Central Park, and five young African American men were subsequently charged with the crime, despite total lack of evidence and egregious interrogation techniques. The quintet, labeled the Central Park Five, maintained their innocence and spent years fighting the convictions, hoping to be exonerated.

 

    The good news is that eventually they were all released and declared innocent of the charges; the oldest one, who served his sentence in an adult prison, had been incarcerated for thirteen years. They were only released, however, after the true assailant confessed in 2002. This tragedy speaks not only of a broken justice system, but of deep-seated prejudice which still exists today.

 

    Sometimes the justice system works, and other times, it completely breaks down. And for some Americans, this system has not garnered trust or belief it will ever work fairly. Social movements like ―Black Lives Matter‖ highlight these disproportionate breakdowns happening in today’s society. Why is this happening? What do we all need to be aware of and to help fight to change racial disparities like this? We live in a society that has perpetuated and benefitted from racial inequity and we need to acknowledge that troubling reality while prayerfully considering how we, as Jesus followers, should think, act and respond.

 

Joan and I have three loving, energetic, and beautiful African American grandsons with immense enthusiasm for life and the world around them. It breaks my heart to think that when they grow up to be the strong, vibrant, caring men that they now show promise of becoming, that people would fear them for the color of their skin, rather than celebrating them for their unique gifts and contributions to making our world a better place.

 

    If you are tired of all of the talk around race and racism or you don’t think you have an issue regarding this subject, please bear with me as I share with you God’s stirring in my soul. I realize that racism is a very complex problem for which there are no easy answers. As a fish really has no concept of the water it is swimming in, I as a white person have a hard time recognizing and understanding the extent of the toxic ecosystem I am ―swimming‖ in. However, these questions plague me. Is there a solution from a Christian point of view? Can we do something about our own attitudes or our own guilt in this area? How is race relevant to me and how I interact within society?

 

    Simply put, I don’t know. What I do know is I want to learn how I can truly be an ally to those who experience the world differently than I do. It is my hope that we can share our stories with one another and that we can celebrate our beautiful diversity and the rich histories and legacies that make us who we are.

 

    I pray that we will exhibit faith (Lord give us new eyes), hope (Lord give us new minds), and love (Lord give us new hearts). It is only through the power of God’s love that we can be transformed into a people who offer faith, hope, and love to each and everyone we meet.

 

    I want to thank those friends who collaborated with me on this article in sharing their valuable insights, perspectives, suggestions, and challenges. Here are a couple resources that were recommended to me, and which I offer to you as well:

Here is an article that talks about race and the complexities talking about it. http://www.gcorr.org/ why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism/

 

    Another resource is the NYT’s 1619 Project: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/ magazine/1619-america-slavery.html

 

    Praying with you for new understanding and courage to exhibit the witness to which God calls us, 

    Pastor Randy