Updated: Jul 4, 2020
A tipping point is the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger more important change. The disturbing visual image of an unconcerned white police officer with his knee on the neck of an unarmed and handcuffed black man serves as the proverbial metaphor of America’s troubled racial history. The combined effect of this history of these entrenched values and beliefs has carved out institutionalized racial disparities, segregation and injustice that remain unresolved. The persistent voices of minority communities over the past decades have strained to force dominant majority culture to hear and understand this message of collective asphyxiation, how the weight of the constructed systems of racial disparities chokes the life out of people of color.
It is sad to see that the price of someone’s life in such an inhuman manner has become the tipping point awakening many within majority culture of the realities that have for so long been unaddressed and unresolved. The question that is now upon the determined hearts of many in the dominant majority culture is “what can we do?”
There are great many credible voices who have provided answers to this question. My input is motivated by faith and agreement with the comments of Stephen A. Rhodes, author of Where the Nations Meet - The Church in A Multicultural World, that Jesus stands at the center of our racial and cultural diversity to bridge and transcend our differences. As Christians, what you can do in this time of racial strife:
1. Understand: Become informed and educate yourself on the realities and experiences of what minority culture and people of color have been experiencing for centuries. Five options as starting points:
Debby Irving, Waking Up White, and Finding Myself In The Story of Race;
History of Pervasive Racist Values & Ideology: Slave Codes, Civil War, Reconstruction, Black Codes (Jim Crow), Voting Rights, etc. at www.history.com.
National Museum of African American History: view Talking About Race, https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race.
2. Break the Pattern: We have been socialized in many areas of our lives to maintain racially entrenched patterns of behavior. This includes our places of worship. 11:00 Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. Segregated churches is an outcome of entrenched racial bias and racism. Speak with or write letters to the leaders of your church and demand that the racial status quo of segregation is no longer acceptable. Explore how you can partner with them to transition your predominately mono-racial church towards becoming multiracially inclusive. If they are not inclined to change, stop attending your mono-racial church. Start attending a church that is racially or ethnically inclusive.
3. Heart and Treasure: Matthew 6:21 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Adopt a minority culture church in your neighborhood. Support their effort to address economic disparities in people of color communities. Designate regular financial contributions to their benevolence fund.
4. Become Culturally Competent: Tune out the voices of misinformation. Perspectives of the dominant media and news outlets cannot and do not adequately communicate the complexities involved in racialized experiences of people of color. If the viewpoint supports fear, division and hatred, the spirit of God in your heart should be alarmed. Identify potential bias and blind spots by thinking through the range of viewpoints across the media political spectrum. Find at least one mature person of color who can serve as a friend and mentor via a lifetime of open and honest conversation about their cultural experience. Use this as a forum for processing your thinking, for dispelling all of the racial and cultural misinformation you have absorbed while growing up or living in America. Talk about, think through and process the values and beliefs that have affected and infected how you live and demonstrate faith in Christ.
5. Speak Out: Silence in the midst of racial disparities and injustice is akin to agreement and support. Moral integrity demands action. View: BibleProject - Biblical Understanding of Justice. Advocate. Discuss the status of racial inclusion in your church. Get connected with local police and governmental authorities on policies and practices that shape how they interact with and serve minority communities. Encourage and support inclusive policies and practices. Identify blind spots where lack of diversity contribute to disparities because decision makers are comprised of majority culture perspectives and experiences.
In times such as these, there is an onslaught of “we have to…” media perspectives regarding the need for change on the topic of race in America. Steeped in sound and passionate recommendations, they die away and are forgotten after a few weeks when the focus and attention shifts to whatever new topic that commands our attention. The result is that nothing changes!
The Church can’t just lament the brokenness of the world, it has to provide an alternative to that brokenness. You are the Church! Stop doing the same ol’ things that you’ve been doing. Start questioning and pursuing a new mindset on the impact of our social structures and their impact on people of color. Start living the example of Christ that tears down walls of division, bigotry and prejudice.