No Room For Racism
Bryan Stevenson wrote the forward to “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.” Stevenson is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He is a public interest lawyer and the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. He is also the author of “Just Mercy.” Stevenson is an advocate for the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. He has argued several cases successfully before the United States Supreme Court. He and his staff have helped to secure relief, reversals or release for 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. He opens the forward to Wallis’ book by describing how, while returning to his new home after work one night in Atlanta, a police officer pointed his gun at him and threatened to “blow his head off.” He had done nothing other than get out of his car after driving home from work. He was casually dressed, wears a beard and is a black man. Therefore, to the police officer in that neighborhood that night, he looked guilty. Guilty of what?
Stevenson goes on to say that people of color in America bear the burden of presumption of guilt and being dangerous. What he experienced that night is a common occurrence for black men in America, especially young black men. Stevenson and Jim Wallis agree that this is because our nation has failed to adequately address the racial narrative in our country which has affected virtually all of our social institutions, especially our criminal justice system. Today, one in three black men can expect to serve time in jail or prison while only one in seventeen white men will have the same experience.
Stevenson also relates that before attending Harvard Law School, he attended a Christian college. There he was steeped in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The mainstream church, he says, has remained largely silent about racism in America. While some in the church did advocate strongly for racial justice in the 1960s, many of those gains have been subverted by new forms of racial subordination. Now, most Christians stand idly by in the face of racial discrimination in our country.
There is no room for racism in the Christian church. Ephesians 2.14 says that Christ has broken down the dividing wall between people. In Acts 10.34, Peter said that, “God shows no partiality…” In Galatians 3.28, Paul lists the three major categories of social division of his day and age and then says that in Christ they no longer exist, for all are one in Christ.
I hope that as a congregation we might all join in reading, during the month of April, this book by Jim Wallis, an evangelical pastor, advocate, activist and graduate of Michigan State University. In May, opportunities will be scheduled for discussion. The book may be ordered at www.amazon.com or by calling the church office. A study guide for America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America can be obtained by contacting the church office at 517-351-7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.