Amid the crisis of a global pandemic, we cannot close our eyes to another crisis that has been present among us in our divided nation: the terror and sin of racism.
From Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Christian Cooper, and countless others of whom we may not have video, to the parents and children who are being separated by our federal government at the border, to others who face a daily scapegoating of our present situation, racism in all of its forms must not be allowed to be swept under the rug as our attention is focused on COVID-19. Like all evil, we must bring racism clearly into the light, so that we can repent from our own complicity and guard the innocent so that it will not happen to them.
The crisis of COVID-19 has brought out some of the best in humankind, but it is also showing some of the worst of human sinfulness. In the Los Angeles Times, there was an article on how Christian Cooper, an African-American man politely asked an Anglo-American woman to leash her dog. Her response was to call the police and claim that, “there is an African-American man, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” Of course, this was all a lie, as Christian Cooper made no threats to this woman, and her racist response was laid bare for all to see. On this same Los Angeles Times page was an Op-Ed by an Asian-American woman who talked about her neighbor’s racist response to her simply not wearing her mask as she came to enter her own home. Because she was Asian, she was literally cursed by the neighbor who used expletive after expletive against her. The most damaging part of the article was her 3-year-old daughter having to hear this story, and being exposed to the cruelty of racism early in her life.
Of course, these examples are not to the magnitude of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery or of George Floyd; African-American men are literally being killed because of our racism. What this should show us is the pervasive, sinful nature of racism in our country, truly, the unfinished business of our country.
Like all printed words, we can rail against, talk about, and denounce racism until we are blue in the face. We, as Christians, however, cannot allow ourselves to move past this moment without meaningful action. Therefore, I am asking every church in our California-Pacific Conference to have open talk about the sin of racism in our own lives and what we must do about it that we have not yet done before.
This means that we have to own up to our own racism first, before we point fingers at others. And, I realize that this is a difficult thing to do without doing it in-person. However, I am sure that we can facilitate virtual discussions on what is transpiring in our country right now, and talk openly about the fact that the sin of racism is tearing us apart, even as we continue to deal with the other threat of COVID-19.
In fact, it would be easy to hide behind the crisis of the pandemic in order to avoid talking about racism. This we cannot, nor must not do. We must bring the racism we are witnessing right out into the open and deal with it directly.
In order to spark this discussion here are some questions you might want to start with:
- What are my own racist tendencies that I don’t want to talk about or admit?
- How have I been complicit in American racism?
- What can I proactively do about it right now?
One book I would strongly recommend is “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo. I read this last year and it changed the way I view racism. I hope it will spark a similar transformation in you.
Let’s begin by bringing racism out in the open, where it cannot squirm away to continue to infect others.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop