Times are hard. That’s right, I said it. There’s no denying that the world we’re currently living in looks like a right mess. From the global Covid-19 pandemic to the racial injustice that has been brought to the forefront, these are challenging times.
My heart breaks for those who have been affected by the Coronavirus and its deathly consequences. Those who have been through the anguish of its symptoms as well as those who have lost loved ones. On another level, I see the innocent lives that have been lost not to a virus that is no respecter of persons, but lost to other humans because of skin colour. My heart spills open. For so long, racial injustice has been a topic that is swept under the rug for another day. Now, it’s a conversation that cannot be ignored. Although it can be uncomfortable, it’s about time.
Among all the complexities and devastation of the current state of our world, I see hope.
How do we make the first move toward resolution and healing? How can we navigate through such a turbulent season in the history of the world? Honestly, I don’t have the answers. These questions are beyond my limited human wisdom. What I do know, is what I have learned from my personal experience with racial prejudice which I pray sheds some light on the matter.
It’s nurture, not nature
As humans, we aren’t inherently hateful in nature. We were created by God for relationship, therefore love is our natural tendency.
Those who are intolerant of others weren’t born with that preconceived prejudice, they were taught it. It’s not a product of nature but of nurture. I can’t tell you how many times, as an African child growing up in Australia, I received funny looks or comments from other children. I will never forget the time another child asked me why my skin was “dirty”! It hurt at the time but I look back now and I realise their ignorance wasn’t their fault.
We need to teach the next generation how to demonstrate love. We need to educate our children from a young age so it stops with them. I remember a time when I was serving in children’s ministry and one of the kids walks up to me and says matter-of-factly “you’re from somewhere hot”. I was confused by this random statement and of course followed up with a “say it again?” for clarity. She repeats herself at which time her father walks in and explains that they had been reading a book about different races and she had figured out I was from a hot country by the colour of my skin (darker from the melanin to protect from the sun’s rays). I laughed and it made my soul happy to know that there was a generation of parents educating their children to learn how to accept and respect those around them. Whether they look the same or different, people are people.
Be motivated by love
Racial injustice should be addressed, there’s no doubt about that. But it can quickly turn into retaliation and revenge if we’re not conscious of the line between being motivated by hate and motivated by love. As we stand for what is right, my prayer is that we don’t lose sight of doing it from a position of love.
Growing up in the church, I have always been taught to love my enemies. Though it seems counterintuitive (and easier said than done), it’s that very attitude that shines a light during these challenging times. Love fuels love and hate fuels hate. Sometimes, it can be as simple as that.
It starts with you
As much the fight for justice is a collective movement, especially in the United States, it starts with you and me. On an individual level, we each have a responsibility to reflect on our own behaviours and biases toward one another — in our workplaces, friendships, families, with strangers — treating the next person with mutual respect.
Ignorance is not bliss. It’s only when we take responsibility for the part we each play in history that we will begin to see change. So, whether or not you’ve experienced or witnessed racial prejudice yourself, get educated. Listen to the voices of those who face this tension every day of their lives. Hear their stories, seek to empathise and be ready to speak up for those who cannot be heard.