Curtis shared a moving story with me and others recently about his experience of white supremacy in Rhodesia, where he saw the horrors of racism expressed in their worst way. From police brutality to vulgar epithets thrown casually in conversation among his school mates.
Those of us who are paying attention know that those things are also common place in the United States even without explicit apartheid law (although Michelle Alexander would have things to say about that in her book The New Jim Crow). Many of us remember the Jim Crow South, and we still know that police brutality is decidedly racialized, as well as the criminal justice system. My own family are victims of that kind of racism too.
With the president spewing nonsense—from his initial comment about violence on ‘many sides,’ to his latest direct apology for the white nationalists who brought murder, violence, hostility, and mayhem to UVA’s campus last week, I was surprised that many people I knew, Christians in particular, were torn about how to address this. Has social construction so won the day that we cannot distinguish between those who oppose racism and fascism and those who support it? Are there really “two sides” to this issue? Even beyond Trump and the current political economy, I was surprised that people were engaging in that confused dialogue after Curtis shared his rather personal and convincing story.
I find myself surprised when I’m in agreement with Mitt Romney on the issue. I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised, because quite frankly, when it comes to white nationalism and supremacy, any hesitation with naming the blatant evil and the sin, is mind-boggling. Even the U.S. War Department in 1943 understood it.
It’s clear that we can spend a long time considering counter-action to white supremacy and debate the varying degrees of means that go to protect the innocent. Violence is a complicated subject, one that I’ve made my opinion rather clear upon repeatedly (here, here, here, here, here, etc.), so I’m not interested in debating that. Of course, it would be stimulating, but it would distract us from the issue at hand. The issue is resolutely and unequivocally standing against racism and fascism because they are antithetical to the Gospel. I can’t believe I have to say that! But there is nothing new under the sun, truly. Bonhoeffer was a radical during WW2 when many Christians stood alongside of Hitler and the Third Reich. Still today, a Christian publicly crying out against racism might get backlash and criticism and endless whataboutism, like I recently witnessed on our denomination’s listserv. Christians’ inability to speak clear about racism will not only lead to more violence and death, but may very well cripple the church further. This problem is made worse when five CEOs resign from Trump’s Manufacturing Council, and no clergy resign from his so-called Evangelical Council. It’s bad for Jesus and bad for those of who are moved to share the real Good News.
With Jesus, you are either moving with him or you aren’t. When it comes to white supremacy, there is only one side. That’s the side of Jesus who stands against that kind of hatred and oppression. The Bible is littered with passages, both in the Old and New Testament about welcoming the stranger and including the outside. The Levitical Law is clear about it. Paul committed his life to that work. The entire message of Jesus about breaking barriers down. Jesus specifically addresses people that will make the little ones stray and injure the least of these. Luke’s Gospel is written for the outcast. Christians who equivocate the ‘many sides’ and hesitate to be explicit about the evil at hand are confused at best. They aren’t reading the same Bible I am, it seems.
I was telling the people at Frankford Ave. on Sunday when I was sharing with them, that for me, as a person of color, there is only one side to this issue. That’s the side that the white nationalists put me on. The side that says I am not welcome in the country, that my family should be back where we came from. The call for genocidal ethnic cleansing, explicitly seen from the alt-right, places me on the other side of them.
But I am not afraid. Because Jesus is on my side too. Not just because he’s brown, but he moves with the oppressed and the least of these. And what’s more, is that I have a team of pastors that is radically anti-racist, and a church that moves toward racial reconciliation—not just peace, but toward demanding justice.
On weeks like the last one, where people of color are fearful for their lives (which is really every week in these United States), I am comforted that I have safety and security in Jesus and in my community.