Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. – – Matthew 22:37-40
Like many Americans, I have been shocked and deeply disturbed by the videos showing the mistreatment and ultimately the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans. While I knew that racism still exists in our society, the depth and breadth of it was a surprise. Like a fish in water, I assumed that everyone is treated the way I am. The cell phone videos and stories from one black person after another show that assumption is just not true. It became clear to me that part of Jesus’ call to love my neighbor included doing some hard self-reflection, learning, and action related to racial equality and justice.
I started by reading two books recommended by our bishop, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. White Fragility is written from one white person to another. It helped me see the “water” we swim in, the social attitudes and structures that I am so used to, I didn’t even notice them. I saw some of my own patterns of thinking and was challenged to look at them in a different way. It helped me to see things in a new way. How to Be an Antiracist helped me to understand history, policy, and structures related to race and it gave me some concrete directions to work on making things better. Both books were challenging and insightful and helped me with some new realizations, for example, I realize that my childhood was quite segregated and that the lack of diversity diminished me. The books also helped me see that I thought about racism in binary terms – you are either a racist (read bad person) or you are not racist (read good person). Thinking of racism in terms of a spectrum and seeking where I am on it has helped me to be more honest in my self-reflection and to commit to moving toward antiracism.
In the United States, we have been socialized in a racist system where we pick up subtle and not so subtle messages about people of different races. I am now thinking of the spectrum of racism-antiracism like the Methodist theology of going on to perfection. We move toward becoming more loving (in this case more loving of people of different races) as we move toward perfection in Christlikeness. As we are perfected in love of our neighbors of different races, we act to contribute to their well-being and to work for justice for them. There is so much more I got out of these books that continue to inform and challenge me.
Our Conference has committed to help us move toward that perfected love for our black and brown neighbors. The Conference RACE Coalition is encouraging all of us to take the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge starting on October 1, 2020. Watch for the materials to be published in your local churches or on the Desert Southwest Conference website (www.dscumc.org). It takes 21 days for a new habit to form and take hold. It is a good way to start a journey to move toward love on the racism-antiracism spectrum. Deepening my ability to love my neighbors of different races and discerning action steps to change racist policies will help me move toward a more perfect love of neighbor. Won’t you join me for this 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge?
Yours in Christ,