Am I a Racist?

Dear family

In the last few months during the having to be shut in due to the Coronavirus I have had a lot of time for reflection and contemplation on various aspects of my life and how well I may be doing in seeking to be more like Christ and fulfilling the ministry he has called me to and my calling as a monastic. This particularly in light of recent events the killing of innocent black men in Minneapolis, St, Louis and elsewhere and the riots and protests that have take place all over the world in reaction to and in support of the protestors. I support the protestors and believe in justice for the families of those killed and the punishment to the full extent of the law of those responsible for the killings. Yet I am white and therefore in the eyes of some automatically racist. So what is the truth?

Had you asked me that question of whether or not I am a racist awhile back I would have answered NO WAY! I live in a racially mixed community made up of blacks, Hispanic, whites all living together peaceably with no problem. Before the pandemic we socialized together, played games, visited in each other's homes with no problems. My church has black, Hispanic and white members with blacks in leadership as well as whites. We also have gays and straight people. Our attitude would be "Married or single, gay or straight, we don't discriminate". We would be considered an inclusive church. Yet is there room for racism within me? Could it be I am unaware of it? I think as I think on this my answer is yes and no. It may I think be based I think on the criteria being used and who is doing the name calling.

Martin Luther taught the idea of stand upon the principle "Simul iustus. Simil pacator" which translates to " I am justified (by faith through grace), but I am also a sinner (saved by grace alone, not good works). Lutheran theologians such as Soren Kierkegaard and artists like filmmaker Ingmar Bergman have warned about the self righteous Western Civilization self deception and blindness to our own sins, but we are quick to see in others and condemn.

In ecumenical dialogue many might reject this principle as it can be used as an excuse to simply continue in our sin with a veneer of church/Christian faith. Yet Luther is I believe a realist and has a point that Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and other Christians must take more seriously on the basis of Paul's letter to the Romans. For the truth exposes our sins of racism and white supremacy that have lived for centuries, hidden to ourselves but not to others especially non whites. This is not exclusive to the white race. Chinese supremacy as the Central Kingdom of the world functions in a similar way for China and among the Chinese etc. etc African-Americans openly state in many cases that their "Black culture" is cooler than "plain vanilla whiteness" and African-American athletes superior to all others etc. etc.. Racism and collective pride and self-centeredness as Donald Trump knows well, serve to strengthen the bonds of the group we belong to..

Jesus has an answer for racism in the paradox of his call for righteousness through a humility gained by identity as sinners saved by the grace of God's forgiveness and compassion that we are called to share with all others. Mother Teresa exposed her works of charity were performed at the same time her faith in the structures of the church and dogma was weak. People who accuse me of being a racist awaken me to be more sensitive in some part of my way of relating to them. Their victimhood is seen by some as righteousness above my own. Yet, African-American sisters and brothers also confess their own struggles in relating to others and one another Jesus-like humility, patience and forgiveness shared by each side or person is the healing balm that eases our conscious and unconscious sins-including racism.

I believe most people who know me would say I am a very kind, sweet, gentle, loving man without a shred of hate towards anyone. I am a man who is a committed peacemaker, a believer in non violence, anti war, anti death penalty, and a strong proponent for Social Justice for all. I try to treat everyone equally, fairly, as I would want to be treated and as I believe Christ would treat them if he were here today living among us. Therefore I find it a bit unsettling and uncomfortable to think or be accused of being racist. Yet Jesus says the truth shall set you free. So then as I embrace the truth about myself as unsettling, disconcerting and uncomfortable it may be, letting it change me, it will set me free and leave me a better person. Therefore I have everything to gain.

I was recently given an article presumably written by a black person that because I am white I am automatically prejudiced and racist. A nice assumption though I am not sure how accurate it is. As I read on part of what she said was true. I was born in Maine that is overwhelmingly white raised mainly in white communities, went to White schools, raised by white parents all true. In my high school we did have two black students with whom I was good friends and we hung out together. Of course these came from wealthy black families who were essentially no different than my family. Ones father was an active member of the John Birch Society, active in GOP politics and who ran for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 1974 but lost. So yes guilty as charged I am white but does that automatically make me a racist? The article went on to mention some things Whites say that supposedly offend blacks and why they do. In reading the list I found most of the statements she mentioned I have said and believe. However I disagree with her interpretation as I see it another way and when I say I believe them I mean something all together different.

First she says that blacks are offended when people say all lives matter as they feel that takes away from the Black Lives Matter movement and what they are trying to accomplish in stopping the harassment and killing of Blacks simply because of the color of their skin. I would answer I oppose injustice wherever it may be found. I am opposed to the killing of blacks because of the color of their skin. I am equally opposed to the killing of LGBT people because of their sexual orientation, killing of innocent people caught in the crossfire of battles caused by manmade wars and the myriad of ways humans find to kill one another through disease, greed, pollution etc. I am opposed to the execution of innocent people via the death penalty and its unequal application. I just want the same treatment for everyone not just one group.

Second the article says Black people are offended when we say we are color blind as they feel we don't really see them as Black with their own culture and heritage. I feel nothing could be further from the truth. When I see my Bishop I recognize he is Black, our organist is Hispanic and they definitely come from different cultures and experiences than I do which is great. However I refuse to let color become a defining issue to separate us from each other or to think one is either superior or inferior to someone else. I fully believe we are one if we choose to be and our differences are our strength not our weaknesses.

Finally the article says they object to Whites saying we are all one family. They feel what they experience sets them apart and because of how they are treated by many as inferior blows away the idea of one family. I would answer that yes there is racism against the Black community which shouldn't be there. There is also higher unemployment, poverty and a host of other issues which need to be addressed within the black community. However I believe that those issues are also worldwide and experienced by many. It is time to unite together to take on the issues such as poverty, pollution, racism, greed etc. that are destroying our planet before it's to late. It is time to work for the benefit of all Humans, Blacks as well as everyone else. This can be done when we can come and sit down together and share our stories and realize what we have in common is much more than what divides us. That is where I stand and what I believe in.

So am I a racist? If you believe all whites are racist or those with certain beliefs are racist then perhaps I am. However if actions speak louder than words then I believe my actions show I am not racist, but welcome and work with anyone who wants to join me in working for justice, peace, and saving planet earth and bringing the reign of God's peace to earth then no way am I a racist but hopefully a man of God from whom flows God's love, the living waters of Christ, and His peace to all. Comments welcomed.