Meditation Monday: Recalling and Repenting of An Infamous Anniversary 95 Years Ago

During the season of Lent, one focus is to recall and repent of our sins agains God and others. This includes not only individual sins but also the sins of our society. With that in mind, I want to lift up an infamous anniversary from 95 years ago when Virginia passed two pieces of legislation that advanced the sin of white supremacy not only in the Commonwealth but throughout the country. On March 20, 1924 the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Racial Integrity Act and the Virginia Sterilization Act. Both were based on the now discredited “science” of eugenics intended to maintain white racial purity. The Racial Integrity Act required each person in Virginia to be categorized at birth as either “white” or “colored.” It also made interracial marriage illegal. The only exception to the rigid “one drop rule” was the preposterous “Pocahontas Clause” that allowed whites with one-sixteenth Native American ancestry to be considered white. This was to maintain the racial status of some members of the “First Families of Virginia” (FFV) who traced their ancestry back to the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. The two racist legislative acts were used a decade later by the Nazis as models for their ideology and policies of racial superiority. The laws stayed in effect until overturned by the Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court decision in 1967. Yet the legacy of these acts continues to impact our nation today in the form of racial disparities in education, income, family wealth, and health care. Although we cannot go back and undo the horrific legislation from 95 years ago, we can take time to learn this painful history, recognize its ongoing legacy of racial injustice in our day, and advocate for greater levels of justice to address the legacy of state sponsored racism. In other words, we can practice the spiritual discipline of recalling and repenting.

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