By now most people have seen the video from the rally in Greenville, NC where in response to President Trump’s critical comments about Rep. Ihan Omar the chant arose “Send Her Back” referring to the fact that she was born in Somalia and came to this country as a child. The chant went on for a full 13 seconds before it dissipated, and the speech continued its critical tone. The chant itself and the President’s obvious acceptance and approval of it shocked many as a contemporary example of a familiar racist and xenophobic theme that has been used at various times in our nation’s history. Others denied that the chant and the President’s response were racist but merely an expression of deep policy differences. To me this is a dangerous rationalization and denial of the reality of ongoing and heightened racism in our country much of which is going unchallenged by the majority of white Christians. As I reflected on this, I picked up my copy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last book written in 1967 called Where Do We Go From Here Chaos or Community? Although the following words were written over 50 years ago, I invite you to apply them to our current situation:
The value in pulling racism out of its obscurity and stripping it of its rationalizations lies in the confidence that it can be changed…The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease. A people who began a national life inspired by a vision of a society of brotherhood can redeem itself. But redemption can come only through humble acknowledgement of guilt and honest knowledge of self.
We can and should be able to have deep and honest disagreements about social and political policies. Yet we also need to be clear that racism in both overt and covert forms has no place in our society or in the Church. Below this post, I include two pictures from my recent visit to the National Memorial For Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL. It honors the victims and recalls the racial terror of lynching. Many of the victims were murdered in the presence of large crowds that included children. They rationalized this evil by appealing to their commitment to “traditional values” and their “way of life.” May we have the faith, courage, and commitment to clearly oppose any actions or statements that rationalize the dehumanizing of people of different races, nationalities, sexual orientations, religions, or political perspectives.