Understanding Race and Racism
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” Angela Davis
Racism is deep-rooted and embedded in this country’s history. Stating that we are not racist is a comfortable way of saying “I know it’s wrong,” and believing “That’s enough.” Fighting racism requires an ongoing commitment to learn and participate in the discussion. People of color, Muslims, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Latinx have all experienced racism in our communities. As Christians living our faith, it is our responsibility to work to eradicate it. Christianity is more than a noun, it is an action word, it is a living faith that requires respecting everyone’s humanity. We should all work to be “anti-racist.”
Working Towards Being Anti-Racist
Learn the vocabulary of racism* (A more extensive list can be found on our website.)
--race: a political and social creation of society, and not based on science or God’s will.
--racism: belief that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others, and that a particular racial group is inferior to others.
--systemic racism: discriminatory practices and policies ingrained in our society to create and maintain racial inequality in every facet of life including education, housing, employment, and the justice system.
--white privilege: the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people because they are white.
Know Our History (A few historical facts to ponder)
1) Slavery and other forms of forced labor began with the arrival of black slaves in Jamestown in 1619. An estimated 6-7 million enslaved people were imported to America during the 18th century alone.
2) In the early 1700s, Cape Ann merchants began shipping supplies to feed the slave populations on cotton and rice plantations in the South.
3) In the 1800s, Cape Ann ship owners and sea captains became wealthy “buying and selling enslaved people and transporting them to and from slave markets.”
4) Cotton mills and factories in Massachusetts profited from the cotton grown on southern plantations using slave labor.
5) In 1860, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs established schools to force Native American children to “assimilate” into the dominant white culture by removing them from their families and teaching them white/Protestant values. In 1978, Native American families were finally given the chance to choose the type of education should have and remain with their families.
Know Current Facts (What is still going on today?)
--today over 80% of the teaching population is white, and half of the student population is Black, Brown, and Indigenous.
--only 4% of doctors in the US are black and 6% are Latinx, often resulting in the practice that white doctors are more likely to hold anti-Black biases such as believing Black people have a higher tolerance for pain, resulting in doctors not believing them when they seek help.
--55% of American-Muslim students faced some sort of discrimination because of their Islamic beliefs, mostly in the form of verbal assaults.
--1 in 11 Black adults are currently incarcerated or under correctional control.
--1 in 3 Black children live in poverty.
--in 2011, less than 30 % of Hispanic students graduated from high school.
--before the pandemic, 73% of Asian Americans experienced discrimination because of their race; during the coronavirus outbreak, 32% of Asian adults feared someone would threaten or physically attack them.
--systemic racism has left the median white family with 41 times more wealth than the median black family.
Take Action: What We Can Do That Is Doable* (No need to join a protest march.)
1) Learn the facts and be prepared to speak up when the opportunity presents itself. Not speaking up means you are okay with the status quo. Silence changes nothing. Comfort will not end racism. Beware of “whitewashed” history. Be open to new knowledge.
2) Participate in and attend events that raise awareness of what is happening in the community. (Gloucester presents programs year-round that are available for free.)
3) Allow ourselves to “see” and acknowledge someone’s race. Saying “I don’t care about the color of your skin,” denies them their history and ethnic backgrounds.
4) Check out the list of resources available in the Saint John’s library.
*This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewel
The Need to Educate Ourselves About Racism (It’s all about empathy and connectedness.)
In 2023, we still live in a separate and unequal society. As Christians, it is our task to seek solutions through the lens of a “Beloved Community, with an emphasis on kindness, empathy, and respect for all humanity. If we focus on what unites us, we can take an honest look at ourselves and work toward a just society.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”