Post “post-racial”: Race and Reconciliation
On October 3, 1971, a group of about seventy politicians and academics formed The Southern Growth Policies Board in Durham, North Carolina. According to a New York Times article published the next day, the members of the board believed their region had “entered an era in which race relations [were] soon to be replaced as a major concern by population increase, industrial development and economic fluctuations.” Duke University President and former North Carolina governor Terry Sanford described the meeting as an opportunity to move forward as a “post-racial South.”
From our excellent vantage point, nearly fifty years hence, it is clear that neither the South nor the rest of the United States of America is enjoying a “post-racial” existence. Over the last year, white supremacy has been on display in our nation from Charlottesville to Kansas City to Berkeley, California—that bastion of inclusivity. Within the boundaries of our synod in 2014, the sin of racism became a clarion call for activists from across our country, who gathered in Ferguson, MO to ask why it is that young black men are so often the target of police bullets.
We are not “post-racial,” and neither is that a realistic goal. The eagerness to put away our past without endeavoring change our hearts is indeed the impulse which has gained us this moment of national shame. Perhaps “shame” seems harsh. After all, we didn’t march on Charlottesville, right? Indeed, those displays of utter hate and vile sloganeering seem to make it easier on the rest of us. We could pretend that we are the ones without sin, if we are not marching with tiki torches and embarrassing ourselves on national television.
We could do that…if we were not the inheritors of a tradition which reminds us each year that we stand in need of repentance. We could do that if we did not know that in our hearts beats the devil’s call to see the color of another’s skin before we know the content of the other’s character.
As this Lenten season begins, let us heed instead the call of the prophet Joel, the call to return to God, who is endlessly merciful and eternally forgiving. Our God created human beings in God’s image. If someday we learned to see all of our neighbors as gorgeous reflections of God’s face, we could indeed live into the dream of Dr. King, the dazzling hope of Archbishop Tutu, and the deep and abiding love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this Lenten season, let the color we see be love, which adorns itself in a rainbow of hues and tints that combine to make us one body—the body of Christ. Let us find ways to work for reconciliation between all of our neighbors, the reconciliation Dr. King dreamt his children would see. Perhaps it can be the reconciliation which our children will see.
Ideas for further reflection:
1. As you encounter your neighbors this Lent, try to see God’s reflection in them. Notice how that changes your sense of who they are.
2. Pledge to work toward racial reconciliation wherever you are. Speak out when you hear racist language or see bias and prejudice in action.