When I was in seventh grade I went to a junior high school in Harrisburg, PA. My sister attended high school located a few blocks away. In February, there was a peaceful sit in at the high school. Black students protested saying the school wasn’t doing enough to promote Negro History Week. White students counter-protested. School officials did little to listen to either side of the argument. The incident sparked riots across the schools in the city of Harrisburg. Until school was dismissed at the end of May, skirmishes and tensions ran high across the city school system.
That summer my family moved. Even though both of my parents worked on the East Shore of Harrisburg we relocated to a community on the West Shore. Elected officials who served on capital hill in Harrisburg populated the community. We attended a small public school known as the “all white public school.” I don’t know how my family afforded the expense, selling one house and buying another.
I’m sure many families in the Harrisburg school district wished they could do the same. I suspect the practice of redlining made it possible for my family. Financial institutions could put loans out-of-reach for certain racial and ethnic groups. This practice existed until the 1974 passage of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. I’m pretty sure this is how my family came to live in this elite West Shore community.
This is one example of systemic racism, entrenched in our society. We have been born into it. We didn’t create it, but we have benefitted for no other reason than the color of our skin. We have perpetuated white privilege.
Racism is a sin. It is time to repent of it. It is time to have painful conversations that will move us to reconciliation. How do we as Christians live out the love of God? It’s not a political question, but one of faith.
In Galatians 3:28 it says: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ.” The children of God share an identity and destiny in Christ. There is no distinction between race, social standing or gender. In the gospels of Matthew and John, Jesus tells his disciples people will know who they are by the love that they share for one another. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
It’s time to listen to the voices echoing in the streets. It’s time to figure out how to love one another as we have been loved. We are all God’s beloved children.