Many have been rightly focusing on racism that prompts police brutality of people of color following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks.
A social media post grabbed my attention recently: “If racists are kneeling on necks in broad daylight, imagine what they are doing in Human Resources departments, classrooms and medical offices around the country. We know it’s bigger than just the police.”
It should not have been so eye opening to me, but it was.
I recently marched in a Black Lives Matter protest in my city of Frankfort, Kentucky, and cried out with others for justice for these that are God’s beloved.
We should not stop peacefully protesting and marching until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
While this endeavor is critical, we know it is only part of the racist virus that permeates our society.
If individuals are willing to display blatantly racism in the light, it is not difficult to deduce what is going on in the dark.
I have been reading and listening to black friends, ministers and authors who have been informative to me about systemic racism.
We have been socialized into a culture that has racist structures and systems in place to keep people of color from progressing in areas like housing, jobs, education and healthcare, just to name a few.
We would be kidding ourselves to believe all people of power and authority (who are mostly white) in those entities are not racist.
At the very least, they have been acclimatized to be reluctant to give mortgages to people of color, to not hire or promote people of color, to automatically think people of color are not as smart or not give people of color the level of healthcare they might provide a white person.
The list could go on how people of color are treated differently and, in many cases, inferior to whites in numerous areas of our society.
Before anyone thinks I sit on a throne of non-racism, believe me, I know and I am learning I am one of the largest obstacles for people of color in ever getting to a place of equality.
The “white moderate” as Robin Diangelo describes us in her book, “White Fragility,” who think they have arrived in the area of racism may actually cause further harm than the outspoken racists.
For too long, I believed since people of color have scholarships just for them, equal employment rules, integration policies, racial profiling laws and the like, that everything must be all right.
But underneath that cover of false security were insecurities I did not really ever think about because it was just how things were (or so I thought).
I can remember growing up in a predominantly white southern city where most Black people lived in one section of town. My mentality was I shouldn’t go through that part of town.
Why? Were Black people dangerous? And why weren’t my Black friends living in any other parts of town? Systemic racism is the answer.
Black World War 2 veterans were denied provisions of a GI bill that was supposed to help them with mortgages. White veterans began building generational wealth by owning a home.
Redlining in real estate was prevalent then and exists today, where many Black families were denied loans to build houses in certain areas because they were deemed a high financial risk.
Rules were put in place for suburbs that did not allow nonwhites to build in particular neighborhoods. These are just a few examples of all the hurdles Black families had to navigate.
My hometown was not unique. This kind of systemic racism permeated the country and particularly the South.
We might not think of ourselves as racist. I don’t think of myself as racist. When I think of racists, I think of the KKK.
While I am not racist in that sense, I must come to terms with the raw truth that I’ve had a better lot in life, more opportunities, privileges and benefits because of the color of my skin and the advantages afforded to my ancestors.
And until I depart from my contentment of being a nonracist and begin a campaign of anti-racism, where I interrupt racist practices and work for a better society for my Black friends, then I am part of the problem.
If that doesn’t seem fair to you and you find yourself saying things like, “I didn’t own any slaves,” “I am ‘color-blind’” or “I didn’t enact any of those racist policies,” I encourage you to put down your defenses, take a breath and, with Christian humility, pull a little at the string of knowledge regarding systemic racism.
The more you pull, the more you will unravel the ugly sweater of racism that has cloaked most of our society for hundreds of years and hidden the many vestiges of oppression and racist systems that remain solidly intact today.
Maybe then we can be moved to action.
Photo credit: Along the route of George Floyd’s funeral procession. Photo: 2C2 Photography via Wikipedia.com (https://tinyurl.com/yac5gsyo). Cropped.
Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.