We can all agree that America is in need of race reconciliation. But how do we begin to heal from our past?
I believe it requires three important actions that we can take from today’s reading. First, by acknowledging the sins of our past and present. We fall short if we only acknowledge the history of racism in America. We must also acknowledge the current structures of racism including police brutality, violence against minorities, under-resourced schools, inadequate and hazardous access to natural resources, and disproportionate rates of unemployment. It is also crucial to recognize white privilege and acknowledge that one’s skin color has afforded opportunities or access that is withheld from others.
The second step is to ask for forgiveness. As Azariah prays to God for forgiveness with “a contrite heart and humble spirit,” those of us with white privilege must view it as an injustice, a result of the toxic, insidious nature of racism. We must seek forgiveness for the ways we’ve taken advantage and reaped the benefits of privilege. We must also ask forgiveness for ways that we may have mistreated or judged others who were different than us.
The final step of reconciliation occurs only after repentance and that is to act. Commit to speaking out against racism and privilege. Look for meaningful and supportive ways to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds who are committed to justice work, never taking on a paternalistic approach but one of openness and humility. The reading today reminds us of the graciousness of God and the power of his forgiveness, but it also suggests that we maintain an open and humble heart in order to experience God’s power. Racial reconciliation is undeniably a huge task—but we know that we are not alone, for God is with us.
- Be honest, with God and yourself, and admit if you have racist views or hatred towards others. Ask God to forgive you and change your heart so that you can have a positive impact on your family and community.
- Does your vision of the kingdom of God include people from all different races and ethnicities? If so, does your personal circle of friends resemble the kingdom? If not, in what ways will you work to make it different?
Wanda Scott is a development director at Case Western Reserve University and regularly teaches theology and religious studies classes at colleges and universities in the Cleveland area.