I am a black American, and I have been struggling with the idea that America is systemically racist. Not being idealistic, I know some people in America struggle with the sin of racism. What I disagree with is the idea that America as a nation is racist. America was founded on an incredible vision written in the preamble.
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – The preamble to the United States Constitution
The founders and crafters of the Constitution pulled off a titanic fusion of different interests, laws, and cultures to form this perfect union to accomplish a specific purpose. Their purpose was to create a government that vested the power of the union in the people.
So, maybe my issue with saying that America is racist and its systems are racist is that I have to bear some responsibility for that. Since it is a government run by the people, we have either elected people to represent us who have created the racism or been so complacent that we have not voted to stop it. Let that sink in a bit.
America’s Actual Issue
Earlier, I wrote some people struggle with the sin of racism, but I think what is plaguing America is systemic oppression. Let me give you some definitions which will shed light on this term.
Prejudice is attitudes and feelings. Prejudice relies on and builds stereotypes.
Discrimination is an action that comes from prejudice. It’s making choices based on stereotypes and prejudgments. It’s avoiding certain people or places.
Oppression is Prejudice and Discrimination + Institutional and Historical Power = oppression.
How this plays out in our country is like this. Oppression means to “hold down” a group of people. It depends upon harnessing prejudice and discrimination within ideological, legal, social, and day-to-day contexts rooted in historical, institutional, ideological, and structural forms of power.
We see this in our country in educational disparity and an unevenly handed justice system, which is tied to policing. The protest and reform cries need to focus on: why are some people held down by failing systems, and how can we change those systems?
Breaking the Cycle of Oppression
“African-American men who failed to finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed.” Southern Poverty Law Center.
One of the most significant contributors to ending those trapped in failing systems is ensuring children have an education. Poor education systems cannot provide students with marketable skills and adequate job preparation.
All of this creates a failed system that needs more employment opportunities to break the cycle of dependence on government help to rescue the next generation. The failed system creates a never-ending cycle where residents cannot produce adequate financial resources to improve their impoverished communities.
Breaking the oppression cycle is complex, but one thing seems consistent. A child’s parents have the most significant influence on her economic well-being.
When we have people willing to invest time and energy to equip the poor and working class with the skills needed to create economic empowerment, we can break the cycle of oppression.
How do we fix this?
“He (Jesus)will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41–46 (ESV)
If the church takes the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 to heart, we must address the issues our cities face holistically.
Community Development is the Key
This development process by which local partners are identified and mobilized to transform the community into what God intends it to be: a place where we cloth the naked, feed the hungry, welcome the immigrant stranger, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner.
Bob Lupton believes our focus should not be on charity, which he calls betterment, but on development. “Betterment does for others; development enables others to do for themselves.”
This plays out in our witness to those in need because churches in the impacted communities create ministries concerned and aware of what is happening in the community.
Then, the churches take the next step and develop ways with other partners in the community to create solutions to the problems in their community. The American dream is attainable if people actively take part in creating more dream achievers.
Love His deep dive into Race In America