Will the Racial Tensions Ever End?

June 1, 2020

It was May, 1992 that our country was gripped by racial tension as the events of the Rodney King trial began to unfold. As the anger, riots, and devastation came into our living rooms from Los Angeles I was moved by the response of Rodney King. He said, “People can’t we learn to live together?” Apparently not, as we have watched the people of color rise up in rage over another senseless death of an innocent man, George Floyd.

I believe it is very important for the people of our nation to join together in prayer about the current racial strife we find ourselves in right now. The tensions are being exacerbated by the covid-19 quarantine. People are going through a time of spiritual and emotional struggle, and they aren’t sure where to turn for help.

For example, doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek say they have seen more deaths by suicide during this quarantine period than deaths from the COVID-19 virus reports ABC 7 Live News in San Francisco. Dr. Mike deBoisblanc said, “We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” he said. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.” (See https://abc7news.com/suicide-covid-19-coronavirus-rates-during-pandemic-death-by/6201962/ for the story).

Back in the 1990’s Professor Virgil Cruz from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary wrote a document called “White Privileges”. It challenged me back in the nineties, and was intriguing to look at again after all these years. Clearly we have seen some positive progress. But I think there are prejudices that continue to be strong. As you read through the list of “White Privileges” below think about which ones have changed, and which you still struggle with, or we still struggle with as a nation. As a white man I do indeed enjoy the following privileges often denied people of color:

  1. If I make any grammatical or spelling errors, no one will attribute my mistakes to my race.
  2. I can walk into a store late in the evening and probably no one will think that I am there to rob the store.
  3. In the classroom, it is not automatically assumed that my children will do poorly.
  4. If I have a responsible job, no one thinks that I got it because of “quotas.”
  5. I can borrow money from a bank without the loan officer wondering if I can pay it back.
  6. People hear that I am a college graduate and no one is surprised.
  7. If I want to teach my children about my culture, there are many museums and cultural events to which I can take them.
  8. No one assumes that when I give my opinion on something that I am speaking on behalf of my own race. The apostle Paul writes, “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 Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). What changes have you made over the last thirty years that makes this true in your life? Do you see any areas of prejudice that you would like to focus on correcting? If you don’t see any areas of prejudice in your life do you know anyone that has a different skin color than you that you feel comfortable approaching, to see if they have any suggestions how you might become more open to other people? If you don’t know anyone of another race very well, then may I suggest that you seek out a friendship with such a person? It will have a big impact on the way you see the world, and will certainly enrich your life.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I think we would agree that there is still unfinished business in the area of race relations, and it matters where we stand. The above list has helped me to recognize some of my own prejudices and hopefully as change and become more open to people different from myself I will be a better disciple of the Lord. My prayer is that these thoughts will help you do the same.