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05.06.2020

We Can’t Breathe

George Floyd is the latest in a long line of black people who, in recent years, have died at the hands of the police in America. This has led to a global outcry against racism, demanding fairness and equality in interpersonal relationships. But more than this, justice requires us to root out and re-order any system, structure, or narrative which privileges white people over people of colour and their cultures, norms, and perspectives.

Many consider racism against black people to be an American problem, but Britain’s imperial history has given us our own particular brand. While many white people would publicly denounce overtly racist behaviour, many of our systems are inherently racist and some people remain willing and conscious participants in them.

That’s why it’s not enough to check our unconscious biases. We must be determined to be ‘anti-racist’, to work against the status quo wherever it disadvantages black people. This is fundamentally theological: affirming the inherent dignity of all people created in God’s image.

In the UK, recent research demonstrates that black children are twice as likely to live in poverty than white children. Black people face discrimination in employment and health care. They are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, to get sentenced to prison time and to be given longer sentences than white people. As a country, we have our own stories of excessive force and of the deaths of black people in police custody. Stories that do not end with justice.

These realities are well-known by black people in the UK, including black Christians. Black Brits share the pain of African-Americans suffering under the weight of the same sin and injustice, the same racism.

Yet, the lack of solidarity displayed by many white Christians and leaders has deepened this pain. The unity and witness of the church – as an institution and through its members in society – depend not just on shared faith, but also on shared love and shared burdens. The racial inequities of our churches often fail to speak prophetically to the world – this is a week for lament and repentance.

For those moved to compassion, it’s also a time to listen, learn, and practise solidarity with your black brothers and sisters. Action is the way we bring about a new world. A world that cares, principally, for the ‘least of these’.

 

Selina Stone
Tutor and Lecturer in Political Theology, St Mellitus College

Author

Selina Stone

Comments

  1. Selina,
    Thank you very much for sharing this. I love you my sister!

    God Bless
    Isaac

    By Isaac - 5th June 2020
  2. Thanks for your thought provoking article Selina
    I’d be interested to hear your view on LICC using Saxton Bampfylde to do the recruitment for the Executive Director post. A quick look at their recruitment team (https://www.saxbam.com/about/) makes me wonder if this is an example of a system which is likely to privilege white people over people of colour?

    By Ben Nicholson - 5th June 2020
  3. Thank you so much for these thoughts and the helpful links…

    By Bruce Gulland - 5th June 2020
  4. My heart breaks as I watch the media and I so much agree with whats been written here. I know this is not a time for insensitive caveats, so I hope this won’t be seen as one. As a white immigrants to the UK, as a family we have also experienced a degree of discrimination – bullying at school after arrival and less trust in the work place- basically on the outside- all this has made me more heartbroken because if this hard for us as white people, how much harder for people of colour? But at the same time discrimination goes deeper than sking colour- it extends to nationalism – look at the genocide in Eastern Europe and Africa itself, for example. I beleive to get to the roots of raciscism we need to hold it together with all forms of discrimination and those roits lie deep within falken human nature- we need to Gospel we need Christ to heal us. We also need to trust Him enough thst He is just not simply forgiving- the cross was costly- so that ALL of is can be healed and forgiven

    By Ally - 5th June 2020
  5. Sorry Selina, I couldn’t disagree more. Your approach here has nothing to do with biblical justice or the dignity of every individual, and if followed will sadly lead to injustice and endless conflict.
    It is Identity Politics wrapped in a veneer of Christianity.

    By Roger Dunlop - 5th June 2020
  6. …”it’s not enough to check our unconscious biases. We must be determined to be ‘anti-racist’”. I think few reading this blog would disagree with your stance, though you take it a stage further in this quote. I suggest you also need to further elucidate the theological reason for this, which you describe as the “inherent dignity of all people in God’s image”.
    For me this latter phrase means little in this context – I say yes to it easily. I wonder if a better theological principle is God’s justice, and his demand that we be just or righteous – e.g. Mt 6:33, Micah 6:8. This principle is elucidated in the establishment of rules for the new society after the Exodus, e.g. when land was to be restored to its original owners – despite their economic ups and down, and the need to sell it to raise cash – every 50 years (Leviticus 25). This Jubilee balancing of economic power was about restoring justice.
    How readily do we subscribe to that? Are we willing to restore wealth to those who have lost it; or to remove political power from well-funded lobby groups? Are we willing to empower employees who have no power on boards; or laity who feel disempowered in church?

    By Cal Bailey - 5th June 2020
  7. All lives matter and more should be done to address both the superficial and underlying causes of racism.

    Unrelated to the specific subject God has been speaking to me about His example of love and how we need to become more like Him in our love for all other people in this last week – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. He has been pressing this home to me via 1 John 3 and 4 and also Acts 2 42-47 & Acts 4 32-37.

    Racism is not uni-directional. I am aware of racism towards those of other colours in many countries around the world. Whichever way we look at it racism is hatred and not love.

    May we all learn to love better all people of all colour and unite in our efforts to stand against racism with the love that Jesus has for us all. As Christians, we have yet another timely opportunity to stand out in these days of Covid as a family where there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female and reach out with compassion to all those oppressed by the horrors of racism.

    By Brian Smith - 5th June 2020
  8. Important topic but I am troubled by the assertions in this (possibly poorly edited/in need of an editor) opinion piece.
    Which of the “many of our systems are inherently racist” are you calling out? While much of our language is still tainted, I am not aware of any concrete national systems that would fall into this category.
    What “lack of solidarity displayed by many white Christians” are you referring to? I have not seen anything that would implicate white Christians as a group (other than double talk from Trump whose actions and claims re Christianity are at odds with his behavior.).
    Finally, what “racial inequities of our churches” are you referring to? This is not something I have ever even heard hinted at.
    The complete lack of evidence or example linked to these sweepingly negative statements does this platform no favours, and comes across as inflamatory rather than concilliatory which I would suspect is a more Christian focus at this time?

    By R Dobson - 5th June 2020
  9. Honest question.
    Should I therefore provide a prayer space for my British Asian Muslim colleagues on a Friday. Or allow them to not work on a Friday but instead work on Sunday?
    By failing to do this do I favour, “white people over people of colour and their cultures, norms, and perspectives”?

    By Steve - 5th June 2020
  10. Thanks Selina for your thoughtful article – and to LICC for putting this out at a highly charged time when it’s perhaps ‘safer’ to stay quiet on the issue of racism. As a white male I am trying to be more OK with feeling uncomfortable when reading about racism. Discomfort can close us down if we try to deny it, or it can open us up to be more accepting of the experience of (many) others. And that feels like a real step towards practising compassion and solidarity with brothers and sisters who experience discrimation, without falling prey to tokenism. Thanks too Selina for the links to resources to ‘listen and learn’. I’ll take a look (and listen!)

    By Nick Tatchell - 5th June 2020
  11. Good and informative article but sadly it’s a poor last sentence, which has left me unable to share it. It could too easily be understood as saying that black people are “the least of these”.

    By Karen Palmer - 5th June 2020
  12. Sadly, in my opinion this is a very poorly written article, only addressing black human beings…which immediately comes across as biased. Every human being is made in the image of God and I agree with some of the other comments here, racism is multi-faceted and not black and white. Yes, an extremely important and serious issue and one for any Christian to examine themselves over and to follow biblical guidance; however, there is an inflammatory undertone and sweeping statements throughout the article. Disappointed, as usually the standard from LICC is excellent and I often feel able to share but not this time.

    By Lyn - 8th June 2020
  13. Racism is present in every human heart, in every country and every nation on earth. We must start our journey of a pure heart to God by examining ourselves first, acknowledge and apologise for racist incidents, reform our organisational structures and work tirelessly to see our world more equal. Whoever has power is the potential oppressor and minority groups are usually the oppressed. In western societies this usually means that organisations are run by white people who at times consciously and/or unconsciously oppress BAME groups. Oppression also occurs in all other parts of the world but to have a voice that speaks out against the oppressor in other parts of the world we must first look at ourselves and our own society.

    By Clive J Weir - 19th June 2020

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