Let us start with a definition according to “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”. Now there are lots of other -isms’s that could be brought up which are just as brutal, unfair, and theologically incorrect. However, if we could just get to a place where we really understand what “racism” is and where it takes us, then it is a simply step to eradicating the other -ism’s because they all work the same way.
Racism: The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as the “belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” and the expression of such prejudice, while the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority or inferiority of a particular racial group, and alternatively that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief. The Macquarie Dictionary defines racism as: “the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.” Next, let us give a summary of what these definitions, while slightly different, are pointing to. What each of these definitions are ultimately talking about is “power and control,” the belief that somehow among humans there is a sense of superiority over other people because of skin color and culture and therefore has the privilege to rule over another group of people.
The dirty little secret around this subject is that the racists themselves do not want to admit that for hundreds of years they have lived with the idea they somehow were superior simply because they were free and in this country white. In fact good hearted and kind people get bent out of shape when this conversation comes up because they do not want to be lumped in with the despicable kinds of behavior that racism allows.
However, what is forgotten is that they are part of a system that has been and still is in many ways racist to the core. Of course I am raising this issue because of the most recent shooting of a young black man Trayvon Martin by a “wanna be” cop.
One of the more interesting quotes I saw surrounding this shooting was, “I think too many people make this an issue of black or white. We have not the other side. If in fact this was racially motivated…it was wrong. But what about white Americans being shot by other ethnicity? You just never hear about this. I feel the “race” card is used more than it should be. And that Americans truly affected by “race” are truly served an injustice. It is not a black or white thing…it is a “HUMAN” thing!!”
While on the surface this statement might be partially true, it misses the point of what happen to this young man. It was an act of racism no matter how you slice and dice the debate. When one listens to the 911 call that CNN got it is obvious the shooter uses a racial slur in response to the victim. I know the commenter’s kept trying to cover their butts as to what was said, but my ears work pretty well and it was pretty obvious the phrase used by the shooter was “f****** c***”.
If one is not feeling superior this phrase is never uttered. Then we get commentary from some political bureaucrat that if this child of God would have just stopped and answered the shooter’s questions there would have been a different outcome. Really?
I can damn well tell you had that been me in a hoodie and I was walking to my Mother’s house and some dude starts following me and asking questions and it was obvious to me he was not a police officer I am not stopping or talking either.
Now let’s add to the fact that when the police do show up they see a black kid down and the shooter saying he was threaten and they just let him go? In fact according to news reports the most bizarre part of the police statement is “Zimmerman tells police he killed Martin in self defense. Taking him at his word, police do not arrest him, nor administer a drug or alcohol test. They also did not run a background check.” This was an unarmed kid shot 3 times… Why? Simple, it was a black kid with a hoodie. It does not take a rocket scientist to see an act of superiority at work here.
I may be naïve here, but logic would say you take the shooter into custody until you can figure out what happened. The fact this guy, who had no law enforcement authority, has not been arrested speaks volumes.
In a related story, there was another shooting in Florida where a white guy got shot by a black guy, and guess what? Yup, the black guy has been arrested and charged. Why?
Where all this is taking me is back to one of the definitions of racism:
“the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.”
It is this whole idea that we continue to believe in this country that God created the human being to be superior to one another. Nothing could be further from the truth.
However, the plain facts of the matter are;
We still live in a world where women make .70 for every dollar a man makes.
We still live in a world where men are superior to women.
We still live in a world where being white is superior to any other color.
We still live in a world where heterosexuals are superior to homosexuals.
We still live in a world where if your gender identity doesn’t fit a rigid definition of what is male and female–well let’s just say the results are not pretty.
We live in a world where one religion is superior to another.
We live in a world where cultures are superior to another.
We live in a world where the more money one has that somehow makes them better than those who have less.
Call me crazy but these –isms, regardless of whether it is race, sex, gender, economic or just about any other label you can think, are not going to get better until we wake up.
We need to wake up to the fact that no one person is superior to another. No one race or culture is superior to another. No one gender is superior to the other. Love and intimacy is meant to be shared by all regardless of gender or gender identity. Despite what folks may try to tell you the “human being” in this world, on this planet is one body and the sooner we recognize that the better off we will be. From my faith background a New Testament author by the name of Paul wrote:
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as God wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”1 Corinthians 12:14-26 New International Version
The -isms of our world are an injustice to the human condition and as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote from the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.