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Navigating Racism through Social Justice

Navigating Racism through Social Justice

Rev. Jaron S. Green

 

Have you ever lost your keys?  You’ve taken the time to get up in the morning, shower, brush your teeth, and iron your clothes.  You’ve taken the time to do your hair and even grab a little something to eat. You’ve got Gospel music playing in the background, and even had a little talk with Jesus.  You’ve still got 5 minutes to spare…Winning! You make your way toward the door only to realize that you’re not going anywhere without your KEYS! ALL the right things were done. ALL the right moves were made. But when you looked in the place where you left them, the keys had mysteriously moved.  How frustrating!

Have you ever given your last in church?  Honestly, it’s hard enough trying to make ends meet as it is.  However, you’ve learned the Word of God about tithing and giving.  The Holy Spirit moved you to take a step of faith and obedience. So, you’ve budgeted.  You’ve cut out a few small luxuries. You’re working down to the necessities. ALL the right things are done.  ALL the right moves are made. But when you looked in the place you expected it, the money you needed had mysteriously moved.  How discouraging!

 

Have you ever loved somebody? “Have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry?  Have you ever needed something so bad you can’t sleep at night? Have you ever tried to find the words, but they don’t come out right?”  (All of us 90’s R&B and Brandy fans started singing the next line). “Have you ever been in love so bad, you’d do anything to make them understand? Have you ever had someone steal your heart away; you’d give anything to make them feel the same?”  ALL the right things were done. ALL the right moves were made. But when you looked in the place you last felt it, the love you expected had mysteriously disappeared. How heartbreaking!

 

As heartbreaking, discouraging, and frustrating as all of these aforementioned circumstances are, imagine living with racism – daily.  Racism is deteriorating.  It sours attitudes, and leaves eyes welled with tears.  Some of these heavy, pain-filled tears are too brave and reluctant to fall for fear that they might be mistaken for weakness or surrender to historic systemic exclusion and oppression.  To be clear, entitlement, prejudice, and abuse are at the root of racial and social exclusion in society.  No person should be disadvantaged because of biases against racial identity, nor gender, sexuality, age, socioeconomic status, mental health status or social identity.  Any social exclusion that exists based upon such prejudice cries out and longs after equality.  For such cause, the work of racial and social justice appears never ceasing in a battle to bring about social equity and opportunity.  Because social exclusion of this sort exists, individuals and entire communities continue to be blocked from rights, opportunities, and resources.  Given the reality that systems of inequality are interconnected and interdependent, racial and social justice addresses a vast range of areas of concern and need, from the experiential to the structural, from education to employment, from housing to healthcare, and from democratic participation to due process.

 

For well over a decade, I have served the urban community as a faith leader, counselor, and educator.  The urban community, the breeding ground for racial and social justice, suffers with the result of generational iniquities, that is, inequities created by political, social, and economic forces.  Through my experience in serving the church, in schools, and in non-profits – helping people find solutions has been a driving force in my pursuit of racial and social justice.  The more I work, the more work I discover must be done.  It is evident that one must be equipped to meet to the ever-growing challenges of the urban community.  The statistics of urban settings are a grim testament to the need for qualified leaders, ministers, educators, professionals of all kinds, and ground-level volunteers that can affect present conditions, and positively change the trajectory of the future of the community.  However, the work is not limited to urban areas.  Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

 

Racial and social justice is more than a neatly-packed philosophy that no person should be disadvantaged because of racial identity, gender, sexuality, age, socioeconomic status, mental health status or social identity.  Racial and social justice is the exhausting dirty work of exposing and extracting the root of entitlement, prejudice, and abuse and its effects in society. It includes educating the misinformed, and engaging in direct corrective action to preserve and create a legacy of hope.

 

No matter how dirty the work or difficult the search, find and use your keys.  The keys to unlocking closed doors work best when you, as Dr. Corliss Brown Thompson teaches, reckon with the idea that social justice is not just about difference but a critique of social structures: who gets to build it, operate it, protect it, look inside it (for those locked out of it), is buried under it, regenerates it, receives benefits from it – by asking when, how, where, why is its function and most importantly – who am I in this structure, with all my multiple identities. It’s not neat or easy.   Such a process requires critical self-awareness, investment, and risk from each of us throughout this journey. It requires that we respectfully listen to each other, especially when the perspectives we encounter are different from our own, and that we leave open the possibility for changes in perspective: our own and those of others.

 

Give your last; your full effort toward real change.  Although you may feel as if you expend all of your time, energy, and treasure – give and give again.  Give to political action committees that represent your interests, and promote candidates who are bright and promising.  Invest in those who align with morals and standards, who are willing to be held accountable to the public they serve, and who have a record of character, that is, a past of delivering on what they promise they will deliver on, and doing what’s right when there seems to be no audience.  Give to churches who are actively pursuing social justice, who are interested and involved in real reconciliation, and who are using their resources to meet needs and distribute knowledge and wealth.  Give to organizations who have a proven track record of producing returns on investments in hard-stricken communities.  Give to young people.  Some child, some youth, could really use your positive and warm influence as a mentor.  That young person can be the change agent a community so desperately needs.


Finally, Love.  Love without restriction.  Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. defined love as an “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing positive regard which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”God operating in the human heart.” Many Christians would recognize and deem this description of love as “Agape.”  Let us practice love so that racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by a spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood; members together of a beloved community.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.  Also, please consider a one-time gift. This space runs on reader support.

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