by Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil for The Christian Citizen
My voice to confront racism was formed in the 1960s and 1970s, living through the era of decolonization in several countries in Africa. My childhood and adolescent years in Central, East, and West Africa and in Italy were interwoven with racism, privilege, and oppression and the richness, respect, and love of cross-cultural ways of living.
As a second grader at a Christian school in Bangui in the Central African Republic, I was denied an education because of the color of my skin. As a teenager and into adulthood in the United States, I continued to be confronted by the evil of racism. By God’s grace, my passion for missions, kingdom building, and my deep desire to love my neighbor has not wavered. But the call of the prophet Micah “to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,” has not been easy.
Jesus’ commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself” permeates my heart. God is love.
As an instrument of God’s peace, mercy, and love, I choose to join and equip others to break racial barriers, be a bridge builder in the face of injustices, and stand against the destructive systemic nature of racism.
We are all made in God’s image. Therefore, as God’s people we ought to be better.
Since spring 2020, the world has been catapulted into a season of old and new pandemics. Images of the violent and public death of George Floyd were a flashback to Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, when beatings of God’s sons and daughters took place on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The evil of racism and its systemic nature has touched many doors, pulpits, households, faith-based and secular work environments. How should we respond?
Clergy face an urgency to sharpen truth telling and be God’s instruments of mercy, peace, and love. Self-examination processes such as the Ignatian practice of “examen” invite daily self-reflection to help practitioners see, notice, and reflect on God at work in daily life. Beyond self-reflection, it is time to engage in courageous, spirit-led conversations regarding race relations. Dare to uphold humanity as created in God’s image and deconstruct racial divisions. No longer say, “I see no color when I see you,” but continue to build and unite God’s beloved community—the human race.
To foster engagement, help break uncomfortable silences, and develop self-awareness practices that guide individual and corporate actions, conversation should be guided by the following principles:
Enter God’s presence with a willing heart and listening ears
Enter God’s presence with an open mind
Honor human dignity
As you move forward in conversation with others, adopt the following practices and pay attention to the questions they prompt:
Notice. Jesus said “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV). As you observe the injustices of racism around you, how does the Spirit stir the eyes of your heart? How have you extended the peace and love of Christ to others? When have you chosen to look away?
Accept. God directs our steps. “In their hearts humans plant their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV). How have you benefitted from the evil of racism through your actions and privilege? Have you chosen to stay silent in board meetings, policy discussions, or church councils while ignoring the impact these decisions have on sisters and brothers of color, absent from these gatherings?
Act. Follow God’s directions for hospitality. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9 NIV). Are there ways you choose to invite the one who does not look like you into conversation? How have you shown God’s love to your neighbor recently?
Decide. Facilitate a heart of righteousness. “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV). What can you do to help break the codes of systemic racism in your daily life? Who else can you invite into this conversation who looks like me? Who can you pray for who doesn’t look like you?
Walk. Walk a new walk, being “merciful even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36 NIV). What values will you uphold that embrace human dignity? What phrases or words will you filter out of your vocabulary as a concrete act to fight against racial injustice?
These practices and questions can help facilitate necessary conversations to help bridge the racial divide. They may help raise awareness within yourself and others of the evil of systemic racism and oppression and of the ways we have strayed from God’s mission. If nothing else, these practices can start an internal redemptive process to be better.
Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil is director, Short-Term Mission, International Ministries.