Friday, January 12, 2018

When Silence Is Betrayal, When To Downplay Is To Collude

Donald Trump yesterday, in a statement that can only be called racist, referred to the countries (particularly) of Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as "shitholes."

Yet, many commentators avoid the word "racist" like it was the plague.  The will use other phrases to describe the words as socially inappropriate, but they will not name the words, or Trump, for what they are.  So let me do it:

Racism IS a plague on humanity.  Donald Trump's reference to the home country of people of color who seek to immigrate to the US as "shitholes" is racist language and a sign that Trump is carrying that plague.

When we fail to call out racism for what it is we collude with it.  As great an evil (or perhaps more so) than the evil of collusion with a foreign government is to collude with the Evil that sets apart other humans whom we are taught are created in the Image of God and who Jesus has called us to respond to as though we are responding to Jesus Himself set them apart as "less than" we are.

A milder form of this racism occurred later in the day when Trump asked someone not to refer to people as "Dreamers," but to use the term "DACA," maintaining that there is a difference.  The major difference is that "DACA" is easier to separate from being about real people.  When I call someone a "Dreamer" I am acknowledging that they are someone like me-with hopes and dreams and aspirations.  They are human beings.

The language of racism always seeks to use terms that dehumanize and diminish.  It is easier to ignore, hurt, abandon, enslave, kill, torture...creatures that aren't quiet human.

One additional way of diminishing shows up this time every year.  It is the airbrushing of the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights icons (in my thoughts today I'm thinking specifically of Rosa Parks).  When we paint these people as "simply" somewhat passive workers for equality, we miss both who they were as well as the magnitude of what they were fighting against the magnitude of what we continue to be called to combat.

We forget that MLK's famous "I Have A Dream" speech begins with the (correct) accusation that the promises made to people of color in this country has been returned as a check marked "insufficient funds."  That King was calling out the nation for it's failure to make good on it's promises.  We forget that when he spoke at Riverside Church and came out against the war in Vietnam; lining out the ways in which poverty, war, and racism were tied together, and that the children of the poor and blacks were being sent to war in unfair representation,  people who had supported him (both black and white) dropped him like a hot rock.

Oprah Winfrey reminded us of the story of Recy Taylor, gang raped by a group of white men in Abbeville, Alabama in 1944.  Such sexual brutality was systematically used against black woman in the south just as surely as ethnic cleansing was a weapon in Bosnia.  We forget that the "go to woman" for people to talk to about their sexual victimization was Rosa Parks.  Long before there was a "Me Too" movement there was Rosa Parks carrying cases of sexual violence against black women to the Alabama courts for the NAACP...not because they expected to win, but because they were going to insist that the stories be told.  I recommend to you Danielle L. McGuire's book At The Dark End Of The Street.  

When we downplay the prophetic voices of such people, it is as though we said, "the prophet Amos was very kind to the poor and asked powerful people to be kind to them too."  Really?!

And when we try to quiet the prophetic nature of these voices, we play into the hands of racism that seeks to portray it's Evil as somehow "really not that bad."

To paraphrase MLK a bit, it is not the hateful language of the enemies of God that we need to worry is the silence of those who claim to be friends of Jesus.  Those who claim to believe that ALL of us are children of God; that ALL of us are created in God's Image; that ALL of us are invited to be part of the Kingdom.  Scripture does not paint a picture of a "White Heaven," a "Black Heaven," a "Korean Heaven," a "Hispanic Heaven."  The Kingdom is described as the whole world, "from North and South, East and West" streaming to the Mountain of God.

The language of Donald Trump yesterday and the moves being made by the Trump Administration are racist.  They are sinful.  God is not pleased.  We, individually and as a nation, will be judged by how we treat Jesus when He comes to us in the person of those that racism seeks to marginalize.

This is not the time to collude, this is not the time to betray.  This is the time to stand up, speak the truth and let God's word to our nation ring out: "As you do to the least of these, you do it also to Me."

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