Racial inequality and injustice – why should I care?

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This post isn’t about one particular incident, but the numerous incidents of the last few years that have happened in the public eye. I know some people who still claim there is no real racial inequality or injustice in our country, but I just don’t see how someone can truly feel that way. Perhaps they don’t want to believe it is true or they are listening to media that spins everything a certain way, I don’t know. But I don’t see how anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave can say that racial inequality and injustice are not problems in America.

Now, on to the next question…why do I care and why do I think everyone else should care? I know some people who have posed this question or at least implied it. Why do I, a white woman who lives somewhere between poverty and middle class care so much about racial inequality and injustice that doesn’t affect me? Because it DOES affect me. It affects us all. So below I am sharing some reasons that I personally care so much about this topic. Some of the reasons are personal and some are universal, but they all make me care very much.

1. I care about racial inequality and injustice because I have seen people I love experience it. Growing up I had a step-father named Charlie who was African American. I loved him dearly and considered him family, but many people thought it was wrong just because of his race. I care because my mother had two white children but she also had a child who was half African American. When that child died, people told her it was “better off that way”. They never would have said that about me or my other sister. I care because when my husband and I fostered we saw a huge difference in the way schools and even our prior church treated kids of other races. Some in our church even told us it was wrong to take in kids of another race. One school secretary said she wished that those of us who foster would stop bringing “kids like that” to their school, yet no one ever had the nerve to say that about our white foster kids.

2. I care about racial inequality and injustice because it breeds hatred and violence, which affects us all. When people are angry, hurt and oppressed, many turn to violence to show their rage. I do not condone these violent reactions, but I do understand them from a psychological view. When no one listens or cares about your suffering, it is natural to want to draw attention to the pain. Often people end up choosing negative ways to do so because they don’t know how else to get people to notice and care. And when violence breaks out, it is no respecter of persons. Anyone may become a victim, even you and your kids. That is a reason to care very much.

3. I care about racial inequality and injustice because prejudice grows. The LGBT and African American communities may be two of the most oppressed groups in America right now, but they aren’t the only ones. As a woman, I know women are oppressed and disrespected in many ways too. As are Hispanics and Jews. I could go on listing, but the point is that when we approve of prejudice in any form it spreads and can rapidly grow out of control.

4. I care about racial inequality and injustice because I love this country. I love the ideals of equality for all and the “land of the free”. I was proud growing up to say I was an American. I loved knowing and befriending people from all different races and cultures. I loved growing up with heroes and role models of different colors. Now I’m not as proud. Slowly this country is feeling more and more hostile and uncaring. High profile people are saying blatantly hateful and cruel things about people who are different than them. Even worse, many vocal supporters agree with them. I still believe in the American dream, but I fear many others don’t.

5. Lastly, I care about racial inequality and injustice because I am a Christian and Jesus cared very deeply about those subjects. He cared about the hated and oppressed and fought constantly with those doing the oppressing. WWJD? He sure wouldn’t be hating on the poor and mistreated.

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Religion…for all the wrong reasons?

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Just something to think about…

Have you ever really stopped to think why you believe what you believe? If you have any religious or spiritual beliefs, what prompted you to form them? If you are a Christian for example, why did you choose to be a Christian? Was it because that is what you were taught growing up? Is it because most of your friends/family share that belief system and you want to fit in? Is it because you want blessings in return or fear going to hell? Or it is because you truly love and want to live those beliefs?

Now, once you have an idea in mind of why you chose your beliefs, think about who those beliefs serve. Which of the reasons are self-serving and which are others-centered? If you chose your beliefs because that is what you were always taught or because all your friends and family share the beliefs, who benefits from that? Have you just taken the path of least resistance? Are you afraid to question those beliefs for fear of being ostracized, bullied or left out? If so, is that a good reason to believe something?

If you chose your beliefs because you fear the punishment of hell or desire rewards here or in heaven, who benefits from that? Is it selfish to choose a belief system based on what it can give you or to avoid the fears of hellish punishment that have been instilled in you? Is it materialistic to live a good life only because you want a nice mansion or big crown in heaven when you die? How many people keep some kind of tally in their head of good vs bad deeds, trying to do just enough good stuff to require whatever fulfillment they believe will get them into heaven? How selfish is the “gospel of prosperity” as some people have called it? Do you believe that if you do ‘right’ you deserve good things and that those who don’t have good things have obviously failed to live right (as I have heard some Christians say)?

Now, what about if you chose your beliefs because you truly loved them and wanted to live them? Do those beliefs make you want to serve others? If you are a Christian, do you truly like the things Jesus did and do you try to emulate those actions regardless of how unpopular they may be? Do you want to defend and help heal the weak and the hurting? Do you put the welfare of people before tradition? Do you want to actively participate in God’s spiritual kingdom here on earth and make things better for others while you are here, or are you just surviving until you can leave the earth? Do you find meaning in reaching out to others rather than in being entertained or catered to? Is your comfort more important to you than the basic needs of others?

Of course, no one can answer these questions for us. It is something that requires deep thought and honesty. It makes us see the parts of ourselves we may not like or may make us question what we have always thought. I ask myself these kinds of questions often and sometimes they are hard to face and reveal, but I have a deep desire to be authentically about helping others. So many of us take our selfishness into our religion…and that shows. People know and it turns them off. I hope that maybe we can all someday see that true love and spirituality can never be just about “us”, “our kind” or “our wants and needs”.