To The Third and Fourth Generation
(My heart just hurts.
And I don’t have the right words. Sometimes I don’t have any words.
I don’t have the right language, a proper understanding, and as rocked to the core as I feel I know I still don’t fully get it.)
So many other names. Names we don’t remember or recall after their time in the headlines pass.
Benjamin Watson (of the New Orleans Saints) made a great statement after the Michael Brown grand jury decision:
“…ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem.”
I agree with him.
I also think it’s important to recognize that part of our sin problem, is a skin problem, and we (white, christians living in the U.S.) need to be honest about that.
We have a problem admitting those little biases we keep tucked deep in our minds, sometimes beneath what is even conscious, that those prejudices and discriminatory thoughts lead to unjust statements and actions.
Like a couple years back, when my young, African American neighbor asked to hold my infant daughter before church service started one week. My gut reaction was to tell him “no.” Not because of his character, his age, or his level of responsibility. My gut told me letting a black teenage boy hold my daughter was a bad idea.
That’s a lie from the pit of hell.
Engaging and acting on that thought is sin.
You see, for many of us, our SIN problem is a SKIN problem.
What else should we call it when Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week?
We need to be honest about the fact that even though “I’ve never owned any slaves,” that I still reap the economic and social benefits of a system of slavery that was the at the foundation of this nation.
We need to be honest about the fact that even though “I’m not a racist,” most of us exist in isolated social networks with few or no persons of color in the sphere that influences us or in our circle of friends.
We need to be honest about the fact that the word of God, which we cherish so deeply talks often about how the sins of the fathers reach three to four generations deep, so to insist that race has no implications in the U.S. currently is not only a social fallacy – it’s theologically inaccurate.
We’re barely two generations out of Jim Crow.
Somewhere around four or five generations outside of slavery.
But maybe the issue isn’t what the Bible says or evangelicals desire to take Scripture seriously, maybe it’s that we don’t believe these things are sin.
I wonder if we (white evangelicals) don’t just look back and slavery and Jim Crow as “unfortunate events” in our nations foundation and formation, instead of as the heinous, demonic, evil acts they were.
The denial of racism in the present make me question our sincere understanding of horrors and sins of our past.
Because the sins of the fathers reach to the third and fourth generations, and who are we to think we’re the exception?