Racism–Not Just for the Uneducated

I would like to believe that our institutions of higher education are places where white people acknowledge our own struggle with racial bias and are working to identify and address the places where we fall short. They are not places where ugly, overt racism lives. Such nastiness is relegated to backwater bumpkinvilles where people are just too ignorant to know better.

This week racist graffiti was found scrawled on the walls inside a dorm at Syracuse University, where my daughter is a student. Security at Syracuse makes it virtually impossible to get into a dorm unless you are a student. So this was almost certainly an inside job–created by someone who had the grades and the means to attend a competitive, expensive, private university. No backwater bumpkins here.

Syracuse’s public communication of this incident was delayed and fairly lukewarm. It included information on how students could report any knowledge of the incident, as well as where they could seek mental and spiritual help in its aftermath…which are all good things. Perhaps it was the requisite institutional language, but the level of outrage didn’t match the horror of the act.

My daughter is a blonde, white girl. In the public high school she attended, she was in the minority, but in college, she is one of many. What would the reaction have been if the slurs had been against girls with blonde ponytails and about how their presence is unwanted and unacceptable? Parents would be up-in-arms for fear of a psycho-stalker on campus.

I can’t imagine how jarring and disturbing it must be to live in the dorm where the nasty words were scrawled… especially for students of color. And my heart hurts for the parents of those students who now have ugly evidence that the supposed safe haven of their child’s university campus harbors the same haters they must face in the rest of the world.

Racism is inescapable. The sin of racism is not relegated to people we don’t know or come in contact with. It doesn’t merely exist in instances of violence covered on the nightly news in communities that are not ours. It is alive in our schools, our workplaces and even our churches. In fact, there are those who claim the same faith we do who use that faith to justify or excuse racist practices and policies.

There is no place for racism in the Christian faith.

Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. Ephesians 2:14 (CEB).

We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (CEB)

But the person who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and lives in the darkness, and doesn’t know where to go because the darkness blinds the eyes. 1 John 2:11 (CEB)

As Christians, we are called to stand up and speak out whenever we see racism at work in our communities and in ourselves. But we can’t let those who are wandering blindly suck us in to their darkness. We are called to shine the light to illuminate the path of hose whose hate has caused them to lose their way.

Loud voices, light and love may be some of our best weapons against the sin that is racism. May we speak out loud, shine the light of Christ and share love in places and spaces where hate seems hell-bent in taking up residence.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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