Knowing their thoughts, he told them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. Matthew 12:25 CSB
The US was built on division. This idea permeates through every fiber of our being. Despite being victims of oppression, assimilation, and injustice, we take these same ideals and inflict them on others (as well as ourselves). We cause harm to those hurting as we are, and we receive harm from those hurting as we are, so we segregate ourselves. We push away even those willing to help in anger, fear, and uncertainty. We are fighting a war as an army of one when we could be fighting as a united front. There is a history of minority groups being pitted against each other and it's time that we educate ourselves on these divides, the similarities and differences of our cultures and on the way white supremacy is propagated and inflicted between minority groups. It is time black lives matter to everyone.
The History of Division Among Minorities
From the inception of the US, there has been a plan to keep the elite rich and in power. Since they actually make up the minority, they had to make sure the majority didn't overthrow them. This is where we see division begin. Rich whites instilled a fear and hatred of slaves in poor whites, telling them that they were losing jobs (and therefore money) to slave labor. They elevated them by the nature of being white, as they were free and still "better" than the enslaved blacks, but worked to keep them poor and powerless. As a result, poor whites and enslaved blacks were taught not to trust each other and most importantly, not to work together. If they had, they could have completely changed the landscape of the country.
This tactic was replicated within communities (namely by way of colorism) and between minority communities. By teaching one community to think they are not receiving resources because another community is getting that funding and then painting that community as undeserving, the system redirects the anger we should focus on policies and the rich, to people suffering just like us.
Many of our communities have the same problem manifested in different ways. For example, take the media. There isn't enough positive representation for any minority group. We're all relegated to stereotypical roles—the black athlete, the Asian nerd, the Hispanic/Latino maid (just to name a few). We shouldn't have to fight each other for a role or see another race's success as our failure. I was just as happy to see Crazy Rich Asians as I was to see Black Panther. Together we could have the power to force Hollywood to cast more people of color (in quality roles) and hire more people of color behind the scenes.
In some cases, however, the history is more nuanced. For example, when Asians began migrating to this country, they weren't received well. It's true that they weren't stripped of their heritage or forced into slavery as blacks, but it wasn't smooth sailing. Despite the education system teaching us WWII through the lens of the Holocaust and painting Germany as the big bad, it was Japanese Americans that the US put in internment camps while the government hired Nazi Scientist (research Operation Paperclip). Even before that, Asian immigrants were heavily discriminated in the workforce (just like blacks). Since they were not allowed to become white collar workers, this led to the rise of small businesses like nail salons, restaurants, and beauty supply stores. These businesses were often opened in black neighborhoods.
Today, Korean Americans own most of the beauty supply stores in the US and blacks spend the most money in this industry. For centuries, black people have indoctrinated to believe we are ugly and unprofessional in our natural state (research Sarah Baartman/The Hottentot Venus). From bleaching creams to toxic chemicals like lye for our hair, we are sold products to help us blend in and look more European. This is may not be overt racism, but it is a product of white supremacy or Eurocentric beauty standards. As such, the livelihood of these Korean American beauty supply store owners is dependent on upholding the belief that black women need these products and by controlling the flow of these products so that we don't "usurp" these businesses for our own community.
On the other hand, many businesses in the black community that are owned by Asians (not just Korean Americans) have been targets during rioting. Not only does this add confirmation bias to negative attitudes they may have picked up from our society's general narrative about black people, but it adds personal hurt and damage into the mix.
Yet in 2020, the fact remains that there are immigrants being sexually assaulted and kept in cages at the border (many of them Hispanic or Latino), Asians have been violently targeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, black people are still being murdered or reported to the police simply for being black, and none of us can win our individual battles alone.
From A Christian Perspective
We have a duty to stop saying, "Me, me, me" and start working together. We have a responsibility to go beyond simply learning the gospel, but learning about each other. James 2:14-16 reminds us that we can't spread the gospel to people with out meeting their needs first. In that particular verse, the need is food or clothes, but in our society that need might be justice, validation, or support. We have to educate ourselves about how we internalized biases and how the system is structured to keep us at odds with each other so that we won't be at odds with each other.
Christ said a nation divided is headed for destruction and a house divided cannot stand. The adversary wants us divided. It hinders the spread of the gospel and it endangers our salvation. Racism is a concise way of saying, "angry with your brother without cause." Christ said that if we are angry with our brother without cause, we are guilty of murder. We cannot harbor hatred or prejudices against people without sinning, that's how I know Satan orchestrated racism. As a Church, however, we have all the tools we need to combat this particular epidemic.
We Are Called to Justice
Matthew 23:23 and Isaiah 1:17 are just two examples of God calling us to do justice. That justice isn't just for our own community. We must rally the troops whenever one of us calls. Every Church should be on the forefront of the fight for justice and equality of people. Whether my local Church is 99% or 1% oppressed, they should be fighting against injustices happening to the oppressed.
Most businesses invest in diversity training. Why doesn't the church? We're so busy claiming we are "neither Greek nor Jew" that we forget society doesn't see it that way. Never mind what happens inside the church, the truth is the world at large sees differences in us and we each have different experiences—race, class, gender, etc. all shape our experiences and world view. Public schools don't teach the history of each culture, and they definitely don't go into the nuances of racism. When you take that into account, and remember as stated earlier that racism is a sin, you would think we would create programs to combat it. Churches have AA meetings, singles ministries, family life programs, and more to help Christians adapt and grow in Christ. Why don't we have a diversity ministry?
Bible Verses to Review
- Matthew 5:23-24
- Matthew 12:25
- Matthew 18:15-17
- Matthew 18:21-22
- James 2:14-16
- Habakkuk 1
- Isaiah 1:17
- Matthew 23:23
If you study the history of black people in America, you'll find that we've been paving the way for others for a long time. Blacks fought in WWII to liberate Jews from concentration camps and came back to a society that treated us like second class citizens. We fought in the American Revolution. We fought for Civil Rights that keep other minorities from being segregated as well. Yes, we have been helping (and occasionally hurting) other communities and yes, we need to be educated/invested in your plight too. I promise to stand with you when your life and your rights are at stake. Right now, however, it is the lives of black people that are being threatened. Do not leave us as an army of one, instead stand beside us, acknowledge that historically black lives have not mattered to the US, and affirm that black lives matter to you.
The only way to improve is to eliminate biases through education. We have to read and understand our own history (many of us don't even know that much). We also have to read and understand the history of others. It is 2020 and there are countless books, documentaries, tv shows, essays, short clips, TED talks, etc. about these topics, we just have to take the time view them. Once we clearly see the enemy's strategy, we can come together to dismantle the walls between us and start fighting together.
Posts from Last Week (Series on Christianity and Racism)
References and Footnotes
- Nikki Brown. "Being Followed Around a Korean Beauty Supply Store Made Me Rethink Where I Spend My Money". Essence. March 20, 2017
- Danielle Kwateng-Clark. "Outrage After Beauty Supply Store Owner Strangles Black Woman In Disturbing Video". Essence. March 14, 2017
- Interminority racism in the United States". Wikipedia; visited June 9, 2020
- Chelsea Black. "'Model Minority' Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks". NPR. April 19, 2017
- Juliana Menasce Horowitx, Anna Brown and Kiana Cox. "Race in America". Pew Research Center. April 2019
- Keri Leigh Merritt. "Keeping Poor Whites & Blacks Apart: a Southern Tradition". The Bitter Southerner; visited June 9, 2020
- "Japanese Internment Camps". History. October 29, 2009