In the wake of the Ferguson, MO incident, racism has again become part of the national conversation. Whether it is based on ignorance, fear, stereotypes or feelings of superiority or inferiority, racism is real and its effects are destructive in our society. Is there a touch of racism in all of us? In a column in Thursday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff explores that possibility.
Kristoff writes: “Research in the last couple of decades suggests that the problem is not so much overt racists. Rather, the larger problem is a broad swath of people who consider themselves enlightened, who intellectually believe in racial equality, who deplore discrimination, yet who harbor unconscious attitudes that result in discriminatory policies and behavior.”
For most Americans today, racism is seen in terms of oppression of Blacks by non-Blacks, but racism is ubiquitous and is found in all societies throughout history. Even God’s Chosen People suffered this weakness. In Deuteronomy 23:4 it is written: No Ammonite or Moabite may ever come into the assembly of the LORD, nor may any of their descendants even to the tenth generation come into the assembly of the LORD. In our own American history we find shameful discrimination against many immigrants, particularly the Irish and Germans who suffered vilification and discrimination from nativists.
Many of us recognize that we have a touch of racism, and recognizing that fact is the first step in overcoming it. Pope Francis has spoken out against racism and xenophobic behavior and several occasions. Having a better understanding of God’s love for all his children, St. Paul writes: For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.
Ending racism and discrimination against others who are different from us in color or belief, must begin in our heart of hearts where we honestly and prayerfully examine our conscience, and see if there is a plank in our eye before we look for sawdust in another’s. (Matthew 7:3)
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