The events of Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend has opened up an ugly wound that has never unfortunately been healed. I don’t need to go into all the details of what happened as everyone who hasn’t been living in a cave know the details of who was there and what happened. Suffice to say, racism is wrong and it should not be tolerated it whatever form or shape it takes on.
I am having a hard time understanding why there are people, especially Christians, who think we should not be tearing down these statues of Confederates. They argue that by preserving these statues, we are preserving history as a reminder of the horrible things that was done in the name of racism so history doesn’t repeat itself. However statues of such people doesn’t do anything but glorify them.
I remember after the last war in Iraq, Iraqi citizens toppled a statue of Saddam Hussain which was obviously put up to glorify a dictator who oppressed minorities such as the Kurds. I never heard an American complained that history was being lost when the statue of Saddam was taken down.
There are better ways to remember and learn from the lessons of the past. We don’t need statues of Hitler in Europe to remember the awful things the Nazis did. We have books, films, museums and places such as the Auschwitz concentration camp where we can see where some of the most inhumane things that humanity can do in person. I visited Auschwitz a few years ago and a visit through the site did what no statue can do. I spent the afternoon walking through the camp repeating over and over, ‘My God, how could we let this happen.‘ I was emotionally wrecked by the end of the visit.
In the same way, there are better ways to remember and learn from the lessons of racism and slavery in the USA than putting up statues of dead people. As well as learning about it through books and films, we can learn about the tragic story how racism and slavery affected African Americans by visiting places such as former plantations where we can see where slaves lived and worked under horrible conditions while slave owners lived a luxurious life. Better yet, we can talk to our African American neighbours about the affect slavery had on their great grandparents, etc.
Fast forward to the present, racism is still alive and well. We have a huge problem where young black men are routinely stopped and searched for no other reason than for the color of their skin. We have a huge problem where the wage gap between African Americans and whites is at its worst in 40 years. I could go on but I think we get the idea.
One of the reasons why racism is still a major problem after all these years in the United States because we haven’t really dealt with it. Sure we have made some progress such as desegregation and giving African Americans the same rights as everyone else. As wonderful as these developments are, we haven’t really collectively repented of what happened in the past, regardless whether our families owned slaves or not for many of us are still enjoying the privilege of being white. (Please note there is nothing wrong with being white in itself.)
All of the progress made in race relations are wonderful and are to be celebrated, but they only go so far. They are half measures to right a wrong. Last time I checked, repentance requires a 180 degree U-Turn in the way we think and act. Only when there is repentance will we see complete healing take place. Without repentance, there will always be an imbalance of power.
It is the grace of God that brings us to repentance. The growing movement to tear down statues of Confederates is a hopeful sign that a growing number of people want to collectively repent and put racism behind us for good so that we can be healed. We are at a critical moment. Let’s take advantage of the momentum for the sake of healing.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.