The other day I went to the West lecture and I was once again reminded of the importance of Race Matters in my own life. I don't hide, it does no good, from my racist past. You could say it was simply part of the culture in Appalachia, you could say that but that's no excuse. I fully accept the actions of my past (I never physically hurt anyone due to their race, but I had terrible thoughts as a kid - thoughts of supremacy and better than). I can't change the past - there is nothing I can do about it. But I can try to like mad to make the present and future better.
Some people say racism is ignorance - it is much more than ignorance. Racism is about power and indeed the ideological foundation for white supremacy.
Some people seem to want to move past race in our society. But we cant do that. You could if you think racism is a sociological phenomena but it isnt it is a sin and sin is not something that goes away too easy. Recall Yahweh God's warning to Cain as Cain pondered killing his brother Abel, "sin is lurking at the door to overtake you." If we try to think of racism as only a past historic event that was settled long ago and not the legacy of racism and our ongoing practice of it we will not come to terms with the true transformative power of confession, repentance and reconciliation.
When did the change happen for me? When and how did I go from a racist to a Christian? I would say it took place in the latter part of college and the first part of seminary. The metanoia took place when I picked up the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr and heard them, really heard them. The metanoia took place when I read the social writings of Thomas Merton, especially Faith and Violence. The metonoia took place at CRDS and I found in class African-Americans who could kick my theological butt all over the place. It took place and is still taking place. At least it took.
What can I do? I can pray about racial relations, I can preach about it, I can teach about it and I can seek to cultivate new and transformative relationships.