You’ll be surprised to learn that the one thing you can do to end racism is simple. Surprisingly simple. SHOCKINGLY simple, I would even wager.
I have some other earth-shattering news, too. Systemic racism isn’t defeated with causes or marches or protests (only) or campaigns or even hashtags and black squares, even IF those things are good in and of themselves. It will be defeated by one thing we can all do, but can’t execute perfectly.
THE ONE THING
Are you ready? The one thing that can be done to end racism starts with what YOU can do.
Be Kind To Others.
That’s it. It’s not a flashy concept or movement or hashtag campaign. It’s a direct command from Jesus himself – John 13:34. The solution is simple, but the execution is difficult, so I’m going to pad the ONE THING with some things we can all do to better execute a shift in mindset.
WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO EXECUTE
I could bore you with some diatribe about the following: people – collectively speaking – can’t execute this idea of kindness well at all or we would have had world peace ages ago. We’re sinful, mired by our sinful indulgences and lifestyles. Often we can’t see beyond the end of our noses and empathy is something we often struggle with.
We can’t put ourselves in others’ shoes if we won’t make the effort to get out of our own shoes.
IT’S A LOT LIKE PRAYER
People sometimes struggle with prayer life because it’s at perpetual odds with the culture and world we live in. We look to results to determine our actions. We are goals and results driven people. If we can’t at least see some results to bolster us in our pursuits, we may end up quitting. The basis for this seems reasonable. Why put effort into good practices if we have no tangible results?
It’s simple. Because doing good for its own sake should be its own reward. But like I said, we’re fallen and that clouds our ability to do what is right at every turn.
WAYS TO KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT
First, we need to cultivate an attitude that embraces others in healthy ways. Please note, I am not saying we should blindly accept others’ sinful actions or lifestyle choices. And I know some/many of us come from deeply damaged backgrounds and upbringings that it’s hard to see the good in others…heck, sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness in our own selves and that’s a topic that’s worth writing about all on its own.
START WITH THE FAITH
If we look to the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church), we can see how it expands upon our inherent dignity as children of God.
MAN’S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son1 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity. 1 Lk 15:11-32
WAYS TO PRACTICE BEING KIND
Questions we can ask ourselves and things we can think about to see if we are practicing the ability to be kind.
- SELF. Start with yourself. Are you kind to yourself? It’s hard to extend kindness to others when we don’t like ourselves.
- FAMILY. How about our closest relationships? For many of us, this means our nuclear family: spouse and children. How do we treat our spouse? Our children? Are we modeling the virtues we want to see in the world?
- THINK. Before you say something to anyone, use the THINK model – is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and finally, Kind?
- CULTIVATE. Conversations are a great way to root out issues and change behaviors, habits, and attitudes that have overstayed their welcome.
- SOCIAL MEDIA. Anger has a way of manifesting itself in some volatile ways, one of which is harboring and feeding frustrations until they bubble up into anger, and sometimes rage. Anger comes in the form of sarcasm, too. If you feel yourself making increasingly negative blanket statements against people or groups of people, step away from the keyboard. For more tips on social media, I invite you to read an article I wrote some years ago on the subject.
- INFLUENCERS. If you are someone for whom you are blessed to have a platform and followers who you respect, use your voice responsibly. Take great care in the way you engage, what you write, and even what you allow to be posted to your accounts. At no time are we ever required to put up with any behavior that ridicules, mocks, or even lacks basic courtesy. There was a time when folks believed (myself included) that commenters had the right to say what they wanted under the guise of free speech. While this is true where it applies to our rights as Americans, I urge you to think of your platform as your living room. People can disagree and vigorously so, but when the arguments become ad hominem (meaning the argument itself is not attacked, but the character of the person saying it) or destructive, your platform can become an occasion of (if not an outright) sin. Set the bar high. Tell fans and lookie loos that basic Christian charity is to be extended towards one another and if someone fails to follow that simple request, you should hide the comment, delete the comment, and/or ban the follower should it come to that.
These may seem like such hokey (ok, whatever) ways to live kindness, but let me put it to you this way. Peace and love towards self and others? It’s not a hippie concept, friends. This is what Christ calls us to for ourselves and to others. No exceptions.
I TRY BUT I CAN’T BE KIND – IT’S HARD
If this is how you are feeling, listen to that voice.
Disconnect from the things that are aggravators. If you don’t know what that is, pay attention to triggers that set you off.
Try journaling instead of commenting online.
Hold your tongue. Social media has conditioned us to think we should say and share all the things. I’m telling you it’s ok to hang onto those thoughts if it’s going to cause harm or division or hurt.
I just want to tell you if you are someone who has had to step away from social media or taken flack from those who call you friends for not speaking up for injustices because your heart is too filled with grief, anxiety, sadness, or massive stress over the growing tensions, I want to say I hear and see you. You are NOT bad, uncaring, racist, or otherwise. Self preservation is a real thing and we all have our limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your actions.
In fact, in the spirit of kindness, we should be assuming the best in others, especially friends (hello, that’s why we became friends to begin with!) and showing tenderness to each other when words defy us.
Undoing systemic racism isn’t going to happen overnight, but just like prayer we won’t always see the effects. It doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or that our efforts aren’t building a culture of respect and love for others. Think of it as building a cathedral. Cathedrals took sometimes hundreds of years to build. And most times the architect didn’t even see the completion in his lifetime. But here’s the thing, we have to do the things that build the foundation. For some of us, we are blessed to be building upon something our ancestors left us. For others, we are making the decision today to end the racism that took root in our families. You are foundational and God bless you for making the decision to change the mindset of your family.
Remember…we are the Body of Christ.