Systemic racism: this is Canada’s inflection point
At Context, our tagline is: Society. Justice. Culture. Ethics. God—Be part of the conversation.
I cannot remember a time when these things were more important than they are today, as we see challenges to all of them in this divided world.
How do you handle conflict, change, and uncomfortable conversations? Do your hands get sweaty and does your voice start to shake like mine? While many would say I’m not one to shy away from controversies, conversations about them are never easy—am I right?
So, what happens when so much of the world has been forced into one of the most uncomfortable but important conversations we have ever had?
We have witnessed video after video of police violence: from the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breeona Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brookes, to the RCMP officer’s assault on an inebriated Inuk man, to the recent case of Chief Allan Adam being violently arrested by RCMP, to the “wellness checks” performed by officers in New Brunswick that ended in the deaths, allegedly by police, of Chantal Moore and Rodney Levi.
All of this tragedy has come amid a pandemic when we’ve all had to press “pause” on our lives. We now quickly have to press “play” on the hurt and pain that surround us at every corner.
There are many difficult things happening in our world, but I’m writing today about racial injustice, about the inequities that exist here in Canada for people of colour.
When we witness acts of police brutality, some people block it out in denial—but we cannot do that this time.
God is speaking to us and we must listen.
In an article written in Psychology Today titled “How to Have Difficult Conversations,” social worker Dan Mager offers some ground rules. What jumped out at me right away is Mager’s point number 9: “Approach the conversation with openness and an interest in problem solving, rather than needing to be ‘right.’”
I don’t know about you, but I like to be right. Who doesn’t?!
But what I hear Mager saying is that listening, with a posture of finding a solution together, is the best way to come out of a difficult conversation with some kind of joint resolve.
Since the world has turned plenty of cameras and microphones on the issue of systemic racism, many on social media seem uninterested in listening to each other with openness and an interest in problem-solving as Mager suggests.
What I see are divisions, accusations, and worst of all: SILENCE. This is not a time for silence.
I recently posted this quote on my Facebook page: “By saying nothing, you are saying something. So, what side of history will they say you were on? The safe side or the side of justice?”
It’s an honest question, and one that provokes some serious soul-searching. But I’ve found that even in the answers to this simple post came comments of defence, offence, and a need to deflect.
James 1:19 in the Bible says, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Verse 22 stands out for me: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And what does the Word of God say? Of course, there’s “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). It also says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15).
James is telling us to accept what God planted in us.
I’m asking if our words are reflecting back to us what God planted in us.
Do they reflect God?
Do they reflect the key tenets of what Jesus teaches us so passionately?
Or is the “Word’ in us more representative of a political leader, party, unconscious bias—even a hate so deep inside that it causes walls to go up instead of being torn down?
How do you think the Word, planted in you, should react to the reports of Black and Indigenous men and women being abused and killed? Some lying on the streets of their hometowns, in broad daylight shot down and killed, some in in the back, some in cold blood as they plead for their lives, and in front of the whole world to see almost instantly.
Is God looking away and denying what’s happening? Or is this darkness being brought into broad daylight for everyone to see—yet again?
Are we pointing the finger back at the victim instead of approaching the conversation with openness, and an interest in problem-solving rather than needing to be “right”?
As a Black Canadian Christian woman, allow me to ask a few more questions:
How are you dealing with the conversation we are currently having in our world today?
Are you humbly accepting the Word that has been planted in you by being quick to listen and slow to speak?
Are you choosing the side of justice, even if that means accepting that you might be wrong?
Or are you building walls so high that maybe you cannot see the pain on the other side?
Are you playing it safe so as not to ruffle the feathers of your tribe – or are you willing to speak out about injustices and change things?
Society. Justice. Culture. Ethics. God—Be part of the conversation.