Today marks Ghana’s Independence Day. As a Ghanaian (both my parents are Ashanti), who was brought up in the U.K., who doesn’t speak Twi (to my own disgust); independence day is one of the happier days of the year. It is an opportunity for me as a member of the diaspora to ‘reconnect’ with the Motherland.
Often, I sing along with the anthem (which I do know I have my grandmother to thank for that) when it pops up on one of my various social media feeds. This year a line in the anthem, which I had sung many times, struck a major chord with me.
“…And help us to resist oppressors’ rule, with all our will and might evermore…”Final line of the Ghanaian anthem
While growing up in the U.K. it is unfathomable to think of the amount of racism that my grandparents (1st generations), my mother and uncle (2nd generation) and my sister and I (3rd generation) would have and do face. It is tragic to think of and has carried long term pain (Physical abuse, spitting, verbal abuse to name but a few). The country of my birth has often caused internal conflict as to discerning where my ‘allegiance’ should lie.
Racism is a heinous sin (As a definition I will use ‘being prejudiced based on ethnicity’). But it is part of the system of sin of which satan is prince of (Ephesians 2:2). Sin is in all the world.
If you are a Christian reading this, you at some stage were part of the system of sin. You, like myself, was a rebel to God. Racism is sad not just because it is deeply painful but because it goes against all that God says about people created in his image. Recognising that while sin affects people differently (for instance, the effects of lust have more potential to cause pain to women than men), it is something under which all of us do stand condemned AND contribute to if we are not fighting against. There is no neutral ground. Switching sides only comes through one way (Jesus Christ). After that there is no going back. (Read Ephesians 2, better yet the whole letter)
And the truth with sin is, that it one day it will all be judged. For those who are covered by the work of Jesus they are saved from sin and hell (Romans 6:23). This is always a sobering reminder for us believers who face the pain of the world often at the hands of unbelievers.
Furthermore, because racism is sin, it cannot be helped through education, proximity or any other means. It can only be mortified through the holy spirit. Though the means above are often used as just that means not the end.
Thinking in this way has helped transform what is a cause of deep personal pain into something with far deeper cosmic ramifications. So while there is a time to mourn sin there is a time to also dry my eyes and recognise the freedom of self-forgetfulness (Tim Keller – https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/book-review-the-freedom-of-self-forgetfulness/)
One of the reasons I’ve likely been slow to speak on my own personal racism is because I’ve not wanted to add complications to what already is a complex issue. Black people have differing views on race and rightly so, part of the difficulties of racial oppression is becoming a monolith.
Speaking on publicly on racism being in the heart of a black man is bound to upset some brothers and sisters out there (You may be one).
It is also bound to cause sinful pride in the hearts of white racists who have weaponised this opinion and used it to downplay the pain of racism directed towards black people (You may be one).
I have no intention to heap more pain on people or for me to used to score points. But through remembering the gospel, I recognise, that I must fight against prejudice in myself that I was born with (Psalm 51:5). If not I am a willing participant for the plans of the deceiver.
The victim of a household robbery understands the pain of someone taking what is is not theirs. This, however, is not an excuse for watching movies illegally, or not paying for parking spots, gym memberships or public transport. So while the effects of sin differ, who they are committed against does not. This I think is why humility is a often shown as a key cornerstone of Christian sanctification. It reminds us that our performance is not against others, but before a Holy God.
Though the racism I had in my heart was rarely verbalised or rarely could it be described as hatred, being confronted with the gospel taught me two things.
A) I didn’t love white people as myself which is the biblical standard.
B) Before a holy God I once again stood condemned for disliking those who were created in his image. I was actively participating as a hypocrite and rebel to my new status as a Christian (Colossians 3)
Recognising the best way I could help end the cycle of racism, that has been ever so painful, is not through reading up on Ghanaian, African and Black history (though I will continue to do so as I love it, Malcolm X’s auto-biography is still in my top 5), nor through having white friends (while this too has been a true blessing in the past few years of which I’m so happy for) but through the gospel. In it working in my life in my heart and proclaiming it through my speech and conduct.