“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:16-17 (ESV)
Unfortunately, racism is more than a personal sin that an individual can either choose to partake in or not. Racism is also a structural sin – one that provides certain privileges to some groups based on the oppression of others. Many people are realizing that it’s not enough to just not be racist at the personal level, and that what is required of us is active anti-racist work to address (and redress) unconscious and conscious historical and structural racism.
In her book, “Resisting Structural Evil: Love and Ecological-Economic Vocation,” Lutheran ethicist Cynthia Moe-Lobeda writes: “The fact that individual actions are relatively powerless in the face of structural sin does not mean that personal efforts to counter it are immaterial, ineffectual, or unnecessary. To the contrary, the individual’s response is essential and effectual . . . . Structural sin, while it cannot be dismantled by individual actions, cannot be dismantled without them.”
So, how does one go about being actively anti-racist?
Using the See, Judge, Act method developed by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn applied in “The Responsible Citizen,” the first step is to acknowledge the reality of racism and learn to recognize it. This can be difficult at first because injustice, particularly structural injustice, tends to be invisible to those who don’t suffer directly from it. Once you have seen it, though, it can’t be unseen. Some questions to think about as you do this are:
What is happening?
Who are the people involved?
Who gains from this situation and who loses?
The next step involves personal reflection. This, too, can be challenging at first. We all have racial stories: those early memories or that moment when we first realized that our race mattered and resulted in different treatment. Far too often, for people of all races, these stories are painful ones. Some questions to think about as you reflect:
How do I feel about this situation?
What do I think should have or should be happening?
What does my faith say about it?
By doing both of these steps, you will be in a better position to take action. Anti-racist actions can vary widely depending on the situation. Some questions to ask here are:
What can I do to bridge the gap between what is happening (the reality) and what should be happening (the ideal/what my faith says)?
What action am I going to take?
Who else can I involve in this action?
As the Congregational Coordinator of Justice and Peace, Sister Kari supports Sisters and Associates in working toward justice to the greatest extent that each is capable. This involves sharing opportunities to learn, advocate, reach out, and to pray.
She is also active in educating and engaging the broader public on justice issues, facilitating discussions on topics like the death penalty, environmental destruction, racism, and human trafficking, and working collaboratively with community and faith-based organizations.