Our conversations about race can get better.
Photo by Papaioannou Kostas
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
In January, we remember Dr. King’s birthday and legacy. In April, we will remember the 50th anniversary of his death—a violent act of racial hatred in the heat of a national moment of reckoning. Fifty years later, 2018 offers us another moment of national reckoning. We have an opportunity to take a long, close look in the mirror as a nation, as local communities, and as individuals, and to see both the personal and systemic forces of racism that plague us still.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Racism lives on in our actions and policies. Poverty is no less prevalent—in fact, according to government tracking, more people are living in poverty in the US today than in King’s lifetime. And poverty is not colorblind. Gender discrimination and violence against women clearly have not been eradicated. And gender violence is not colorblind.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And our silence is complicity. Fuller’s President Mark Labberton wrote last fall, “[Recent racialized events] cry out for the need of white Christians to look at this pervasive and insidious evil that subverts the Jesus we claim and profess. By our racial sin, the name of Jesus is scandalized.” Young people within and beyond our churches are not blind to this critical moment of reckoning.
In the same Birmingham jail message, King wrote this about the church: “I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future.” We need not despair either. But young people around us are indeed looking at the church and wondering how, when, and if we will speak and act in response to racism and racialized violence in our day.
Recently our team put together a resource to help leaders and parents process and respond to racialized violence both in local communities and those that capture the attention of national media. We aren’t going to solve racism with one Bible study, one apology, or one conversation with a person of a different background. But we want to help you start where you can—especially in your conversations with students—to facilitate a set of ongoing conversations over time and embedded in real relationships. We are hopeful that intentional conversations can lead to intentional actions, in little and big ways, that eventually can help rewrite the narratives that drive us apart, and ultimately can reduce racialized violence in our country.
In this guide, we give you tools for framing discussions and experiences with young people, focused on prompts to ask, listen, and pray. The resource ends with a starter list of written, audio, and video resources created by others, grouped by topics like understanding white privilege, talking with kids about race, and taking action. In fact, you may want to start with these lists and first increase your own exposure to diverse voices.
This MLK day, let’s not miss an opportunity to meet young people in the midst of some of their greatest questions about the church in our world. Because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.