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Black & White - Let's Talk About Racism
June 5, 2020 @ 6:44 PM by: Jennifer Frank

Black & White - Let's Talk About Racism

by Pastor Abby Davidson

A member of our church reached out to me yesterday, with a couple of questions. She asked what my parents taught me about dealing with racism and how the church can respond positively to the recent events in the States. I thought I would share my answers with all of you.

I grew up north of the city in a small town. There were very few non-white families and so we were an anomaly. I remember my parents teaching us about slavery. I remember my dad telling us what it was like growing up in Jamaica before independence and after (by which time he had left to come to Canada). I struggle to remember what my parents had to say to us about racism. I know they spoke to my siblings and I about it but at the time, it wasn’t something I could comprehend. For me, family was black, white, and in-between and it was hard to imagine how skin colour could divide people.

There were times when we encountered racism. Unfortunately, it was in the church. Another child, calling me “blackie” during Sunday school. My sister visiting a friend whose father (a church leader) told her to wear sunscreen so her skin wouldn’t turn brown and “yucky” like ours. The more I think back, I remember certain incidents and wonder “was that racism?”. I realize that my confusion indicates a certain level of fortune in my experiences. For many people, the racism they experience isn’t subtle or polite; it’s blatant and ugly and costs them dearly.

Some local news that came out last week, was about a young woman named Chika Oriuwa who is graduating from the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto. She was the second black woman in the history of the faculty of medicine to be named valedictorian and, four years ago, in a class of 259, students, she was the only black person.

I’ve noticed that in Canada, while we talk about being diverse and inclusive, we see very little representation from racialized communities (particularly the black community) in leadership roles. I remember looking at graduate theology programs for schools in southern Ontario and finding places with all-white faculties. We need to do better at making sure that racialized people have equal opportunities because right now, that’s far from the reality.

The world has been awakened to this reality over the past two weeks. I believe that the Church (that’s you and me) was made for times like these. We have an understanding of the evil that holds our world in its grip. We also know where to look for hope.

How can we respond?

First, we can pray. Pray that God will enable us to bring his justice to life in our city. Pray that hatred and racism will end. Pray that God will open our eyes to our own prejudices and biases and give us the courage to change.

Second, educate yourself. Know what the issues are so that you can be a part of the conversation. Read this interview ( from CBOQ with Pastor Audley Goulbourne about how you can support the black community. If you’re looking for books to read, the Toronto Public Library has released a ‘Black Lives Matter’ booklist on their website.

Third, listen. Look for ways to listen to black voices; whether in books, on social media, or within your own circles. When we stop speaking and start listening, we make room for change. When I read the gospels, I am always amazed at how Jesus took time to listen to people, especially when in conversation with ‘the other’.

Fourth, speak. Speak up when you hear or see racism and speak wisely. Proverbs 12:18 says that the words of the wise bring healing. Healing is the work of the Church. May we, by the power of the Spirit, speak words of life that will bring healing and redemption to those who live with the wounds of racism.