I cannot believe a month has gone by already. It seems like we were ending 2023 & we are now already into February of 2024. February is, of course, Black History Month. It’s a time when we remember & celebrate all the many contributions of Black people to the landscape of American history. It is a difficult thing to reconcile the hatred & horror of the Black experience with the ethos of Christian love. There is a disconnect at times when it comes to understanding the history of the United States of America as a nation founded on religious freedom & the institutional enslavement of people for profit. Is it any wonder we continue to be bound by implicit biases & racist constructs? Or our bondage to economic systems of disenfranchisement & oppression? Until we are honest about our formation, we cannot peel back the layers that keep us bound & change the systems upon which we have been formed.

I remember years ago when our son was, I believe, in second grade, he came home during February & a Black History Month lesson with a critical question. He wanted to know how families functioned before the Civil Rights movement when there was a Black parent & a white parent. Since he was in preschool, he had been identifying the differences in our skin tones & had finally given voice to the question of his identity & place in the world. As a white woman married to a Black man, I knew there would be a time of question & pieces of our children’s journeys that I could not travel with them. My heart has broken into a million pieces time & time again as I have witnessed our son’s struggle to know who he is in a world that would tell him his identity is all rooted in the melatonin in his skin.

As Christians, we are rooted in the imago Dei, the identity of our God’s image as the foundation of all human beings. In our embodied forms, we cannot deny we are formed differently. To say we do not see race denies the experiences & identities of the fullness of each person’s lived reality. For my son, that reality has been a both/and experience as he has been both aware of his skin tone & he has experienced being treated differently for it. Our daughters have their own lived experiences with their racial identities, just as has my husband & countless others. The truth of racism & its ongoing influences in our culture & world is that we are not post-racial & we have a long way to go if we want to get there.

I think about the story we heard last Sunday in worship, the story of the person with the skin disease who wanted to be made clean. We didn’t touch on the cultural belief that people with skin diseases had done something unrighteous & were being punished by God with the affliction of the disease. The reality of cultural beliefs & implicit biases is that we are not so far removed from this type of construct, especially when it comes to race. The belief that the lighter a person’s skin equalling a holier status is woven into the very fabric of some religious constructs, never mind the debunked yet embedded belief of cognitive abilities being related to racial identity & the many other influences still affecting our implicit biases related to race. Yes, we have a long way to go if we are going to be a genuinely post-racial world. Perhaps, however, this February, we can each learn a little bit more about the significant contributions & influences of Black people in our collective history, peeling back some of the layers of our implicit biases & beginning to heal the divide between all peoples.

In Christ’s Love,