Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19th, is always a special time for me every year. If it was not for Martin Luther King's passive resistance against the racist powers at be, I and many other young black men and women would not have the rights we have today. It is a cause for celebration and remembrance for a great man and an even greater God who raised up Martin Luther King. But this year January 19th was a little different, I had the opportunity to celebrate it with the director of my ministry and many students from Randolph and Lynchburg College. The dinner was not only delicious (shout out to Julia Bradner), but it represented how far we have come as a society. Blacks and whites having an opportunity to enjoy a dinner together would have been unspeakable in King's day, let alone allowed. But one question that was brought up by my director made me realize that we still have a long way to go. This one question, though seemingly harmless, made me realize that the racial tension is still alive.
Much racial tension is happening throughout America, like Mike Brown and Eric Garner; both of which were brought up in discussion. From those two cases alone you could make a strong case that racism is not only alive but is thriving within the very fiber of the American psyche. But in all honesty those topics, though important, were not the topics that sparked this article. The one particular question asked does not seem like it would have major implications for Americans and Christians alike. But as we look below the surface or beyond face value this one question that was asked by my director on MLK day could be evidence that America just isn't ready to tackle the race issue. The question was "How do your parents/families react to interracial relationships?"
What does the asking of this question prove? Well nothing. It's just a question, but the responses to this question from blacks and whites alike shed light on the fact that America is not ready, nor in many ways willing, to tackle the race issue. Though the people sitting at the dinner table are not racist, they all have been offended or exposed to racism at some point in their lives. I truly believe that the people sitting at the table would not mind being involved and ultimately marrying some one of a different ethnicity. That is not the problem. The problem is how their families would feel about them being involved with someone of a different ethnicity. Most at the table believed that if they brought someone of a different ethnicity home (particularly black or white) that many people in their family would not take kindly to the relationship. The Huffington post in December of 2013 did a poll of the most frequently asked question people in interracial relationships hear from friends and family, here are the top three:
" 1. How does your family feel about your partner's race?
2. You're dating a [insert race or ethnicity]? Aren't you worried about [insert country/ethnic stereotype here]?
3. Wouldn't it be easier to just date your own race?"
Think about each question. None of the questions have anything to do with whether or not the individuals involved in the relationship really love each other, care for one another, are compatible. The person asking each question is really asking "is this really convenient for you to do?" Interracial relationships should not be a problem, especially in today's society. But even though our President is black, it does not mean that our perspective is in the right direction. Many people still feel the hurt of past racism. Those same wounds still plague us today and are instilled into America's youth. Though we have come a long way, there is still a lack of trust between races in America. For some blacks and whites the thought of their child marrying someone of a different ethnicity is worst than a nuclear bomb exploding.
Mending the Wounds
By no means am I saying that once we solve the issue of interracial relationships will we solve the racism as a whole. The issue of interracial relationships is evidence that America is still not ready to confront this issue head on. But the question now becomes how can we mend these wounds that have been open for so long? I believe we find the answer in Ephesians 2:14 "He Himself is our peace, who made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…". "He" being Christ, died so that we could know the Father intimately and know one another intimately. When Christ died he destroyed the social structure of Jew and Gentile, Black and White. Jesus abolished the notion that one race is better or worse than the other. What Christ did was bring us into one new body, a body undefiled by sin and a body that represents all cultures and glorifies one God. In order for us to mend the wounds, we must believe that His wounds have already mended us.
Julius Thomas currently works with Campus Outreach at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA. He is pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. He hopes to do ministry in the inner city.