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This is an open letter to Eric, who commented on my blog and posted further on his.

Dear Eric,

To admit that the US still has racism does not feel good. But to accept your experience in the former Soviet Union as an explanation of what is and isn’t racism in the US is silly.

Your experience is valuable to you and influences the way you think and vote, just as each person’s background affects him/her. What you describe is racism (against Jews). That racism is real. But it isn’t what happened in the US and doesn’t explain how the US can rid herself of racism.

The US has a troubled racial past that influences its present. Racism in this country was against African Americans(brought here against their will and enslaved) and Native Americans (their land ravaged and stolen and their culture all but destroyed). Yes, other horrific actions have taken place, such as the imprisoning of Japanese Americans during WWII. But in the main racism in the US has focused on blacks.

If “just end it” were the answer, don’t you think some slave would have thought of that and done it? Well, they did. Slaves rebelled. Read about a few of the slave rebellions here.

And then the US fought a huge civil war. The civil war concerned itself with many complicated issues, not the least of which was states rights. And which right did the southern states value most? You got it: The right to hold slaves. But slavery ended. And things got better during Reconstruction. A good number of blacks were elected to political office. Then things went backwards.

Jim Crow laws were passed. Take Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896 for example, that made solid the decision of “separate but equal.” This was the law, you see, until 1954. So this is more than some little thing that lasted 40 years that a small group of people are talking about. Racism plays a huge role in American History.

The Civil Right Movement of the 60s, brought about the breaking down of unjust laws. But not without bloodshed. And what the movement did was make things better, not equal. LBJ signed the Voting Act of 1964 and government programs like Head Start and Affirmative Action were begun.

Did you know that more women have benefited from Affirmative Action than blacks? Now everyone’s a minority and everyone needs help. (I think we all do.) Well, Martin Luther King Jr. knew that racism (against blacks, that’s what racism is in the US) could not be broken down without addressing other social issues. That’s why the Poor People’s Campaign was planned. Only King was martyred before that event took place, so he personally went to heaven instead of Washington.

In Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, King named the triple evils that will bring America down, if she does not fight to negate them. The evils are racism, poverty, and violence (war). Now tell me Eric, do you know more about racism in the US than King did? Did he die for nothing? Could he have “just stopped” racism?

In the 2000 census, 12.4% of the US population was identified as black. Do you know more about how racism affects the daily lives of black Americans today than they do? No, racism isn’t a feel good issue. It should be finished business but it isn’t.

Is race the only issue in this presidential campaign? No. But to dismiss racism is to allow the pain and hurt and injustice to smolder. We must talk about race. And we must view life from the point of view of the African American.

All the best,
Helen

When he went out after this, he noticed a tax collector, sitting at the tax office, and said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, Levi got up and followed him. Luke 5:27-28

“Our lives are destined to become like the life of Jesus. The whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry is to bring us to the house of his Father. Not only did Jesus come to set us free from the bonds of sin and death, he also came to lead us into the intimacy of his divine life. . . . [What does the “intimacy of his divine life” mean?] . . . It is a life in which everything seems to remain the same. . . . What is new is we have moved from the many things to the kingdom of God. . . . ”

to read the rest of this devotional see Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen

Mahalia Jackson

“Ain’t gonna study war no more.”

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