The roots of racism in America run deep and have knotted themselves in a chokehold around the throat of American culture for too long. Unfortunately, racism has been aided and abetted through the years by the government institutions established to ensure liberty and justice for all.
There is no more gross example of that malice than the state of Mississippi. “Spies of Mississippi” (free on Amazon Prime), is a 53-minute documentary exposing the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission that became the largest domestic spy operation in American history, led by the governors and government of Mississippi from the 50s until the passage of the 1965 Voter Rights Act. The commission’s goal was to maintain segregation at all cost following the SCOTUS ruling in Brown v Board of Education. Led by former FBI investigators, it’s agents documented more than 160,000 pages of surveillance against American citizens. As its activities escalated, the highest levels of state government we responsible for the murders and bombings of civil rights activists aided by white supremacy groups who infiltrated law enforcement at all levels.
What is shocking about the documentary is the familiarity it exposes between what white people are saying today about issues like systemic racism (and other comments on the current situation in America) and what people were saying then.
I daily read admonitions by “conservatives” not to “buy into the narrative” supposedly being perpetrated by African Americans and those who speak against racism. However, many of those same people seem determined to extend a long-running counter-narrative of discrediting the claims of injustice that have persisted in this country for centuries and continue today. This group – which unfortunately includes many professing Christians – is labeling people who seek justice for black Americans (and other minorities) as progressive/liberal, socialist, unAmerican, proponents of Critical Race Theory and many other derogatory classifications. But seeking justice does not make one a liberal. In fact, it makes one biblically obedient.
However, if one is interested in objectively examining our history, one will see that history again proves the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is a refusal in our culture to consider the prevailing prejudice in our contemporary society and an unwillingness to even consider the possibility of unresolved systemic racism woven into the DNA of our country from its beginning. The racism and hatred that dominated the 50s and 60s didn’t magically disappear over the past 60 years, and to think it has is delusional. We have a legitimate problem and “conservatives” who think otherwise are living their own version of the alternative reality they are always accusing liberals of embracing.
White Christians are the ones who ought to lay aside their defensiveness and quit hiding behind their political self-righteousness for the purpose of engaging and listening. Can we at least engage and listen? Let’s start there. What would that hurt? What does that compromise? Wouldn’t that be the biblically responsible thing to do to elevate the conversation to the realm of theological rather than political? The solution to this issue was settled on the cross where Jesus was lynched for benefit of all mankind. Christians above any should be the ones actively pursuing the tangible peace and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ alone.
We can say we are sorry to our black brothers and sisters all we want, but until white Christians actively pursue the basics of humility and listening, then our verbiage is disingenuous and grander attempts at racial reconciliation are futile.
I recommend Spies of Mississippi, if for no other reason than to consider the possibility that our current challenges might actually be the latest chapter in an awful story. It’s time to rip up the weeds of racism by its rotten roots and grow something new.
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