JUL 7, 2023
In his book, Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi looks for the origins of anti-black racism. He tries to ascertain what western Europeans knew about sub-Saharan Africans in the 1400’s when Portuguese and Spanish entrepreneurs began enslaving and selling them. The short answer is, “not much.” The two known books on the subject had been written by men who had little to no actual knowledge of sub-Saharan Africa, its people, language or society. The authors had been paid to write by those who wanted moral justification for the lucrative business of selling kidnapped Africans.
From these two unreliable sources, western Europeans came to believe that Africans were uncivilized: that”[t]hey had no understanding of good, but only know how to live in bestial sloth,” and that it was a moral good to capture and transport them to Europe or colonial America so they might be civilized and brought to Christ. These
so called facts/lies live on in contemporary anti-black racism, despite the few people who knew better then and the many who know better now.
Beliefs matter. That was Jesus’ observation in this week’s gospel: he saw that what mattered to people about John the Baptist and the Son of Man was not the truth about who they were, but what people had decided to believe about them. They choose the “facts” that fit what they wanted to believe.
It might be helpful for the rest of us to be more vocal about what WE believe.
Belief matters. Belief is vision. And visions grow stronger when spoken and shared. On Sundays, for example, we might think about sharing our vision and belief in the things that matter to us like hope, transformation and justice. We could speak of our belief in those things instead of reciting antique beliefs in things like virgin birth and the resurrection of the body, which I doubt anyone one really believes in, or should.
What would a such a creed sound like? The YWCA’s “Stand Against Racism Pledge” is a good start. Click the link and see what you think.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.