I’ve begun an amazing new book, Silence & Beauty; Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto Fujimura, a study on the famous 20th century novel Silence, by Shusaku Endo. (Yes, a book about a book!) In one passage he uses the metaphor of disease for traumas that shape both individual lives and entire cultures: “to find a cure one must be willing to live with the disease.” Which got me to thinking about racism as a disease our own culture has been struggling not to live with in the two years since Michael Brown died in Ferguson, Missouri. [article linked] I say our own culture meaning our mostly white culture knowing that our non-white neighbors have had no such struggle. Not in the last two years. Not in the last two hundred years. Our literally next-door, down-the-street, around-the-corner neighbors for whom racism is not some mystery condition in want of a diagnosis, not a body riddled with symptoms stemming from any number of causes.
I can’t speak for all white people but I know as a white person that a secret part of me aches for our disease to be something else, anything else, than racism. Not because I don’t want to overcome racism, but because I do not even begin to know how to do that. I don’t really even know what that means and so I feel defeated and tired from the start.
But reading Fujimura alongside my New Testament, I’ve been wondering, “What if believing racism is the core problem doesn’t require me to know the solution? What if we, both individuals and a culture, had permission to view what’s happening with eyes wide open and say, ‘Wow, that’s really racist and I have no idea how to fix it?’”
What if we started there . . . with just that much truth? It’s not all the truth we need. But at least there aren’t any lies inside that. What if our fear and anxiety around the possibility that racism might be the problem is actually the first problem? It’s not a cure but it is a diagnosis. From there, we can start living with the disease as we search for the cure. Inside there, it seems to me, there would be so much more gentleness with the ones who are hurting and so much more patience with the ones who are trying hard to understand. Maybe, at this point, that is what loving our neighbors looks like: gentleness and patience. In which case, we all have a very hard job – but a good job, a job that works towards healing for everyone.
God told us to love our neighbors, no exceptions, and gave us every grace to do so. Neither fear nor arrogance are useful to the task. Gentleness and patience, I think, are the words to carry into times like these, for people who seek to be faithful.
~peace & prayers,