Monday, April 12, 2021

Doubting Thomas's and Racism


I’ve been thinking a lot about pain this past week, especially after this week’s Gospel reading.

After yet another shooting of a black man in the Twin Cities compounds the trauma already at high levels due to the Derek Chauvin trial, I thought about the Gospel reading this week which described “Doubting” Thomas and how he reacted to rumors that Jesus was actually alive.

Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.  

I’ve seen too many takes - and so many of them from white people - who treated George Floyd’s killing, and now Daunte Wright, and the news so many other deaths of black men, women, and children like Thomas did to a resurrected Jesus. They did not believe. 

They did not believe in the existence of racism. They did not believe that there could have been an alternate situation where a person did not have to end up dead. They did not believe in the secondary trauma affecting people with different colored skin. 

A few years ago during a discussion about something current events related, a former teacher told me, “We have your pain is not valid because it’s not my pain crisis" in this country. When I was growing up, I thought my pain was unique. As I grew older, I learned it wasn’t. We all have issues and pain. Friends who I thought had ‘normal’ childhoods talked to me about the pain and challenges they faced growing up. We are all broken in places.  

I don’t know a ton of Black people, but I feel like I know enough to say that being Black in America comes with a certain number of challenges, painfulness, and trauma just due to skin color. Much of which is invisible to white people. We didn’t grow up with being on guard when we see a cop car. We didn’t grow up being followed in stores for being suspicious. We didn’t grow up with the racism of low expectations. And since so many of us didn’t see it growing up, we “will not believe.” 

This isn’t to say that one person’s pain is more important or others. This isn’t a diatribe against policing. I’m not trying to be ‘woke.’ I am stating what my faith is calling me to do. And for those of you whose first reaction is “What about…” I will preemptively respond with the first words Jesus told Thomas, “Peace be with you.” 

In a recent marriage enrichment class I took with my wife, we learned about three responses to when our spouse brings up something up, turn against, turn away, and turn towards. Turn against is where we become defensive, which leads to conflict. Turn away is when we become apathetic or ignore the problem. And turn towards is when we put in our full selves towards the issue and we approach it with a full heart and willingness to engage. We, white people especially, need to turn towards the problem of racism. 

I believe this needs to be stated clearly: there are systems in place that are causing significant trauma and fatal harm to black and brown citizens of this country. And so many of us need to quit acting like Thomas and believe it.

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