Though I did not watch the Oscars on Sunday evening, I have certainly heard the repercussions of the remarks made by Legend about incarceration in the US and slavery. Apparently, it can be reasonably verified that the US is the most incarcerated country in the world. We may be topped by China but the numbers cannot be verified. So, Legend makes a creditable claim. In addition, he mentions that there are more black men in jail than there were black men in slavery in 1850. And, apparently, that, too, is verifiable. Racial injustice and inequities continue to persist. Some even think the situation is getting worse.
This is a difficult reality to come to terms with as Black History month draws to a close. We can send a person to the moon in a decade but after more than a century, we have not managed to create a prejudice-free society. We are still haunted by racism and other prejudices.
In the main, I don’t think people set out to be racist. They don’t wake up one morning and decide, “I’ll have it in for black/white/Asian/Jewish/gay people today.” It comes with culture. It can be subtle. It is institutional as well as individual and we know that it is hard to change people and even harder to change institutions. Racism can be like the cancerous tumor growing inside you that you don’t even realize is there until it produces dire consequences.
In this Lenten season, as we think about forgiveness and mercy, we are reminded that that is what is needed to heal racism and that we have been given the power to do so.
Lectionary readings for the day:
Prayer: May we embrace the grace and forgiveness within us to heal the evil of racism and oppression. Amen.