By Christopher Young,
From a litany of confession, read at Farish Street Baptist Church last Sunday, my eyes fell on one particular line – “The time is coming when the eyes of compassion will pierce the masks of prejudice.” Merrian-Webster defines a litany as “a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses from the congregation”. How right it would be for this prayer to be heard and put into practice. It would bring life change and liberation around the world, and certainly here in Mississippi where prejudice reigns supreme.
In the presence of compassionate hearts, prejudices die of suffocation. Who is more compassionate than the most church-loyal people in the country—the Mississippians. In a majority white state, we know that these majority white believers hold the key to change. So much power, and spiritually seated at the right hand of the Father. Their compassion, generosity and understanding extend across the state and beyond.
These churches offer missionaries, financial support to those in need, community outreach and partnership with local organizations, global outreach seeking to create more disciples, a plethora of events focused on helping others and sharing the love of God. What a beautiful mission for them; opportunity for justice of the highest order. To see it in all its glorious glory would be blinding.
It just doesn’t seem possible that bias could exist in this environment, but it surely does.
Our Vice President, Kamala Devi Harris, 49th Vice President of the United States and first-ever female Vice President, offered a quote ahead of Chapter 1 – Cornerstones of a Movement – in Reverend Al Sharpton Righteous’s book Troublemakers, published earlier this year. She shares, “Here is the truth about racial injustice. It’s not just a black American problem or a people of color problem, it’s a problem for every American. It prevents us from delivering on the promise of freedom and justice for all, and it prevents our nation from realizing its full potential.
Truer words have never been spoken. At the root of the problem is misperception and fear. The misperception of what seems to be a majority of white Americans is that this country belongs to them. They fear losing their country.
How exactly to discover an already inhabited New World? But, since he was a European, in all his Columbus whiteness, we celebrate Columbus Day every October. And the fiction continues to progress.
This country is not the property of white Americans; all descendants of immigrants. But through brute force, shrewd laws, policies and practices, the white majority – largely Christian – has forged a persistent pattern of prejudice leading to racism and the oppression of those unlike them, the foundation of white supremacy.
Yet the census tells us that it is eroding numerically.
In 1960, the census reported 179,323,175 people in this country, 88.6% of whom were white; 10.5% black; and 0.9% other races. Sixty years later, the 2020 census reported 331,449,281 people in this country, 57.8% of them white; 12.4% black; and 29.8% from other races. There you go, from 88.6% white to 57.8% white over the past sixty years. The truth, codified by the census, becomes the undisputed confirmation of their fear.
The Overthrow of Roe c. Wade is directly tied to white supremacy. Only 24 countries in the world make abortion illegal, according to NBC News in May 2022. While many sources claim abortion rates for white and black women are statistically equal at around 33-35%, others don’t. don’t agree.
Educator Jane Elliot of the groundbreaking Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise with third graders in Iowa in 1968, clearly stated in her August 2019 video – All White People Are Racist – that “60% of abortions in the United States have been performed for white women.” Think about it in the context of white supremacy in the United States.
While there is certainly no compassion in restricting a woman’s autonomy over her own body, abortion is only one dimension of the white Christian nationalist agenda – one that keeps all possible white fetuses. Other dimensions include social, political and financial repression.
In June 2021, NBC News reported that the rating industry is 78,000, 85% white; 2% black. The Brookings Institution in 2018 found that in the average US metropolitan area, “homes in neighborhoods with 50% black population share are valued at about half the price of homes in neighborhoods with no black residents”, and that there is a level of “implicit bias” in people’s perception of members of an oppressed class. The study also found that “the value of assets – buildings, schools, leadership, and land itself – is inextricably linked to perceptions of black people.”
Across the country, legislatures are passing laws that restrict the teaching of critical race theory. These legislators strive to stifle the truth in favor of the fiction of Christopher Columbus. In Mississippi, state agencies with the highest black population per capita in the nation, nearly 40%, are led by European Americans at a rate of 94%.
There is no compassion in these attitudes and behaviors – there are prejudices, and they are out in the open. Let us continue to pray the litany – the time is coming when the eyes of compassion will pierce the masks of prejudice.