Healing America’s racial wounds
People of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would prefer fishing or picking blueberries than listen to the latest noise from Washington. This time the uproar came from President Trump’s tweets calling on four Congresswomen of color to “go back where they came from” [meaning to certain foreign countries] since they dared to criticize him. His tweets implied that the Congresswomen were foreign-born; this was both untrue and disrespectful because three of the women did not “come from” any foreign country but rather were U.S. born and only Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a naturalized citizen, was foreign-born. Even if the tweets were not racist, their political motivation was: divide Americans and inflame the President’s base against people of color.
Should the good people of the U.P. be concerned whether the President mistreats four progressive Congresswomen of color? Are we in the U.P. so detached from America’s urban areas and people of color that we are insensitive to their situations? Is this just politics? I believe it is something more — something very wrong. This is the only time that a President has told a member of Congress of another race to go back to the country of their ancestors because they dared to disagree. People of both political parties, those who support the President on policy and people of all religious faiths, especially pastors, priests and rabbis, should condemn his insensitive insults as an affront to our Democracy and our biblical principles of tolerance.
Those biblical principles condemn bigotry. Despite theological differences among Christians, there is unity that all humankind — from all races — are made in the image of God and that racism is a sin. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a 1979 Pastoral Letter writes “Racism is sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God.” Billy Graham who was a friend of Martin Luther King often spoke of racism as a sin.
Opposing racism is also part of the pro-life ethic. Focus on the Family, for example, points out that “racism clearly fits within the sphere of pro-life concerns” because preborn babies and racial minorities are both vulnerable and powerless to stop harm from powerful forces. Moreover, racially-based verbal attacks have incited hate crimes and killings by white nationalists: Heather Heyer in Charlottesville (2017), Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg (2018), Christchurch mosques (2019), the black church in Charleston (2015). Further, the words “go back to your own country” are nothing new in the vocabulary of racism. These were the words uttered in 2017 by a white gunman who shot at a man from India wearing a turban.
Healing America’s racial wounds is a job for everyone. Our silence makes us complicit in perpetuating these wounds. Once this is fixed, we can go back to fishing and blueberry picking.