A Unified Humanity
Feb 24, 2021
We celebrate Black History Month to recognize the myriad accomplishments and contributions that African Americans have made to the United States. Recently, however, the celebration of these accomplishments is tainted due to the prominence of racial injustices and discrimination throughout our country. Therefore, during this time, it is good to look toward scripture to determine our next steps and how we can better celebrate accomplishments of figures of importance, yes, but also how we can better love our African American brothers and sisters through active anti-racism.
In the 10th chapter of Genesis, we find what is known as The Table of Nations. The chapter describes the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who are the sons of Noah. Genesis 10:32 states, “From these [Shem, Ham, and Japheth] the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.” In the recounting of this story, we learn that in essence all humanity comes from one family, a common source. In a lecture I attended on the subject, Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler from Union Presbyterian Seminary explains that the chapter “was part of a concerted effort to craft a narrative that begins in human unity.” Dr. Sadler goes on to explain that Genesis provides us with a basis for good fellowship and mutual support as the family of God.
This biblical introduction to a unified humanity is supported by anthropology as well. Anthropologically, there is no biological foundation to “race.” Physical differences between individuals and groups of individuals are genetically/scientifically minute. Additionally, what really impacts our daily lives are the social meanings attached to perceived physical differences, such as skin color, hair color, and the political and economic forces which support these perceptions. In other words, “race” is a social construction. In Western and/or European history, “white” people were located at the top of this social hierarchy. They occupied the position of “ideal” or “the norm,” with “others” lower on the list presented as deviations from, or “less than” this ideal/norm. Racism refers to “a system in which one group of people exercises power over another. It can be seen in discriminatory laws, residential segregation, poor health care, inferior education, unequal economic opportunity, and the exclusion of the perspective of non-dominant ethnic and racial groups.” Anti-racism, then, is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes so that power is redistributed and shared equitably. It is a way of seeing and being in the world, to transform it, even as we are reminded in Romans 12:2 to “…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” As followers of The Way we must also be engaged in the kingdom work of dismantling these systems, even as Micah 6:8 explains our mandate to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Dismantling these systems requires an anti-racism approach paired with the kingdom-minded unity of all humanity. As stated previously, we celebrate Black History Month to recognize the myriad accomplishments and contributions that African Americans have made to the United States. It was especially heartening to witness the swearing in of the first woman vice-president who is also a woman of African American and South Asian descent. That she was sworn in by the first Latina justice of the Supreme Court was like icing on the cake. Many would point out the election of Vice President Harris as evidence that America has become a post-racial society. Yet, even as this milestone occurs, we are in a season where America has become as racially polarized as it has ever been. Brothers and Sisters, I would offer that perhaps even as we celebrate Black people and acknowledge the integral part they play in this country this month, that we should remember anew that no matter our external diversities, we are called to an anti-racism approach and the unity described in the Bible, which subsequently calls us to love one another.
Audre Lorde, an American poet, writer, feminist, librarian, and civil rights activist wrote, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” To that, I would also remind us that in Christ, our division is done away with by His blood. Our identity in Christ becomes the common factor superseding all that divides us (Galatians 3:27-29). Galatians 3:28 reads, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We see again an exhortation towards unity and an acknowledgment that we are all of equal worth as we are saved by God’s grace. As Christ followers we bear the responsibility to choose unity. In doing so, we must value the interest of others above our own (Philippians 2:1-10), recognizing that to choose unity is to be Christlike (Philippians 2:1-20); we are all God’s image bearers. In a time when we are more likely than ever to cloister ourselves in our respective echo chambers, let us remember that as the Body of Christ, we must provide an example to the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
“Anti-Racism,” Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, accessed January 21, 2021, http://www.aclrc.com/antiracism.
Frances, Henry, Tim Rees, and Carol Tator. The Colour of Democracy: Racism in Canadian Society. Toronto, Canada: Nelson Education, 2010.
Lorde, Audre. Our Dead Behind Us: Poems. New York: NY: W. W. Norton and Company, 1986.
“Racism Defined,” DRworksBook, accessed January 21, 2021, https://www.dismantlingracism.org/racism-defined.html.
Sadler, Rodney. “From Brokenness and Fragmentation to Wholeness.” Presentation at Racial Equity, Training for Clergy. Greenville, NC, August 19, 2019.
This article was written by Professor Tracey Anderson-Tellado. She is a member of the Core Faculty at SCS and is the associate pastor at South Shore Christian Church in Corpus Christi.