Sunday, August 2, 2015

How to be a Person When Racism Hides in Plain Sight

This afternoon as I was scrolling through the Facebook page for a devotional I've subscribed to via email in the past. My reason for doing this was that something in my feed had caught my eye and disturbed me: A recent post from this devotional featured a picture of an open Bible with a black man's hands folded in prayer on top of the Bible's pages.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, what caught my eye was that the verse at the top of this devotional thought read, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials." —James 1:2

Well, Q, you say, that's biblical. And the man in the picture just happened to be black. Besides, if this devotional never used pictures of black people at all, wouldn't that be a bigger problem anyway? Andplusalso, you continue, this is an international publication, so it really isn't fair to assume any political stance about current race-related issues in America. People all over the world read this. Finally, you eloquently conclude, it's a picture. Calm down. A picture can't possibly be racist.

Some variation of each of these thoughts ran through my head too. This is why I headed over to their page before jumping to any conclusions or ranting about it. I needed more information, context. A perusal of their page showed about twenty or so recent posts. Images of people weren't prominent, as most of the pictures were nature shots or simply words against a solid background. But as I looked further, I noticed that black people were featured only in images accompanied by verses or admonitions warning against complaining or obstinacy, to count trials as joy, and how to find our way when we feel lost in darkness.

Why does this matter, Q? Why you gotta be so sensitive? Does it really, always, have to be about race?

This matters because it helps to perpetuate the idea that black people are more in need of saving than white people, that we complain when we should be praying, that we are stubborn, that we are lost. Especially in this country during this time, it helps perpetuate the idea that when black people fight back against oppression and injustice that their response is from a place of stubbornness and a tendency toward complaining instead of praying. And that's not too far from the implication that we put and/or keep ourselves in the situation we currently find ourselves in. Furthermore, it encourages Christians to continue seeing blacks as being in need of saving, people who know not what they do. It's a subtle message, but it's there. And it's the prevailing message across mainstream media. It is not only irresponsible, but it is also dangerous and unbiblical.

Did this publication intend to slant its published images in this political way? I doubt it, which is why this post doesn't mention the name of the publication, and it's why my email and FB private message to them indicated that I assumed their perceived message was unintentional.

Even if this slant was unintentional, I won't let it go past my line of sight without speaking up about it; that's not how change happens.

We have a responsibility as citizens of this country to pay active attention to the stereotypes being slipped into our consciousness via media.

We have a responsibility as Christians to seek justice for the oppressed, equal treatment for those whom society ignores or dehumanizes.

We have a duty as human beings to behave as if we belong to each other.

1 comment:

Mrs. McG said...

Thanks, Querida, for a heads-up on this one. It is what we called "doing awareness" in PNG. It helps to have covert assumptions brought out into the open so they can be corrected. I appreciate your honesty!