Spiritual Practice: Relearning History

If you’re confused about why the Asian community is calling out racism over the eight people murdered last week, it’s because you weren’t taught a full history in school. Neither was I.

If you’re white like me it can be hard to understand concepts like systemic injustice. When we went to school the history we studied left out important parts of our nation’s history that were less than flattering for white people.

Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt once described contemplation as taking a “long, loving look at the real.” If we are to grow as lovers of God, and of people, we must be willing to take a long, loving look at what really happened in our nation’s history to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Otherwise, we will never understand the outrage our brothers and sisters in the Asian community feel over the eight people murdered last week and how it is impossible not to see that event as a hate crime.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

For instance, we all know about the transcontinental railroad, right? There was a great race from the east and west to see who would get the railroad track to the center of the country first. Our history narrative features much talk about the rich guys who funded it and a mention of the 20,000 Chinese laborers who built the majority of it. But, did you also know that hundreds of those laborers died, and after the railroad was finished, the Chinese men who poured their blood sweat and tears into the railroad were denied citizenship?

To take a long, loving look at the real in regards to the Asian American experience, watch this PBS documentary.

In history class we learned about slavery, but there are stories we didn’t hear. Like the fact that some black women were imprisoned with white men. When they got pregnant from being raped by those men, or by their guards, their children were allowed to stay with them until they were ten years old,; then they were sold as slaves and the money went to fund white schools. Nope, I never heard that story in my history class. You can read more about that here.

And if you want a deeper dive into the problems with our prison system, how it is a racist system, and how that came to be, please watch the Netflix documentary, 13th. It is hard to watch but it deserves a long, loving look at the real.

Obviously, these are only two examples of the many ways BICOP have suffered. How do we deal with the truth that our privilege is based on other suffering of others? How do we deal with this kind of history?

  1. Face it. Take a long look. Don’t turn away. It really happened. Our ancestors did these things and our friends continue to suffer because of them.
  2. Lament. Grieve. Cry. Allow yourself to feel it. Mourn with those who mourn.
  3. Do something. Educate yourself, listen. When BICOP says something is racist, listen. Don’t argue, don’t dismiss. LISTEN. Believe them. Then act. Vote for their rights, run for office, write letters, call, march. Stand next to someone who is being harassed. Turn on your camera to film injustice.  Do whatever is in your wheelhouse so that your friends will know they are not alone in this pain.

What is the difference between Germany and the USA? After the Nazi era, Germany admitted their national shame and made reparations. They were able to heal and move forward. Until we admit our national  shame of racism and make reparations, we will not be able to move forward and begin to heal.

If we each do our part, perhaps the world can heal.

How have you been responding to the pain in our world around racism? In what ways are you learning, growing, trying to make a difference?

Photo at top of woman by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

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