Those of us who come from the liberation background know how difficult it has been to always tell our white friends and fellow believers of the pain of racism. Whereas many have relegated it to a private and individual space with personal salvation as the only answer, many of us have pointed out that it is systemic, structural and located in the deep psyche and soul of people. If there is any place where it has been difficult to expose racism, it is in the Church. I was chairman, for three terms, of the Black Methodist Consultation—formation similar to the Black Methodists for Church Renewal in the UMC. Our formation has been labelled as a divisive structure and of people who are stuck in the past and cannot move forward. It is worse in the Church when prayer is used as a sanitiser and anaesthetic to black pain. The denialism of racism just as sexism and homophobia is so huge.
The only difference we now have is the power of social media that has been able to capture and expose the brutality. It is just unbelievable the number of videos that are being exposed of the police brutality in the US. I am pretty sure that it is not only in the US. The only thing is that the US has been bandied as a paragon of democracy and human rights.
It is my prayer that this moment is not lost. That this become the Kairos—the God Moment—where the world pauses and works for a metanoia—a total structural transformation and reversal of this evil scourge. What is painful for me as Black South African is that the same happens here where we are the majority. Whiteness, White Racism and Supremacy still continue despite our many years of democracy. The anger that is seen amongst our militant youth who were supposed to be the innocent who are said to have not experienced Apartheid. This serves as evidence of the psychological impact of oppression on the generations.
As for the [Africa] Upper Room Ministries, it is about time that it investigates the huge gap it has on the publishing of the Prophetic Spirituality. The team of us who visited Nashville years ago and returned to develop and create Sedibeng Spiritual Experience (A Retreat Ministry adapted from the Academy For Spiritual Formation) included African Spirituality and Prophetic Spirituality. We argued that our context demand that we have two presenters (what the Academy calls the Faculty). The one presents on the Contemplative—vertical relationship of our faith and the other on the Prophetic—horizontal dimension. The one seeks to transform personal and the other is about transforming through action, the structural and systemic institutions of our society. There is nothing that is as frustrating and painful as finding a “born again Christian” who is racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and other such prejudices. Our programmes and published material must take seriously this focus of our faith and spiritual formation.
Indeed—White Silence is inexcusable. I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what is it that you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s People and like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.
Rev. Sidwell Mokgothu is Limpopo Synod Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and board member for Africa Upper Room Ministries.
For a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism, click here.