Bridging the Divide: Racial Reconciliation

hands of various ethnic colors

Bridging the Divide: Racial Reconciliation

Bridging the Divide: Racial Reconciliation

Let’s be honest. Conversations around race can be difficult. They are difficult because it is a topic that evokes deep emotions. They are also difficult because each of us is at a different place in our experiences. Even though these conversations can be hard, they are necessary in order to foster racial reconciliation and unity. Racial reconciliation has to begin with empathy and understanding. Even though we have not walked in another person’s shoes, it is important to listen, learn, and ask questions in order to understand another person’s experience.

As Christians, we must begin with insights from the Bible. Racial unity and reconciliation are fundamental principles that are deeply rooted in the teachings of Scripture. The Bible emphasizes the inherent worth and dignity of every individual, regardless of race and ethnicity. The Bible promotes love, compassion, and understanding as crucial elements of building harmonious relationships among people of diverse backgrounds.

One of the core passages is found in Galatians 3:28, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is no male and female, for you are ALL one in Christ Jesus.” This verse emphasizes the spiritual equality of all individuals before God, regardless of distinctions based on race, class, or gender. Embracing the superiority of any race is in contrast to the very heart of God. God values and treasures people equally.

The Bible condemns racism and prejudice in all its forms. The Scripture says in Acts 10:34-35, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. This passage underscores God’s impartiality and the universal scope of his love and grace. Because of God’s heart, believers are to actively pursue reconciliation, break down walls of division and embrace the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.

Acknowledgment

From a sociological perspective, there cannot be racial reconciliation and healing unless there is acknowledgment. There has to be an acknowledgment of past wrongs and historical injustices while charting a path toward healing and rebuilding relationships fractured by racial animosity. There also has to be an acknowledgment that racism still exists and that systemic inequality is a current reality. Progress has been made, but there is still much work to be done toward healing and reconciliation. Christians must take the lead in racial healing and reconciliation because God is love, and we are to be characterized by love.

Action

Racial reconciliation is a journey, and there is still work to be done involving ongoing dialogue, empathy, and action to break down the walls that perpetuate racial divisions. The road to racial healing involves commitment and action. This is very important. It is not enough to be a non-racist. A non-racist may not embrace or agree with racism, but they don’t do anything or say anything that will rock the boat. To reduce or even eliminate racism, we have to be anti-racist. Anti-racists actively oppose racism and promote racial equality. They are committed to speaking out and taking action against systemic racism.

Racial healing and reconciliation require active efforts on the part of both individuals and institutions. On the individual level, one has to do some personal introspection in their hearts. There are four levels of racism: personal, interpersonal, institutional, and structural.

  • Personal racism is holding beliefs, stereotypes, and prejudices about people of other races, cultures, and ethnicities. This is making judgments or evaluations based on biases that have been learned or taught.
  • Interpersonal racism is acting on those beliefs, biases, and prejudices. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was a landmark law in the United States, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the Martin Luther King assassination riots. This act overturned some of the racial oppression and inequalities brought on by the Jim Crow laws. Oppressed and marginalized racial groups gained more freedom and rights, but this law did not stamp out racism. The point here is racial reconciliation is bigger than legal measures. It must be a matter of changing hearts. The Civil Rights Act put into law some measures that reduced people acting on their prejudices, but racism has still been a part of our society.
  • On the institutional level, policies and practices within specific organizations must be reformed to address systemic inequities to ensure equal opportunities for all. This entails promoting diversity in leadership positions, investing in underserved communities, and implementing anti-discrimination measures in all aspects of society. Christian institutions must take the lead in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion so that they reflect the heart of Jesus.
  • Structural racism is similar to institutional racism, but it is broader. Institutional racism refers to inequitable policies and practices within specific organizations, while structural refers to society at large. For example, a particular college could have inequitable practices which are institutional. Structural racism could be the educational industry at large.

How do we continue to move forward? Empathy is foundational. We need to listen to each other’s stories, experiences, and journeys and seek to understand each other. We must have conversations around the issues of race without judgment and bias. As Christians, we must understand that racial healing and reconciliation is God’s vision, both for His church and for society at large. We must acknowledge the realities of the past and current systems and take action.

About the Author

Dr. Reggie Thomas
President, PeakePotential, Inc.

Reggie is President of PeakePotential, a firm that focuses on executive coaching, leadership coaching, training, and consulting. He is also active in the community, serving on the Board of Directors for the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Rancho del Chino Rotary Club, as well as the Board of Trustees for California Baptist University, and he is the author of "People Pains: Fixing the Drama in your Business."


Reggie has been married to Jeannine for 34 years and they have two grown daughters: Amanda and Emilee. Reggie and Jeannine enjoy traveling and over the past few years have broadened that interest by doing international travel. Reggie is an avid runner, having run 42 marathons and 6 ultra-marathons, including the prestigious Boston Marathon 12 times.

More About Dr. Reggie Thomas
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