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Racial Justice History

Racism is the belief that one race is innately superior to all other races. In the United States, this belief has justified the conquest, enslavement and evangelizing of non-Europeans. During the early history of this country, Europeans assumed their civilization and religion were innately superior to those of both the original inhabitants of the United States and the Africans who were forcefully brought to these shores to be slaves. The myth of European superiority persisted and persists. Other people who came and who are still coming to the United States by choice or force encountered and encounter racism. Some of these people are the Chinese who built the railroads as indentured workers; the Mexicans whose lands were annexed; the Puerto Rican, the Cubans, the Hawaiians and the Eskimos who were colonized; and the Filipinos, the Jamaicans and the Haitians who live on starvation wages as farm workers.

In principle, the United States has outlawed racial discrimination but, in practice, little has changed. Social, economic and political institutions still discriminate, although some institutions have amended their behavior by eliminating obvious discriminatory practices and choosing their language carefully. The institutional church, despite sporadic attempts to the contrary, also still discriminates.

The damage of years of exploitation has not been erased. A system designed to meet the needs of one segment of the population cannot be the means to the development of a just society for all. The racist system in the United States today perpetuates the power and control of those of European ancestry. It is often called "white racism." The fruits of racism are prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and dehumanization. Consistently, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders have been humiliated by being given inferior jobs, housing, education, medical services, transportation and public accommodation. With hopes deferred and rights still denied, the deprived and oppressed fall prey to a colonial mentality which acquiesces to the inequities, occasionally with religious rationalizations.

Racist presuppositions have been implicit in U.S. attitudes and policies toward Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. While proclaiming democracy, freedom and independence, the U.S. has been an ally and an accomplice to perpetuating inequality of the races and colonialism throughout the world. The history of The United Methodist Church and the history of the United States are intertwined. The "mission enterprise" of the churches in the United States and "westernization" went hand in hand, sustained in their belief of their superiority.

We are conscious that "we have sinned as our ancestors did; we have been wicked and evil" (Psalm 106:6, Today's English Version). We are called for a renewed commitment to the elimination of institutional racism. We affirm the 1976 General Conference Statement on The United Methodist Church and Race, which states unequivocally: "By biblical and theological precept, by the law of the Church, by General Conference pronouncement, and by episcopal expression, the matter is clear. With respect to race, the aim of The United Methodist Church is nothing less than an inclusive church in an inclusive society. The United Methodist Church, therefore, calls upon all its people to perform those faithful deeds of love and justice in both the church and community that will bring this aim into reality."


© 2014 United Methodist Women