WE’RE CLEARLY NOT yet in a post-pandemic world, and almost everyone seems well-disillusioned of any pretense that we live in a “post-racial” time. But, as Julie Polter explains in her cover essay, the COVID-19 pandemic—and the worldwide protests in response to the other pandemic of police brutality and systematized racism—has led to actions once thought unimaginable. From NASCAR to the Southern Baptist Convention, a surprisingly wide range of people and institutions seem suddenly aware of their own complicity in symbols and structures of injustice—and more and more white people express their recognition that police brutality isn’t, after all, the isolated behavior of a few “bad apples.” It remains to be seen whether this new awareness results in real change, and whether it lasts beyond the current electric moment. And skeptics can be forgiven for not trusting that genuine transformation will occur, since we’ve seen these patterns again and again, usually followed by a backlash and retrenchment to the status quo.
Christians, of course, are by definition believers in “genuine transformation,” and the church has an instrumental role to play. One pastor, acknowledging the raised consciousness, said that “everyone in my congregation took one step” in awareness and action. One step will not eradicate 400 years of structured racism in this country. But that’s how every journey begins.