To Move Beyond Denial

As the fires raged out of control in the streets of South Central Los Angeles, I found myself asking the question, How long, O Lord, How long?--knowing that those who never learn from history are destined to repeat it.

We have not learned from Watts, Detroit, Chicago, or the cities all over this nation that the price we pay for institutionalized racism, the historic denial of justice, and broken covenants is fragmentation, isolation, and violence. We have not learned that as long as some of us are not free, none of us will be free. We have not learned that the road to one nation under God is really justice and liberty for all of us, not some of us.

That the disease of racism permeates our institutions is not a new revelation to those of us who have been in the struggle from Mississippi to Los Angeles to Chicago. The full meaning of Los Angeles can never be contained in the narrow frames of pictures that reveal white policemen savagely beating an African-American male, or the pictures of those who in response savagely beat white motorists caught in the crossfire. The complete picture must reveal the devastating impact of slavery, extending to the current reality of attitudinal, cultural, and institutional racism.

This picture reveals systems that have failed and a broken and divided nation that has lost its sense of community--common bond--or of being connected to one another as sisters and brothers in one human family.

Where do we go from here?

From the denial of racism to the naming
and facing of racism.

If we are to move beyond Los Angeles, we must first face Los Angeles as a manifestation of racism, alive and well in the American psyche. It continues to function as a demonic force with devastating consequences for us all. To be white in America is to benefit from a system of power and privilege whether or not one has ever uttered a racist thought or committed a racist act.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1992
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