22 January 2011

What does it mean to be racist?

You can't live and work in sub-Sahara Africa without running across this topic. Last year, while reading  Half the Sky, a medical worker in a rural hospital interviewed matter-of-factly reported that they don't test/screen blood for HIV before giving trransfusions... they only give transfusions if it is necessary to save the patient's life... and so even if the blood is tainted, at least the patient's life will be prolonged some years instead of immediate death... and I didn't know how to respond or what to think. But it has been one of those things that has stayed with me as I continue to think about that reality, especially for those living all across this continent and trapped in poverty.

Just this morning, I picked up another book discussing AIDS in Africa... its purpose is awareness, a goal of helping the rest of the world to see the very human face of this epidemic disease, to help mobilize a greater response from Europe and the West...

The author's own words:
"...When I talk to people at home about the pandemic, I get the sense that they feel a dying African is somehow different from a dying Canadian, American or German -- that Africans have lower expectations or place less value on their [own] lives. That to be an orphaned fifteen-year-old thrust into caring for four bewildered siblings, or a teacher thrown out of her house after she tells her husband she is infected -- that somehow this would be less terrifying or strange for aperson in Zambia or Mozambique than it would be for someone in the United States or Britian." Stephanie Nolen, p. 28 of 28 stories of AIDS in Africa

Could that be me? Could my words and actions... could my lack of words or lack of action... show my own racism and prejudice?  Do I demonstrate the belief that someone who is different than me can't understand the depth of my feeling because he or she different? Or that distance and the problems of a people an ocean away are less pressing because they don't touch me?

And can that line of thought begin to line up with Bible teachings such as:
  • we are all sinners in need of a Savior,
  • Christ died for each soul who has lived, lives, will ever live on this earth,
  • God is impartial
  • His Son understands the deepest cries of each human heart because He wore the cloak of humanity and has experienced the extremes of all that could touch us,
  • whatsoever I do unto the "least of these-" it is as if I have done that to/for my Lord Himself.

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