There might be some comfort in understanding racism as rare and unforgivable. We can confidently make displays of righteous indignation against racism, while keeping blind to how we ourselves have made mistakes.
This fiction might be comfortable a times, but it paints us into a corner too. If racism is so rare and unforgivable, we cannot allow ourselves to acknowledge when we ourselves have made mistakes. When mistakes are made, we will struggle to truthfully see our own actions, history and community.
The thing is, racism is exceedingly common. Victoria and I have dealt with racist comments many times, and it is most difficult when it touches on our children. My credentials as a scientists are regularly dismissed by non-experts. Yes this is common online, but it has happened to me in ways I do not see take place with scientists that are not minorities.
Racism is common, but there is good news. Racism is also forgivable.
I am reminded of my own mistakes here, and when I have been forgiven. Others have been forgiven too. I am reminded of Daryl Davis, who talked 200 KKK members out of their robes. If forgiveness is possible for the klansman, it certainly is possible in the racism that is far more common.
Racism really is far more common than we might expect, but also it is forgivable.
The reason the conversations about race are so difficult is because they matter. It is our mission to seek understanding across these disagreements, and to find community that does not require agreement. Science is not enough, but it does have information that can help us too.
A better way is in view. We can’t find it alone, but perhaps we can together.
It is very fitting that this article did not come out on MLK day, a day when everyone pauses to remember the Civil Rights movement.
For us, the questions of race are not just about the news cycle. They are more closely connected to our mission. We seek encourage conversation around the grand question of what it means to human. At all times of the year, on MLK day or not, the conversation about race brings us to this grand question.
The conversation is interesting and engaging, but it can be difficult, so we have to practice humility, tolerance, and patience. Ironically, approaching the must dehumanizing of conversations can be hopeful. Finding a better way here can humanize all of us. We could experience something of the Kingdom of God, that “beloved community” of which MLK so often spoke.
In the end, we seek peace in this conflict too. This is why we talk about race.