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As an African American man, husband, and father, there has been no social responsibility closer to my heart than the work of anti-racism. The term is relatively new to the mainstream collective, first emerging in the early 1940s. The work associated with anti-racism, however, has been around for centuries.
An anti-racist is someone who actively fights against racism, which — according to Ibram X. Kendi in his book How to Be an Anti-Racist — is a step beyond simply not being a racist. Kendi posits that “When we state ‘I am not a racist,’ it is part of Jim Crow, assimilation and segregationist viewpoints. “I am not a racist. Therefore, this policy cannot be racist,’ even though the impact can be racist.”
Anti-racism involves acknowledging the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural nature of racism. It addresses its systemic and pervasive impact on America’s history and social order. It ultimately works toward dismantling and transforming these systems for the betterment of our country.
The highest-profile aspect of anti-racism work today is attacking structural racism — what Kendi calls “racist policies.” Such practices can run a gamut of state-sanctioned racism, from redlining to the school-to-prison pipeline, all of which negatively impact black and brown people disproportionately.
Because racism is so intricately woven into the fabric of America’s social, political, and economic culture, to attack racism individually and institutionally is considered by many to be equivalent to attacking our nation itself.
As a result, anti-racists are often accused of being “un-American,” and have consequently drawn the ire of political pundits from across the spectrum of public opinion — including both those who would gladly roll back decades of America’s social progress as well as those who, through the misuse of the movement, would seek forgiveness without investing in reconciliation and restorative justice.
As a Pastor and theologian engaged in anti-racism work, I am constantly challenged by the intersectionality of the Church and racism. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that the most racially segregated hour in America is 11:00 on Sunday morning. He was alluding, of course, to the problem of racism in America and how that same problem was and is still prevalent in many congregations.
History informs us that the Church served as the handmaiden of conquerors and enslavers, which directly impacts the Body of Christ today. Such a legacy must be addressed if we are to more closely reflect what Dr. King called the Beloved Community.
Christ admonished us to love each other as he loves us, and if that be the case, then we, as Believers, have a long way to go in being ambassadors for Christ in the world.
This informs my belief that the Church should and must take up the cause of anti-racism. What better way to demonstrate God’s love to the world than to advocate that love for everyone?
~Rev. Dr. Wylie Hughes, was born in Atlanta, Georgia and began serving God and the Church as a child singing in the choir. After graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a Dual Degree in Religion/Philosophy and Music, he served in the United States Marine Corps on the front lines in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the war, Rev. Hughes had a “Damascus Road experience,” leading him to answer God’s call to ministry. Since earning a Master’s in Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary, he has traveled, preached and taught the Word of God throughout Europe, serving churches within the Church of Scotland’s International Presbytery and with the Anglican Archdiocese of Europe. Rev. Dr. Hughes holds a PhD in Pastoral Psychology, is a motivational speaker, lecturer, husband and father to two beautiful children.