Addressing Racism (Part 2): How to Combat Racism in the Time of COVID-19

By Renjy Abraham, M.A., Dean of Spiritual Life and Cultural Integration; Derek Chinn, D.Min., Dean of Multnomah Biblical Seminary; Paul Metzger, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture; and Jessica Taylor, Ph.D., V.P. of Diversity and Inclusive Development

In the first part of this article, we offered some ways to deal with racial injustice from a biblical perspective in light of recent devastating events in our country. The recent tragedies involving members of the black or African American community are not the first acts of racism in our nation, and they are unlikely to be the last. Communities throughout the country and world are being affected by racism. As we are all aware, COVID-19 has reshaped our world and the way we live. As with any crisis, the fear of this virus has manifested itself in threatening and dehumanizing ways that affect the Church and the entire world. COVID-19 has prompted racist responses, specifically, towards people of East Asian descent regardless of their true country of origin and/or citizenship. The rationale is likely due to the coronavirus originating in Asia [1]. According to the FBI, Chinese and Asian Americans have been experiencing increased hate crimes, including harassment and physical violence [2].

THE PROBLEM WITH RACISM 

As we have discovered, the coronavirus does not recognize race. It does not recognize political persuasion, religious affiliation, age, gender, education level, geographical or national boundaries, or any other form of natural or social distinction. It is a threat to all humankind and warrants a response from all, as a united people, to protect and care for one another because of our shared, God-ordained humanity. Furthermore, racial hostility toward any race is an affront to God, the Creator of all people, ethnicities, nations, and divinely designed diversity (Genesis 1:27; Revelation 5:9b). As such, the entire Church should resist all forms of discrimination against any race [3]. In the time of COVID-19, racist activity undermines corporate solidarity to conquer the virus, and it negatively impacts human flourishing on a global scale [4].

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO RACISM 

Standing against racial discrimination is an outworking of our faith and common salvation in Jesus. Speaking out against all forms of racial violence, anger, mistrust, fear, and hate is an important part of protecting those who experience discrimination from harm. Moreover, silence can communicate approval. The Gospel calls us to be agents of God’s peace by loving all our neighbors as ourselves.

PRACTICAL WAYS TO RESPOND 

There are tangible ways that you can embody the heart and posture of Christ towards those of East Asian descent, those in the black or African American community, and others who may be watching how the Church is responding to acts of racism:

  • For COVID-19, educate yourself on what scholarly articles and the CDC say concerning the virus rather than relying on social networks and the media so that you can combat misinformation and stereotypes. Avoid perpetuating unacceptable slurs such as the “Kung Fu Flu” or, equally misleading, the “Chinese Virus” [5]
  • Avoid perpetuating memes and gossip that cast individuals from any race in a poor or dangerous light.
  • If you know someone who is actively afraid of people of East Asian descent, or other races, and who may be lashing out in anger or in other ways, consider the following:
    • Ask them constructive, inquisitive questions about their concerns and fears.
    • Show compassion for their fear while also raising doubts about incorrect assertions.
    • Offer better, God-honoring perspectives.
  • If you have a friend or neighbor of East Asian descent, or who is in the black or African American community, consider reaching out to them to ask them how these situations might be impacting them and how you might be able to help. [6]
  • Pray about the situation—pray for healing in the world and for safety for our brothers and sisters who may be suffering.

We encourage you to practice wisdom and discernment in utilizing these suggestions. It is important to navigate this issue with empathy and sensitivity.

A WORD ABOUT FEAR 

At the root of much of this specific kind of racism during this season of COVID-19 is fear—the fear of contracting the virus and the disruption of the life we knew. During this pandemic and throughout our lives, we, the Church, must be aware of how fear can influence our judgments and actions towards others so that we can be a source of love in the world. The way that we treat and talk about people, especially at this moment in history, is important. Regardless of anyone’s heritage or background, we are called to love others. Fear and love cannot exist together. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” We encourage you to actively work against the fear that is driving this surge of discrimination and violence so that we can stand beside those who are being wrongfully mistreated. [7]

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[1] http://www.asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/Press_Release_4_23_20.pdf

[2] One example of growing violence towards those of Asian descent.

[3] This resistance to discrimination extends to all other ethnic or racial backgrounds (e.g., African American, Hispanic/Latino, First Nation). We recognize that discrimination has a long history in the U.S. There was a time when immigrants from Europe such as the Irish, Italians, Germans, and Jews were targets of hatred. Unfortunately, some things haven’t changed. Today, there are incidents against Jews, Muslims, and people of Middle Eastern descent. We are called as the church to resist all forms of racial, ethnic, and religious violence.

[4] Mark 12:28-31, 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

[5] For extended discussions about terms, some perspectives can be found herehereherehere, and here.

[6] Some in the Asian community offer this response and call for solidarity.

Q[7] We would be remiss not to acknowledge that COVID-19 has also had a disparate impact on various populations because of demographics, socioeconomics, and culture. We acknowledge these problems as part of our broken human condition looking to the day when Jesus brings about universal healing – reports of this are found herehereherehere, and here.

May 28, 2020 | News