Every week Richmond Hill distributes a prayer guide called Metropolitan Richmond at Prayer. This week’s reads:
We pray to overcome in Christ’s name the heritage of racism: To proclaim in word and deed the Beloved Community; to experience the victory of Jesus’ resurrection over all personal and institutional results of racism and racial inequality in this metropolitan city.
Racism was on my mind before I received it. I saw 12 Years a Slave, I re-watched Lincoln, then there was all the coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death, much of it focusing on apartheid.
While reflecting on racism, I recalled a conference I attended two decades ago.
“What is your definition of racism?” Ken Sehested asked 25 Richmond pastors.
Racism is a word that everybody in RVA knows. We’ve seen it, experienced it, tasted and smelled it. But when Ken asked for a definition, this room full of black and white pastors— who I knew to be articulate and never shy about sharing their opinions—was silent.
Ken let the silence linger until it was squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable. Then he went to the board and wrote this formula:
Racism = Power + Prejudice
Turns out this is a classic academic definition. Suddenly the word that everybody knew but no one could define was reframed, and the floodgates of discussion were opened.
Power + Prejudice
Think about it. And while you’re thinking, here’s a picture of racism in RVA today.
A few weeks ago, Lynn Williams from Crossover Healthcare Ministry dropped by to talk with Northminster’s staff about the Christlike, gap-filling medical ministries of Crossover. During her presentation she commented off-handedly:
A single mother with two children who makes $6,000 per year does not qualify for medicaid in Virginia. She is considered too well-off for assistance.
Power + Prejudice
The overwhelming majority of single mothers in Richmond are black. The state legislature that wields the power to decide who qualifies for assistance is mostly white and male, and they are all privileged.
Sadly, Power + prejudice is still at work today just as it has been throughout Virginia’s history.