Imagine you are in a doctor’s office awaiting the results of a test. The doctor walks in the door with a concerned look on his face. In hushed tones he says, “I wish I didn’t have to tell you this. You have cancer.”
What is your reaction in that moment? My guess is that one visit would drastically alter the way you live in the future. Your life would never be the same.
Although Coronavirus may have stopped our country in it’s tracks, it has only served to highlight a more insidious threat…the cancer of racism.
I use the term “cancer” intentionally. I believe there are some unique similarities that cancer and racism share.
1. Both diseases build slowly over time
Unlike a virus that hits suddenly, cancer builds in our system over time. We can live months or years with the disease without ever knowing it. Racism is not suddenly appearing in the United States. It has plagued our nation for a long time.
My mom is a Native American woman who grew up in the segregated South. She is a positive person who doesn’t dwell much on negative experiences in her life. Maybe that’s why the stories she would occasionally tell me about what it was like to grow up as a second-class citizen stood out so much to me. She endured rejection, humiliation and had fewer opportunities simply because of the color of her skin.
The people who treated her maliciously learned those attitudes from their families. Some of them are still alive and they probably passed down their values to their children. Racism doesn’t appear out of nowhere. It lurks silently beneath the surface.
2. Images force us to embrace the reality of our disease
Similar to a doctor showing you an MRI or X-ray of tumors that are growing inside your body, modern technology has made the realities of racism apparent in a way that we can’t deny.
Videos showing Ahmaud Arbery being senselessly murdered as he was out on a jog and George Floyd being killed by a police officer as he was begging for his life, can’t be ignored. These images sear permanently into our minds. Reality reaches out and slaps us directly in our face. We can’t choose to ignore this any longer.
To all my black friends, I am deeply sorry that it has taken some of us this long to truly listen to your stories. It is horrific! Now no one has any excuses. I hope you will experience us closer to you during your times of pain.
3. Aggressive treatment is needed
Many cancer patients change their diet, go through chemotherapy and experiment with different medicines. Why? Because those are all fun options? No. Because the alternative is much worse!
Perhaps being quarantined is serving as chemotherapy for the cancer we are facing. This crisis has taken away the ways we normally choose to cope and ignore reality.
Americans are terminally busy. We almost never take the time to stop, think, feel and pray. We are constantly off to work, the next social event or kids soccer game. Unless something directly affects our lives it is too easy to ignore.
This virus has taken away our normal strategies for dealing with difficult things. It has broken down our emotional immune system and we are left to face what is left.
As someone who follows Jesus, I believe racism is a deeply spiritual issue. That means that it is more horrific than we often give it credit for. It is truly evil.
Jesus knows what it is like to come face to face with evil and have his closest friends walk away. I might not have all the answers but I pray I will be “present” with my black brothers and sisters during this time.
I pray that we will experience true justice and peace as we fight this disease together. For now, my soul cries “How long, oh Lord?!”