by Phil Morice Brubaker
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
The big news this week in Racism is the story about the white frat brothers at the University of Oklahoma. These young men are clearly “sick through their sinful ways.” Much has been written about their behavior, and much has been written about how their behavior isn’t even the worst part of racism. So much of the sickness of racism goes undiagnosed.
It isn’t hard to imagine these frat boys in a few years shooting off explicitly racist emails, like those sent by Ferguson officials, as revealed in the DOJ report. But these are low-level, though painful, symptoms of a life-threatening illness. Like the first sign of fever when infected with Ebola. A bit of Tylenol may help the fever, but the virus festers to be revealed in even more serious ways that put others in danger for their lives, drawing “near to the gates of death.”
It’s no accident that the fratboy chant refers to lynching just after a racial slur, and no accident that racist humor in Ferguson precedes racialized violence – against more than just Michael Brown. Dehumanization makes the violence possible, and all forms of racism are near to the gates of death. It may be a physical death or the spiritual death that happens to those who dehumanize others.
There is healing. It doesn’t come through prayer, though that can be a part. It comes through the hard work of exposing and dismantling systemic racism.
Great Physician, provide us with food and medicine to cure our souls. May we share that holy food and sacred balm with those who remain sick. Amen.
Phil Morice Brubaker is coordinator and trainer with Roots of Justice.