by Phil Miller–
Yesterday, Charles Jones and I were mulling over the impact of Monday night’s storm that swept across Greensboro. Once again, water started to come in the lower door at the east end of the building. When Susan Cox and Roger Culler came to get ready for the day with the food pantry, they sopped the water up with some big pads. Melissa Guthrie Loy noticed that hail had ripped holes in our office window screens. Charles and I gazed out toward the playground and discussed the drainage—or lack thereof.
Holding an insurance claim form in his hands, Charles declared that such storms occur ever more frequently than in the past. He believes the change in the weather pattern will continue. It’s our “new normal”!
His comment causes me to wonder about other changes. If weather can change, can culture change? When the first Europeans landed in the “New World,” colonizers considered it “normal” to presume superiority over people of color. In 1619, a Spanish ship captured by Dutch sailors delivered the first kidnapped Africans at Jamestown, and these Africans were forced into labor. By 1691, the Virginia House of Burgesses was passing laws to establish superior privileges for people they now labeled as “white.” We know the rest of this sad story for we continue to live with its outcome and aftermath. Even people who aren’t “white” usually consider it “normal” for white people to enjoy privileges rarely enjoyed by people of color.
But is racism truly “normal”? For the past 20 years, we in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have answered NO to this question by declaring our commitment to end racial injustice.
The weather is changing gradually, and some seasons would lead us to believe it isn’t changing at all. Even so, I think Charles Jones is right. Severe storms are a “new normal.” We have no choice but to accept this change and adapt to it.
Social, institutional, and cultural change also takes a long time. And such change only occurs when people see both the need for it and their ability to make it happen. Thanks to the One who made all nations from one ancestor (Acts 17:26), we are not helpless. We have the ability to do something about injustice. It isn’t really natural. It isn’t truly normal. A “new normal”—the end of racism—won’t happen, though, unless we join together in making it happen.