Monica Bolley is Synodical Secretary, and has been a member of Diocesan staff since 1981. She is sharing this narrative as a black woman in London.
The hope is to inspire all to feel that they have a key part to play in the demise of racism.
Below you can either watch Monica sharing her story, or read her narrative for yourself. The full story – all three parts – can be read on this PDF.
We journey together in hope
Reversal of untruths
If racism is to be extinguished – and those plates of the earth’s surface to which I alluded earlier are to be levelled – there needs to be a restoration and reaffirmation of the human dignity of black people, which the dehumanising acts of slavery robbed. There needs to be a reversal of the degrading untruths about black people, of which the white slave masters must have convinced themselves in order to behave in the way that they did. These ‘untruths’ are still in many ways with us today. It is the case that the myriad permutations in variety of personality, intellect, and behaviours, which are taken ‘as given’ in white people, are not afforded to black people, who are still rated as inferior. Black people are classed as failures far more readily than white people and often have to be twice as good to demonstrate their capabilities.
I thank God for the many white people I know who are deeply committed to this restoration and reaffirmation of the human dignity of black people both in what they say and do; who live and work alongside us as allies. The sadness – and it is a deep sadness – which we as black people bear, is that there are numerous white people today who allow indignities which are said and written about black people to go unchallenged; and some who actually participate in fanning flames that promote them.
White people today can and should play a part in restoring and reaffirming the human dignity of black people which the degrading acts of slavery robbed. They should be stating clearly to the world that their forebears erred greatly. Black people are exhausted by white people ‘not seeing’ that they have a key and distinct part to play in this restoration and reaffirmation of our human dignity and in bringing about equality. This is what fighting the injustices of racism seeks to address. White people ‘not seeing’ the issues and effects of racism, and doing nothing about it, is not a luxury which black people have, who bear the pain that it causes.
Power of individuals to bring about change
As well as change taking place at organisational and institutional levels, it needs to take place, just as much, in the hearts and minds of individuals. What individuals do and think combines to create the atmosphere in communities and sets the tone for what is and is not acceptable. The composite effect can be tremendous.
In terms of the way forward, my hope is that there will be among white people, in companionship with black people,
A deepening of understanding – through reading, video clips, documentaries, discussions, and listening to black people’s stories and accounts. This is about wanting to find out more. Black people will have different stories to tell, not surprisingly. Some may reveal deep frustration and maybe even anger, but the question is whether the pain that lies underneath is being recognised.
The forming of relationships – with black people from different walks of life. This is about engaging first-hand by having relationships which are genuine, respectful, and manifest the love of Christ.
A willingness to challenge – questioning and taking action in relation to attitudes or situations which set black people ‘in a mould’, in a pejorative light, or at a disadvantage.
These arise from my experiences of life and my Christian faith of several decades. They are,
That white people – who are not already proactive – will become proactive in finding out more about black people’s circumstances, and in forming relationships, and so be able to speak and act with a conviction that is borne out of knowledge and experience.
That through the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, those white people who do not already recognise the destructive effects of racism on black people – and on themselves through being distanced from the heart of the love of Christ – will receive the necessary insight and objectivity to do so.
That people will listen to God, and hear His still, small voice above the clamour of their own.
That God will be enabled to break into entrenched positions and speak into the well-worn furrows of our own reasoning.
That we will live our lives not on our own terms, but in a way that is open to being shaped by God; open to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and so become the people God wants us to be.
That we will be prepared to step out of our comfort zones and take risks for God; that we will not allow our fears to dictate our lives and hem us in.
I look forward to the day when we don’t have to be referred to as ‘black people’, but just ‘people’. I don’t want people to be ‘colour-blind’ because colour is integral to who we are as people – but to be able to see colour as part of the richness of the totality of the person.
I commend to my fellow Christians a prayer to ask of God: ‘How are you wanting to use me Lord, or use me more, so that black people can be freed to gain the fullness of life that Christ came to give.’ I believe that the pernicious nature of the evil that racism is, and its grip – in all its subtlety and complexity – on the human race, means that its eradication can only succeed if our actions are initiated and sustained by prayer.
We journey together
I believe that God wants us to see that we are to journey together in our endeavours in tackling racism. I mentioned the story of the paralysed man being brought to Jesus by his friends at the start of this narrative. The story sends the powerful message of our need for one another. It also reminds us that we all stand before God in a state of humility, and with a need to be healed, forgiven, and set free.
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