There is a story we have told ourselves as a nation. It is the story of who America is, and it rests on the belief that we are a monolithic culture. The myth ends today. There is no truth to there being a dominant race, culture, civilization, or ideology that is superior to other cultures, ethnic groups, or races of people. To say so perpetuates the ideal of white supremacy as an ideology that was created to justify the enslavement of African descended people, and globally colonize preexisting cultures. African, Asian, Latin, Aboriginal, Indian, and Mediterranean cultures built their own civilizations and thrived within them long before Europeans and Anglo Saxon Americans began creating narratives placing themselves above other humans.
There is real harm that results from this way of thinking. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated it well when he said,
"Racism is a philosophy based on contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission. It is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group."
At this moment in history there is an urgent need to establish a more accurate history of Africans, Native Americans, East and South Asians, Aboriginal, and Mediterranean born people. True racial justice results in the full recognition that liberation, freedom, human and civil rights, and justice for all remains possible in the 21st century. Dismantling racism will require that we engage in courageous, gracious, and deep dialogues, but also that we listen to people of color, immigrants, and native peoples whose lives have been threatened and marginalized simply because they speak a foreign language, celebrate their own cultures, recognize their own history as valuable, and express their opposition to policies and governments that seek to limit their movements, silence their voices, and disregard their existence.
To advance as a nation, we need to change. We must eradicate an ideology of white supremacy and embrace an ideology in America that is culture-centered. Research in the area of culture-centered learning supports the premise of expanding dialogues, curricula, and policies to include the history of all cultures in the United States as equally valuable.
In a recent article in The Guardian, the headline reads, "Trayvon Martin's parents, five years on: 'Racism is alive and well in America." The article speaks to the ongoing challenges they have faced in attempting to address the issue of racial justice and tell their son's story. The words haunt me still as I read Sabrina Fulton's reflection on the senseless murder in 2012. "Losing my child ripped my heart in half. It is an indescribable pain. I could not get out of bed."
Black people have been grieving the loss of their children, parents, spouses, friends, and loved ones for over 500 years due to racist actions, beliefs, and ideals that whiteness is more valuable than black lives.
The myth ends today!
Velda R. Love is Minister for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ.