Why We Must Heal the Sick Racists
by Kevin Roussel – Our country is at the verge of a significant breakthrough on racism. Political, economic and social forces are peacefully colliding into a national debate on the type of country we want to have and the type of leadership required to achieve this.
Racism could not be more transparent, overwhelming and ultimately vulnerable as it is today. We can see the promised racism-free land in front of us and there is no going back.
This year began with a furore over a racist Facebook post and dehumanisation of people enjoying a day at the beach, the revelation that a high-ranking banker held racist tendencies, the conclusion of four cases of racially motivated assaults. More recently we had the controversy surrounding a judge who made racist comments.
Common to all of these is that the perpetrators are people classified as belonging to a white minority, and the offended are people classified as belonging to a black majority. The fact that these classifications and so-called race groups remain relevant is a true reflection of our distance from the World Day of Peace 2015 theme, “No longer slaves but brothers and sisters”.When we speak of race we concern ourselves with the effect on the victims and what they can do without seriously interrogating the dehumanising causes and illness of the perpetrator.
We are quick to judge the racist without sympathy for what must be very sick individuals, alienated from their inherent dignity. We concern ourselves less with restoring justice than with seeking punishment and revenge. After all, we find racists morally and socially repugnant; our default is to ignore their suffering and desperate need for treatment. We believe accountability and responsibility, not mercy and love, are what is required.
If we applied this logic to other health conditions, the world would be devoid of any human life. If the sick are judged and told to be responsible instead of healed, humankind would be eradicated. Justice cannot be born from injustice and humanity cannot survive on accountability alone.I think of Chris Hani, a Catholic who was murdered by Janus Walusz, another Catholic. How could two people brought up in the same tradition end up believing they belonged to different sides in a secular worldview?
In Islam, the murder of one Muslim by another is considered to be so sinful that not only the murderer but also the murdered go to hell. This is taught to young Muslims to remind them of the sacredness of being members of a brotherhood.
Have we as Catholics lost our way? Is our communion with Christ so watered down that the secular world we live in takes precedence over the family of the Church and that we ignore the teaching and example of Christ?
As Catholics and believers in God who made man in his image, the word was made flesh and the spirit of God dwells among us. So how is it possible that the sin of racism continues to enslave us? Why do people believe we need to categorise and think in boxes, that we are conditioned to sin instead of being a people of love as our vocation at baptism requires us to be?Why do we not heal the sick racist? The answer is simple: our perception of power is located in our worldview and not in our faith-view.
As the people of God we have allowed man-made perceptions of power to enslave us. We are in captivity seeking salvation when all we need to do is cast our nets on the other side.
God is the source of our liberation but we have become blind to his power and create our own sad reality. We all say, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and yet we ignore perilous behaviour that moves us further from the will of God. We have become complicit in the sin of racism, a broken and ill people staying as far away from healing as possible.
We have the power to change this. The next time we are confronted by a racist statement, behaviour or attitude, please say to the perpetrator: “You are very ill, we need to rush you to treatment.”
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.
Kevin Roussel is the director of Welfare and Development in Cape Town. He writes in his personal capacity.