Removing the Log of Racism from Our Eyes

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s chief federal judge said Wednesday that he forwarded an email that contained a joke involving bestiality and President Barack Obama’s mother, but he did so because he dislikes the president and not because he’s racist. (Click here to read the full Associated Press, March 1, 2012 article.)

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6: 35a NRSV Click here to see this passage in context.)

Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Luke 6:41 NRSV Click here to see this passage in context.)

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Judge Richard Cebull

According to the Associated Press, “The judge apologized and acknowledged that the content of the email was racist but said he does not consider himself racist…” 

Judge Richard Cebull’s response is problematic because it ignores that to grow up a white person in this country is to have internalized some racism. To grow up white in this country is to have benefited in multiple, often unnoticed ways, from a culture that systematically overvalues those of European especially Anglo backgrounds while undervaluing those of color.

This Montana judge needs to remove the log from his eye, and admit that he has some racist attitudes. Until Judge Cebull does, he doesn’t have a chance of monitoring his own latent or not-so-latent attitudes and behaviors enough to treat others fairly in the courtroom. The email he sent – and admits is racist – is an example of his lack of self-awareness. 

The distaste for the President is not the question here. Most Americans have had strong dislike for politicians at one time or another. Yet, those who are self-aware do not resort to racist jokes about other human beings. 

When we lack awareness of our racist or other culturally-ingrained sinfulness, we give them power. The log in our eye prevents us from seeing the Divine in others and makes it impossible to love those with whom we are politically “enemies”. It prevents us from criticizing policies that we disagree with in constructive ways that might very well improve the lot of humanity. 

God calls us to love others…even our enemies. The arc of the biblical text is one of an ever-widening hospitality to those who are not like us. It is a story of the ancient peoples learning to love as the One would have us love.

We must strive to remove the log of racism from our own eyes. The first step is to admit it is there. Only then are we choosing to be a part of the unfolding of the loving, welcoming Realm of God

God of Open, Loving Arms;

Help us to see our failings,

   not so that we feel bad about ourselves,

      but so that we might overcome them with your guidance.


Tickle us to forgive one another,

   not only our beloveds,

      friends, family, and lovers

         but those we dislike.


Open our hearts that,

   your image is apparent within us,

      and that we can perceive your image in others.


Continue encouraging us to open our circles wider,

   and wider.

Amen.


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Related Posts

God Met Me on the Bus Today (January 10, 2012)

Respond or Ignore? Racism (April 28, 2011) 

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