Commentary: Eyes of compassion

By Christopher Young,

Contributing Writer,

Excerpted from a Litany of Confession, read at Farish Street Baptist Church last Sunday, my eyes fixed on a particular line – “The time is coming when the eyes of compassion shall pierce the masks of prejudice.” Merrian-Webster defines a litany as “a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation.” How righteous it would be to have this prayer heard and acted upon. It would bring a life-changing and liberating shift throughout the world, and certainly here in Mississippi where prejudice reigns supreme.

In the presence of compassionate hearts, prejudice dies of suffocation. Who is more blessed with compassion than the most church-attending people in the country – Mississippians. In a majority white state, we know these predominantly white believers hold the key to change. So much power, and spiritually seated at the right hand of the Father. Their compassion, generosity and understanding extend throughout the state and beyond.

These churches offer missionaries, financial support for those in need, community outreach and partnering with local organizations, global outreach seeking to create more disciples, a plethora of events centered on helping others and sharing God’s love. What a beautiful assignment for them; opportunity for righteousness of the highest order. To see it in all it’s glorious splendor would be blinding.

It just doesn’t seem possible that prejudice could exist in this environment, yet surely it does. 

Our Vice President, Kamala Devi Harris, the 49th VP of the United States and very first female vice president, offered a quote ahead of Chapter 1 – The Cornerstones of a Movement – in Reverend Al Sharpton’s book Righteous Troublemakers, released earlier this year. She shares: “Here’s the truth about racial injustice. It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem, it’s a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all, and it is holding our nation back from realizing our full potential.”

Truer words were never spoken. At the root of the problem is a flawed perception and fear. The flawed perception of what appears to be a majority of white Americans is that this country is theirs. Their fear is that they are losing their country.

How exactly do you discover a New World which is already inhabited? But, since it was a European, in all his Christopher Columbus whiteness, we celebrate Columbus Day every October. And the fiction continues to progress.

This country is not the property of white Americans; all of whom are descendants of immigrants. But through brutal force, cunning laws, policies and practices, the white majority – vastly Christian – has forged a persistent pattern of prejudice leading to racism and oppression of those people who do not look like them, the bedrock of white supremacy.

Yet the census tells us it is eroding numerically.

In 1960 the census reported 179,323,175 people in this country, 88.6% white; 10.5% black; and 0.9% other races. Sixty years later, the 2020 census reported 331,449,281 people in this country, 57.8% white; 12.4% black; and 29.8% other races. There you have it – from 88.6% white down to 57.8% white in the last sixty years. The truth, codified by the census, becomes the undisputed confirmation of their fear.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is directly tied to white supremacy. Only 24 countries in the world make abortion illegal, per NBC News in May 2022. While many sources claim that abortion rates of white and black women are statistically equal at about 33-35%, others disagree. 

Educator Jane Elliot of the groundbreaking Blue eyes/Brown eyes exercise with third-graders in Iowa in 1968, stated clearly in her August 2019 video – All white people are racist – that “60% of abortions in the United States were done for white women.” Think that through in the context of white supremacy in the United States.

While there is certainly no compassion in restricting a woman’s autonomy over her own body, abortion is just one dimension of the white Christian nationalist agenda – one that keeps every possible white fetus alive. Other dimensions include social, political and financial repression.

In June 2021, NBC News reported that the appraisal industry has consists of 78,000, 85% white; 2% black. The Brookings Institution in 2018 found that in the average U.S. metropolitan area, “homes in neighborhoods where the share of the population is 50 percent black are valued at roughly half the price as homes in neighborhoods with no black residents,” and that there is a level of “implicit bias” in an individuals’ perception of members of an oppressed class. The study also found that the “value of assets – buildings, schools, leadership, and land itself – are inextricably linked to the perceptions of black people.”

All over the country legislatures are passing laws that restrict the teaching of Critical Race Theory. These lawmakers endeavor to quell the truth in favor of the Christopher Columbus fiction. In Mississippi, state agencies with the highest per capita black population in the country, nearly 40%, are headed by European Americans at a rate of 94%.

There is no compassion in these attitudes and behavior – there is prejudice, and it parades right out in the open. Let us continue to pray the litany – the time is coming when the eyes of compassion shall pierce the masks of prejudice.”

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