Racial Healing

Alice Patterson
Justice at the gate

Justice at the Gate is a ministry of education and reconciliation with a heart for racial healing – for healing America’s wounds.  Author Taylor Branch wrote in Parting the Waters, “Almost as color defines vision itself, race shapes the cultural eye – what we do and do not notice, the reach of empathy and the alignment of response.”  How people explain racial inequality shapes how they vote, what policies they support, and the solutions they advocate. In the Black community collective wounds of race run deep.  The greatest felt need in the Black community is racism.
As the granddaughter of a former Ku Klux Klan member, God has broken my heart over racism.  Part of my calling is to undo what my grandfather and others like him have done to injure black folk and other people of color.  Race matters.  Racism matters. 

I don’t remember how I found out.  I just grew up knowing it.  Papa, my Dad’s father, had once joined the Ku Klux Klan.  I thought the KKK was something like a volunteer sheriff’s posse – a citizen group that helped to enforce the law.  That’s a genuine case of “white wash,” but it’s really what I believed. I didn’t ask questions.  I didn’t know that the Ku Klux Klan was actually a terrorist organization where men -- otherwise loving and responsible fathers, brothers and sons -- turned into monsters when they donned white hoods and traumatized black families with their marches, night rides and lynchings.  My grandfather didn’t relate the shameful details to his family.  My Dad, who was 6 years old when his family moved to Texas, said he knew Papa wasn’t with them when they stood on the streets of their hometown in Oklahoma during the Klan marches, but he didn’t know Papa was one of the anonymous marchers. 

I’ve heard black friends talk about sitting at their father’s knee listening to stories of pain, prejudice and discrimination.  Because white ancestors didn’t pass down the details of their cruel behavior, many white people don’t know about racism in their own families.  My grandfather passed away almost 30 years before the Lord began to deal with me about race. When I’ve tried to introduce the subject of racism with black folk, many were suspicious and rightly so.  There are still some “overt” racists in our nation, however, the white people that I deal with – Christians – are basically ignorant about racial pain.  Their prejudice is the “unconscious” kind.  We believe things about each other that are not true, but we don’t realize it because we don’t have relationships with anyone outside of our own race. 

There is a breach in America – a divide – a gap – that the Lord wants to heal.  In John 17:21-23 NASB, the last prayer that Jesus prayed is recorded, “That they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me….that they may be one just as We are one…that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.”  The Lord wants us to be one. 

Racial perceptions keep us apart.  However, the biggest breach in America is not just a racial one – it’s a political one.  It’s the Grand Canyon of all breaches – the division between black evangelicals who are mostly Democrats and white evangelicals who are mostly Republicans.  The answer is not to get everyone into the same political party, it’s to empower believers of every ethnicity through knowledge to take their faith and values into the party of their choice and make a difference.  One of my misperceptions about black folk was to equate their moral values with the Democratic Party’s values, which they support over 90% of the time.  I thought black voters were pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage and anti-school choice.  That is not true.  African Americans are the most pro-life ethnic group in America.  They also oppose same-sex marriage and support school choice to give inner city kids an opportunity for a good education.

I discovered through a casual conversation with my friend, Rev. C. L. Jackson, pastor of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, that he and other black pastors did not know about the party process in the Democratic Party where officers were elected and ideology was voted on for the national platform.  Although Pastor Jackson had a polling place in his church, he had never attended a precinct convention or been elected a delegate to his own party’s conventions.  In fact, when I questioned him further, I learned that he had never been educated on the Democratic Party process or been invited to take a seat at the table in his own party.  When I thought about it, it makes perfect sense why Democratic Party operatives would “Get Out The Vote” in the black community but not mobilize blacks to go to precinct, state and national conventions.  The ideals represented in the Democratic Party platform on moral issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and school choice are the opposite from the Democratic Party’s stated position, even though over 90% of black voters vote a Democratic ticket and 96% of black voters supported Barack Obama’s campaign for president.  The Obama campaign partially opened the door to the party process because he needed votes garnered from the various conventions.  Prior to 2008, the door to party involvement had been hidden from black and Hispanic voters except those also involved in the Democratic Party through teacher unions, the feminist movement or the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement.  

Pastor Jackson explained to me how Democratic candidates “come into our churches and tell us how bad things are for our race, and if we care about black folk we’ll vote a straight Democratic ticket.”  Black and Hispanic voters are mobilized for their loyal Democratic vote, but they have not been given a seat at the decision-making table in their own party by giving them simple information.

Part of the mission of Justice at the Gate is to unlock the doors that have been shut by withholding knowledge of how the process works. Before the information is given, however, there must be personal healing.

Healing the breach begins with repentance and moves on to giving honor.  I have repented on behalf of my grandfather and other white folk like him who have used their prejudice, bigotry and racism to traumatize people of color.  Some of us are not “overt racists.”  Many are like me.  Our racism is “unconscious.”  We don’t understand the pain and struggles of people of color in our nation.  We live in our little white world and have not been touched by the pain of others.  May the Lord forgive us for our insensitivity and lack of understanding toward each other. 

My heart is to remove the barriers and to build relationships.  Only then can we share information that will enable black and Hispanic Americans to take a seat at the decision-making table in this nation. 

God wants to heal hearts and He wants to empower His people of every hue to take their faith and values into the governmental arena to make a difference.   Justice at the Gate is a catalyst for racial healing – whether it’s one-on-one, convening conferences or speaking about race to black, white and Hispanic audiences.   We want to be a part of answering our Lord Jesus’ last prayer in John 17:21 “that they all may be one…”  We equip Christians with information about how our governmental system works so that there will be a level playing field for people of faith to engage their faith and values in both prayer and action.