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Does racism matter today? Is topic a pro-life issue?

Robert Anderson

Most us in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would prefer to enjoy the warm summer days fishing or picking blueberries rather than listening to the latest noise from Washington.

This time the uproar was caused by President Trump’s tweets calling on four women of color who happen to be elected to Congress to “go back where they came from” (meaning to certain foreign countries) since they dared to criticize the president.

Since the president’s tweets were directed at women of Hispanic and African ethnicity, they were racially-charged. His tweets implied that the Congresswomen were foreign-born; this was both untrue and disrespectful because three of the women did not “come from” any foreign country but rather were born in the U.S. and only Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was foreign-born.

Even if the tweets were not racist, their political motivation was: divide Americans and inflame the President’s base against people of color.

The insults continued a few days later at a Trump rally in North Carolina when the President stirred up the crowd to chant “Send her back (to Africa)” referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who was born in Somalia.

Should the good people of the UP be concerned whether the President mistreats four progressive Congresswomen who come from minority groups? Are we in the U.P. so detached from America’s urban areas and people of color that we are insensitive to their situations?

Is this just politics, or is it something more? I believe it is something more — something very wrong. This is the only time that a sitting US President has told a U.S. citizen who is a member of Congress of another race to go back to the country of their ancestors because they dared to disagree.

People of both political parties, those who support the President on policy and people of all religious faiths, especially pastors, priests and rabbis, should call out the President and condemn his insensitive insults as an affront to our Democracy and the biblical principles of tolerance we stand for.

Those biblical principles condemn bigotry. Despite theological differences among Christian denominations, there is unity that all humankind-from all races-are made in the image of God and that racism is a sin. The Evangelical Lutheran Church says: “Racism — a mix of power, privilege, and prejudice — is a sin, a violation of God’s intention for humanity.” (ECLA, Aug. 15, 2017)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a 1979 Pastoral Letter writes “Racism is sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God.” The Methodist, Episcopal and Southern Baptist Churches have asked forgiveness for their support of slavery. Billy Graham, who was a friend of Martin Luther King, often spoke of racism as a sin.

Opposing racism is also part of the pro-life ethic. Focus on the Family, for example, points out that “racism clearly fits within the sphere of pro-life concerns” because preborn babies and racial minorities are both vulnerable and powerless to stop harm from powerful forces.

The National Catholic Reporter agrees and said: “Systemic racism is a ‘pro-life’ issue. If Catholic leaders are willing to hit the streets and carry banners for the unborn, they should also be pouring out of churches to resist the assault on black and brown bodies.” (NCR, John Gehring, Jeanne L.L. Isler 2018). There is another reason why people who are pro-life should call out and condemn racially-based attacks. Such attacks have incited hate crimes and killings by white nationalists: Heather Heyer in Charlottesville (2017), Tree of Life Synagoge in Pittsburg (2018), the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (2019), Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston (2015); and have incited arsons: Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American church in Mississippi was burned and spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump” (2016).

Further, the inflammatory words “go back to your own country” used by the President are nothing new in the vocabulary of racism. These were the words uttered in 2017 by a white gunman who fired a gun at a man from India who wore a turban-hitting him in the arm.

Healing America’s racial wounds is a job for us all. By not speaking out our silence makes us complicit in perpetuating these wounds. Once this is fixed, we can go back to fishing and blueberry picking.

Editor’s note: Robert Anderson is an elder law attorney, an adjunct professor, graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and is active in his local church.