Race is the cancer we must address - The Echo News
Via Ad

Race is the cancer we must address

Student reads ‘race rash’ piece from the Civil Rights trip

By Rachel Campbell | Contributor

On last weekend’s trip, Taylor students visited key sites of the Civil Rights movement. (Photograph provided by Wikimedia Commons.)

On last weekend’s trip, Taylor students visited key sites of the Civil Rights movement. (Photograph provided by Wikimedia Commons.)

This past weekend, I had the privilege of going on the Civil Rights trip. While we were riding on the bus watching a documentary about people’s lives torn apart for the sake of the movement, a friend came over to me and whispered, “Have you seen this?” and showed me a picture of an article entitled, “Race is the rash we shouldn’t scratch.” As I read it, tears filled my eyes . . . we’d just walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where hundreds of black people had marched in hopes of being able to secure their right to vote, only to be beaten in what is remembered as “Bloody Sunday.” Everything felt so close. After I finished the article, we stopped at a memorial on the side of a highway commemorating Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who was shot and killed by white supremacists while carpooling black people from Montgomery to Selma after the march. From there, we continued on to the church where Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored, and then we visited his parsonage. I touched the divot in his front porch from where his house, with his wife and infant child inside, was bombed. I couldn’t stop thinking about the article and asking, “How can someone believe this is all irrelevant?”

On the trip, we regularly interacted with people whose lives have been dramatically affected by racism in the U.S. The woman who gave us a tour of MLK’s parsonage, Shirley Cherry, Ph.D., was an amazing woman, but her story and who she is today was shaped by racism. She was born in the height of segregation; she was raised to never look a white person in the eyes. This woman fought for everything she earned and now has her doctorate, and she will never be who she is without the narrative of racism. In fact, every person on the trip had in some way felt the effects of racism; Malcolm X and the Black Panthers being demonized in today’s retelling of history, white people feeling uncomfortable talking about race, black people — men, women and children — being killed by police, parents having to raise their black children in distinctly different ways than white children; they have to have “the talk” about what to do if they get pulled over by police, they often don’t let their children even play with water guns or Nerf guns.

“Learning about how people — both black and white — bled and died just so that I could sit here and be at the same school with white people who are this ignorant . . . it was just a lot to take in,” said junior Halie Owens. “The ramifications of white superiority are very real — (they) always have been and continue to be.”

I could see how, if racism was solely an interpersonal problem, choosing to stop “itching the rash” would be an effective method of eradicating racism — though a skin rash still requires treatment. But it’s not just interpersonal. It’s systemic. Because we live in a fallen world, our systems themselves are corrupt, not just the people within them. To say something that ripped our country apart — and still causes divisions today — doesn’t matter minimizes and discredits these people’s stories and experiences — something God certainly doesn’t call us to do. He, in fact, celebrates our differences and cares deeply about our different lived experiences as a result of these differences. The article moved me to tears because it made my heart ache for the people of color I know and love as well as for those who I don’t know on campus who had to read their stories, lives and identities being devalued and discredited before the entire campus.

“Rash” feels like an accurate yet problematic analogy for racism; accurate in that it implies there is something wrong with your skin, but problematic in that rashes are topical. A better medical comparison for racism, implicit bias and prejudice might be cancer. It spreads quickly; it is not easily cured. It is widespread, both internal and external. And, perhaps most importantly, it kills. To ignore it would simply accelerate the growth of the body count — the black and brown body count. So no, racism is not a rash. It’s a cancer.

Comments are closed.