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Racism only sleeps and snores - it never dies 

The UK’s exit from the European Union has created national anxiety – and made public a latent racism. Time for Baptists to get beyond a rudimentary understanding of what it means to be a multicultural, radically hospitable church. By Wale Hudson-Roberts



Only two days after the European Union Referendum result a black British friend was attacked by six white men citing Enoch Powell’s River’s of Blood Speech. A Muslim schoolgirl was cornered by a group of people who told her, ‘Get out, we voted leave’. Eastern Europeans have allegedly been prevented from using the London Underground with shouts of ‘Go back to your country.’ Placards have urged the country to ‘start repatriation.’

Sadly this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since last 24 June, the day after the European Union Referendum, there has been a 60 per cent spike in race-related incidents. Our news outlets and social media are awash with stories of racism. I find it amazing that we went to sleep on Thursday and awoke in a country imploring Black, Asian, Eastern Europeans and refugees to return home. The EU referendum result appears to have emboldened racists by leading them to believe that the majority agree with their rhetoric. It has legitimised public expressions of hate. For those of us with long memories these experiences take us right back to the days of Enoch Powell and his Rivers of Blood Speech.

Was this the fault of the referendum result alone? Certainly the political elite must take some responsibility after stoking a divisive referendum campaign that demonised immigrants. But I don’t think it’s the whole story.

Concerns about immigration and in particular Muslim immigrants have been simmering beneath the surface for some years. According to the British Social Attitudes, almost 50 per cent of the population believe immigration has a negative impact on the British economy.

The racist abuse that friends, colleagues and even my family members are experiencing post referendum are, in my opinion, symptomatic of a British society that has repressed much of its angry opinions about minority groups. It has confirmed that ‘Great Britain’ is not as tolerant as it thinks it is; racist graffiti, slurs and race related violence remains a daily reality for people like me.

Racism is not a thing of the past. It is an insidious reality. Even in Christian spaces racism only sleeps and snores. It never dies.

the challenge for our churches is to listen to these heart breaking stories, embrace the wounded, and love the alien, the foreigner, as ourselves

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it must surely be a wake-up call to Baptists Together. We need to participate in appropriate levels of introspection required to get beyond a rudimentary understanding of what it means to be a multicultural, radically hospitable church.

For Martin Luther King – one of our finest Baptist theologians of all time – inclusivity, well being, right to liberty, justice and equality constitute radical hospitality, and are the hallmarks of a genuine multicultural community. The words of the writer of Leviticus highlight the importance of unconditional embrace and radical inclusivity: ‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.’  (Leviticus 19:34).

Now that the target has changed from ‘immigrants’ as a faceless cohort to ‘immigrants’ as individuals, whether that’s Jamelia, a black British female celebrity being told to “return home you …” in front of her children by a police officer, or an American college lecturer on a Manchester tram being told to “go back to Africa,” the challenge for our churches is to listen to these heart breaking stories, embrace the wounded, and love the alien, the foreigner, as ourselves.

Surely this must be the way forward for both church and society – especially as we have now admitted who we really are.

Picture: Graphics Mouse / freedigitalphotos.net

The Revd Wale Hudson-Roberts is the Justice Enabler at the Baptist Union of Great Britain



Baptist Times, 01/07/2016
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