“Scars That Remain”: A Poem on Structural Racism and Christian Responsibility

A people taken from their home in the not so distant past.

Millions die as they are shipped in chains to a foreign land.

Once on the soil they are exploited daily, no end to the demands.

Their efforts and labor bear only fruit for their oppressors, day after day distancing the chasm of prosperity between the two groups.

These people are denied even that title and are treated no better than cattle.

They are beaten.

Denied education.

Systemically restricted from flourishing in the land of the free.

These people who are no different from you and me.

Then whispers of freedom start to stir.

More must fall, before the promise of freedom reigns.

Half a nation stands against them, is willing to die in opposition to such a hope.

The nation splinters, but at last emancipation is proclaimed.

Let freedom ring, this they sing, this they dream.

Freedom has a funny way hiding its stripes, of denying one’s rights.

The big Crow mocks them as they flock to one another, forced to call home only where brother looks like brother.

At last, at last, a dream arises.

Still more fall, still more fight.

The struggle is endless, the enemy relentless.

‘Not one of us’,

half a nation cries as their flags of freedom they proudly fly.

‘Don’t eat here.’

‘Don’t sit here.’

‘Don’t work here.’

But you brought me here.

At last, at last, it’s still a dream, not yet real, forever distant they fear. 

Hundreds of years, millions upon millions of actions directed against them.

Were there others who were hurt?

Of course.

Were they perfect in their struggle?

Of course not.

But racism reigned from sea to shining sea.

It reigned over them, confined them, killed them, though we must not say it defined them.

Still it fitted itself into the fabric of this people group’s manifest destiny. 

‘But I’m not racist’.

Thank you, all of humanity bears the image of God, in this we rejoice that we see this now.

‘But I’m not doing anything against them’.

We take you at your word, but may we be so bold as to ask, are you doing anything for them?

If nothing else, as they weep, do you weep with them?

As they speak, do you want to heal their hurt?

If you don’t understand, do you still extend your hand?

As you fail to see a racist man, do you not behold it’s deep and lasting stain upon our land? 

Who is our neighbor?

Who is the needy?

Who is the one who stands abused?

We did not steer the ship.

We did not bear the whip.

But from the fruits of their labor, still do we sip.

Will we refuse to see the log that lies within our nation’s eye?

Will we play the traveler, the priest, and the levite?

Or will we cross the divided road and learn the ways of the Samaritan? 

The starting lines of today have been grossly misshapen by far too many past Americans.

We cannot undo what has been done.

Yet, are we not still servants of the Son?

He had all wealth, all power, all rights to remain unmoved.

Still he came, still he gave, our greatest debt he bore and removed.

Shall we love our wealth, comfort, and privilege in such a redeemed state?

Shall we hold onto pride at our supposed righteous gait?

How many years does it take to fix the balance that hate breaks?

I do not know but Father help us if we deny our brother’s pain.

What must we do to set the wrongs aright?

I do not know, but Spirit lead us to a love that simply does not wait.

Is this path not risky with slopes of stumbling on many sides?

Indeed, but Jesus help us if we dare not follow in your stride.


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Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash

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