When my family and I were in the airport, heading home from a Christmas vacation, my husband and I were directed to different security lines due to his frequent flyer status. He and our son were routed through the express security line, while our third-grade daughter and I stayed in the regular line.
When we placed our bags on the conveyor belt, the man in front of us suddenly turned around. Visibly incensed, he threw our luggage on the floor.
I said nothing. Having no idea what the problem was, I thought it best to give the man more space, and we waited for him to advance several feet before redepositing our items on the belt.
Again, the man turned around, red-faced, and threw our belongings on the floor. With a deliberately calm and even-toned voice, I asked if there was a problem. Waving his hands, he yelled, “There sure is a problem! You and your people!” (I am black.) He was just over an arm’s length from us, inching closer, as he launched into several minutes of a vile, racially charged tirade. The airport was packed, but no one came to our aid.
Since situations like this only happen when my husband, who is white, is not around, I am accustomed to relying on God as a “very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). I steadied my thoughts and asked God what I needed to see. What was the truth that would set us free? Bible passages often come to mind with crystalline clarity in these circumstances, and what came to me at that moment was the following: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee” (Psalms 91:9, 10). People are not our refuge; God is. So we were covered, safe.
On the heels of this awareness came another spiritual shield: “Evil is not power,” a fundamental truth found in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (p. 192). I reasoned: “Either God, good, is omnipotent, or He isn’t. Since God is, hatred and prejudice must have no power.”
I stood still, yielding to these truths, and did not respond in any other way. The man stopped yelling, turned around, and proceeded through the security screening process. My daughter and I exited the area without further incident and met up with my husband and son. I was a bit shaken, but mostly I was grateful for the freedom I felt from a circumstantial and potentially perpetual feeling of victimization.
I continued to pray for guidance and understanding. Listening with a quiet heart allowed me to see that in reality, there is no party to racism—no perpetrator, no victim, no witness.
THE REAL PERPETRATOR
The real perpetrator of racial hatred is not a person. It is a lie of the material senses. This lie perpetuates the myth that we are material, separated from God, sorted into groups based on color, and that we possess minds of our own with which we can commit evil. Wherever this belief is allowed to take hold, it wreaks havoc until corrected by divine Truth, which asserts that we possess the innocent and invulnerable Mind of Christ, blessing all and injuring none. The knowledge of our unity with God is gained solely through the spiritual senses. Keeping this truth uppermost in thought neutralizes the supposed potency of evil.
As the Leader of the Christian Science movement and a woman, Mary Baker Eddy experienced both hatred and discrimination, but she refused to recognize individual people as the enemy or perpetrators of evil. She saw man’s true nature as spiritual, incapable of offense or harm, and she always responded to those who opposed her with Christly love.
Each of us is equally worthy and infinitely blessed.
In an essay titled “Love Your Enemies,” Mrs. Eddy asks the reader, “Who is thine enemy that thou shouldst love him? Is it a creature or a thing outside thine own creation?
“Can you see an enemy, except you first formulate this enemy and then look upon the object of your own conception? What is it that harms you? Can height, or depth, or any other creature separate you from the Love that is omnipresent good,—that blesses infinitely one and all?” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 8).
FREE FROM VICTIMHOOD
Human history would impress us with evidence of injustice and discrimination. Its narrative often leads to feelings of anger, distrust, bitterness, and a sense of victimization. Wallpapering over these feelings by ignoring them won’t help. Neither can we indulge the suggestion that man is at the mercy of historical events. As children of God, we have the divine authority and obligation to reject this imposition, because it is false. Man is the highest idea of God. He is free to love his way to ascendancy over evil, as we have observed in the experience of Nelson Mandela and others. No circumstance can limit man’s intuitive natural capacity to overcome evil with good.
Whether one is suffering from the belief of being a victim or the equally erroneous belief of being a perpetrator of racism—divine Love meets the human need. Love corrects what has no rightful place in thought. The stains of bitterness, distrust, and resentment may try to linger, but they cannot exist in the consciousness of those who understand that divine Love and Love’s idea are susceptible only to good. “The enslavement of man is not legitimate. It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses” (Science and Health, p. 228).
WHAT ARE WE WITNESSING?
The greater seems to be the injustice, the more pressing the demand for us to bear witness to Truth—not relative truth, personal truth, or variable truth, but divine Truth, the only Truth. This is the purpose of prayer in Christian Science: to bear witness to the truth that heals injustice as well as sickness. We read in Science and Health, “To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error” (p. 15).
When we personalize injustice, giving it a cause (a name, face, or event), we unwittingly make a reality of an untruth, or evil. Moses’ commandment from God “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16) indicates we are to bear witness only to what God knows and has created, what spiritual sense reveals.
Racist beliefs and the mayhem they cause depend on a material analysis of man. Whereas, “The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. . . . Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique” (Science and Health, p. 475). The right estimate of man is gleaned only from spiritual sense. It is incumbent on us, then, to yield to this spiritual sense—to bear witness to the real, spiritual, innocent man.
However, incidents of racism can be so shocking as to cause a mental retreat, and we either turn away in horror or denial. But no matter how tempting, evil must not be ignored. When God instructed Moses to cast his shepherd’s rod on the ground, it turned into a serpent (symbolizing the lie of evil). Terrified by the sight, he fled. But God commanded that he return, pick up the snake (handle the lie), and overcome his fear of it. When he did, the snake turned into a rod again, demonstrating the impotence of the serpentine suggestion because God, good, is all the power there is (see Science and Health, p. 321).
To neutralize racism, we must take up the snake that presents itself to us—in this case, the material sense suggestion that man is separated into cliques based on skin tone or other physical attributes. First we must see the lie. Then we must apply the truth, reversing the lie and reducing it to nothing—no threat, no harm. If we have the courage sufficient to handle it, this demonstration will be a staff upon which we can lean, namely, the understanding that evil is not power because God, good, is all.
OUR SPIRITUAl HERITAGE
Last summer, when racial tensions reached a tipping point in the United States, protests and riots broke out over the alarming reports of racial injustice, and I received a slew of texts and emails from people worried about my safety and mental state. They told me they understood the pain I must be in as a black woman, and that they were sorry.
While their concern for my well-being was appreciated, it assumed a mental space I do not occupy. I was not in pain. I don’t identify as black Nicole. I am Nicole, whose greatest desire is to express the universal love of God that meets every human need. Christian Science has given me the gift of a family not determined by blood and race; a spiritual understanding of selfhood and identity, in which the human heritage, circumstances, and physical characteristics do not and cannot define us. This buoys my heart and forestalls the loneliness and isolation that minority status confers. I feel as I am—as we all are: cherished by God, and subject only to our Maker, divine Love.
The antidote for the oppression of one group of people is not the sympathy or guilt of another group of people, but the compassion that recognizes the spiritual innocence and independence of all people. Wasn’t it Jesus’ mission to uplift thought to the understanding that we are the upright, free children of divine Spirit’s creating?
Each of us is equally worthy and infinitely blessed. The notion that race confers value or status is a fraud. Don’t be impressed or horrified by it. See it for what it is: nothing. Know the truth that sets us all free.
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