Racism is a system of inequality based on race prejudice and the belief that one race is innately superior to all other races. In the United States, systemic race-based prejudice and misuse of power have justified the conquest, enslavement, and evangelizing of non-Europeans. During the early history of this country, Europeans used legal documents such as the Christian Doctrine of Discovery of 1823 to justify the notion that their civilization and religion were innately superior to those of both the original inhabitants of the United States and the Africans who were forcibly brought to these shores as slaves. The concepts of race and racism were created explicitly to ensure the subjugation of peoples the Europeans believed to be inferior. The myth of European superiority persisted—and persists—in every institution in American life. Other people who came, and those who are still coming to the United States—either by choice or by force—encountered and continue to encounter racism. Some of these people are the Chinese who built the country’s railroads as indentured workers; the Mexicans whose lands were annexed; the Puerto Ricans, the Cubans, the Hawaiians, and the Eskimos who were colonized; and the Filipinos, the Jamaicans, and the Haitians who lived on starvation wages as farm workers.
In principle, the United States has outlawed racial discrimination; but in practice, little has changed. Social, economic, and political institutions still discriminate, although some institutions have amended their behavior by eliminating obvious discriminatory practices and choosing their language carefully. Adding to this reality, the success of some prominent people of color has contributed to the erroneous but widespread belief that America is in many ways a “post-racial” society where race is seldom a factor in the opportunities and outcomes in people’s lives. The institutional church, despite sporadic attempts to the contrary, also still discriminates on the basis of race.
The damage from years of systemic race-based exploitation has not been erased and by all measurable indicators, a color-blind society is many years in the future. A system designed to meet the needs of one segment of the population cannot be the means to the development of a just society for all. The racist system in the United States today perpetuates the power and control of those who are of European ancestry. It is often called “white supremacy.” The fruits of racism are prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and dehumanization. Consistently, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders have been humiliated by being given jobs, housing, education, medical services, transportation, and public accommodations that are all inferior. With hopes deferred and rights still denied, the deprived and oppressed fall prey to a colonial mentality that can acquiesce to the inequities.
Racist presuppositions have been implicit in US attitudes and policies toward Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. And the fact that racism is not explicitly expressed in these policies leads many to believe that race-based prejudice in public policy is a thing of the past. While proclaiming democracy, freedom, and independence, the United States, however, has been an ally and an accomplice to perpetuating racial inequality and colonialism throughout the world. The history of The United Methodist Church and the history of the United States are intertwined. The “mission enterprise” of the churches in the United States went hand in hand with “Westernization,” thus sustaining a belief in and the institutionalization of this nation’s superiority. Through policies that were hyper expansionist and inherently racist, such as Manifest Destiny.
We are conscious that “we have sinned as our ancestors did; we have been wicked and evil” (Psalm 106:6 GNT). We call for a renewed commitment to the elimination of institutional racism. We affirm the 1976 General Conference Statement on The United Methodist Church and Race that states unequivocally: “By biblical and theological precept, by the law of the church, by General Conference pronouncement, and by Episcopal expression, the matter is clear. With respect to race, the aim of The United Methodist Church is nothing less than an inclusive church in an inclusive society. The United Methodist Church, therefore, calls upon all its people to perform those faithful deeds of love and justice in both the church and community that will bring this aim into reality.”
Because we believe:
1. That God is the Creator of all people and all are God’s children in one family;
2. That racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ;
3. That racism denies the redemption and reconciliation of Jesus Christ;
4. That racism robs all human beings of their wholeness and is used as a justification for social, economic, environmental, and political exploitation;
5. That we must declare before God and before one another that we have sinned against our sisters and brothers of other races in thought, in word, and in deed;
6. That in our common humanity in creation all women and men are made in God’s image and all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God;
7. That our strength lies in our racial and cultural diversity and that we must work toward a world in which each person’s value is respected and nurtured;
8. That our struggle for justice must be based on new attitudes, new understandings, and new relationships and must be reflected in the laws, policies, structures, and practices of both church and state.
We commit ourselves as individuals and as a community to follow Jesus Christ in word and in deed and to struggle for the rights and the self-determination of every person and group of persons.
Therefore, as United Methodists in every place across the land, we will unite our efforts within the Church to take the following actions:
1. Eliminate all forms of institutional racism in the total ministry of the Church, giving special attention to those institutions that we support, beginning with their employment policies, purchasing practices, environmental policies, and availability of services and facilities;
2. Create opportunities in local churches to deal honestly with the existing racist attitudes and social distance between members, deepening the Christian commitment to be the church where all racial groups and economic classes come together;
3. Increase efforts to recruit people of all races into the membership of The United Methodist Church and provide leadership-development opportunities without discrimination;
4. Establish workshops and seminars in local churches to study, understand, and appreciate the historical and cultural contributions of each race to the church and community;
5. Raise local churches’ awareness of the continuing needs for equal education, housing, employment, medical care, and environmental justice for all members of the community and to create opportunities to work for these things across racial lines;
6. Work for the development and implementation of national and international policies to protect the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all people such as through support for the ratification of United Nations covenants on human rights;
7. Support and participate in the worldwide struggle for liberation in church and community;
8. Facilitate nomination and election processes that include all racial groups by employing a system that prioritizes leadership opportunities of people from communities that are disproportionately impacted by the ongoing legacy of racial injustice. Use measures to align our vision for racial justice with actions that accelerate racial equity.
READOPTED 2000, 2008, 2016
RESOLUTION #3371, 2008, 2012 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #161, 2004 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #148, 2000 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.