Read Deuteronomy 10:14-22

“The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked” (Psalm 146:9, NLT).

There’s a series on Prime Video that was recently released, entitled, “Them”. It was conceived of and produced by Little Marvin who, up until this series, was a little known actor and producer. From the get go, I could tell that this series was going to be edgy to say the least and that it was likely to keep anyone watching it at the edge of their seat, if not scared out it. Yet, the edgy horror that I was expecting watch was not what I discovered in this film; in fact, this film’s horror was far more dark and REAL.

The film follows the Emorys, who are a black family living in Jim Crow North Carolina. The show opens up with a scene that immediately sets you on edge and it soon becomes clear that being black in North Carolina was not ideal. The very first scene shows the horror of Jim Crow and the way blacks were treated less than human, even though Federal law technically said they were free citizens of the United States.

Without giving away what happens at the beginning of the show, suffice it to say that the experience is the last straw that causes the Emorys to uproot and leave North Carolina behind in search for a place to live where they will be treated like the free citizens they are. This show, of course, takes place in 1953 in the midst of what has since become known as the Great Migration, where countless black families uprooted and left the Jim Crow South for the American Promised Land, places that actively promoted themselves as places of opportunity and the American Dream.

Sadly, black families soon realized that the land of opportunity was not TRULY for them. Places like the Bronx, the South Side of Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and West Compton were lily white suburbs that were as hostile as the Jim Crow South, but in more pernicious and hidden ways. Areas that blacks moved into were zoned off to be “red zones”, meaning that they were beyond help and that the local and state governments would not send funding in for infrastructure or anything else. Property sales dropped in neighborhoods where black families moved in, furthering the already racially charged resentment against these new, and most unwelcome neighbors.

In the neighborhoods themselves, white people did everythign they could to rid themselves of black neighbors. Some white folks uprooted and left right away. Others took measures to ensure that their neighborhood would not be overrun by blacks. Sitting outside their homes, staring in their windows, placing signs and whatnot on their lawns, all in an attempt to intimidate the black families and scare them out of the neighborhood. When those attempts failed, and eventually they did, white folks left those neighborhoods en masse and the money followed them. Businesses and jobs dried up as a result of white people fleeing away from their black neighbors. This flight of white people became known as white flight and, when we look at patterns of moving today, it still exists.

All of this racism not only had a negative effect on beautiful, loving, and hopeful black families looking to leave Jim Crow behind, but it also destroyed what were once beautiful neighborhoods that offered hope and promise to all who lived within them. Let’s be clear, it was not the black families who destroyed those neighborhoods, it was white families and systemic racism that brought about their demise. Sadly, as has been all too often the case, racism destroyed perfectly good neighborhoods and left black people to fend for themselves in a system that saw them less than human.

The challenge for us is to recognize that the “us” vs. “them mentality is, at its core, sinful. It results in the evils of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and plenty of other evils. Christ has not called us to view people as “other” than us. There is no “them” in God, there is just US. Regardless of what one’s views, we are never called by God to dehumanize others or see them as less than us. We are always called to LOVE and treat people equally as created in imago Dei (aka the image of God. Let us shed our biases and fears off of us and live as Christ calls us to live.

“Racism comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s overt. Sometimes it’s violent, and sometimes it’s harmless, but it’s definitely here. It’s something that I think we’re all guilty of, and we just have to make sure that we deal with our own personal racism in the right way.” – Jordan Peele

Lord, forgive me for my biases and help me to overcome viewing other people as “other” or less than I am. Help me to view all people as equally made in your image. Amen.

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