This morning, I stopped by a Christian bookstore to pick up some resources for our youth ministry. I was deeply disappointed to discover an old edition of Skits That Teach still on the shelves — the one that opens with a mocking, racist portrayal of a “Chinese food deliveryman.” Although it might feel like a long time ago, this whole commotion took place earlier this year. I have asked this particular bookstore to remove this edition on at least three occasions. This morning I sent both an email and a letter to their corporate office. Hopefully, this issue can be resolved quickly and simply. After all, the publishers, Youth Specialties, took extraordinary and decisive action to make this right. It seems like a very small step for this store to replace the old version with the updated one.

As draining and frustrating as this issue has been, I know that it it is only a very small component of the greater picture of racial justice in our country. It was only fifty years ago that nine African American students required the protection of the 101st Airborne simply to attend classes as schools became racially integrated. How could a society be so sick that a group of high school students required Presidential protection?

And yet, this is not a story that happened and we moved on from it. It continues to happen today. As Juan Williams writes in The Legacy of Little Rock, for Time Magazine:

American schools are still nearly as segregated as they were 50 years ago. Almost three-quarters of African-American students are currently in schools that are more than 50% black and Latino, while the average white student goes to a school that is 80% white, according to a 2001 study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

However, what might be more disturbing than this continued segregation is the underlying attitude that Williams identifies in the current state of our approach to education, race and civil rights:

…even as we celebrate what happened 50 years ago in the glory days of the civil rights movement, the political will to integrate schools in this country is long gone. So, too, is the desire to fix every economic inequity before delivering quality education to all children.

It is so easy to lose heart, to grow apathetic, to feel like things will never change. Maybe it’s because we think we’re beyond all of this “race talk.” After all, we don’t see hooded Klansmen murdering people or the police turning firehoses and attack dogs on peaceful protesters, right? Then again, the Jena 6 situation might suggest that we haven’t come as far as we’d like to think.

And yet, in the midst of this confusing mess, we cling to the promise of our God who makes all things new. I must believe that God wants to create His perfect shalom out of all our hatred, violence and nonsense.

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