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Blackface – Another Teachable Moment

by Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell



In moments like these, the work of bridge building across racial lines stretches me emotionally. But God led me to start Grace and Race Ministries, Inc. for such a time as this. I want to believe that people of the Christian faith start with at least one shared belief. God loves us in spite of our failures.

The endless news about the revelation of Virginia government officials who wore blackface has emerged as yet another teachable moment. When the governor first spoke and offered an apology, I was ready to move into my “Grace and Race” mode. I was able to acknowledge right away, that in his context in 1984, he was perhaps not yet aware of the racist implications of such behavior.  My “grace-filled spirit” paled a bit with the apparent – present lack of knowledge –  exhibited in the now infamous press conference.

My husband asked me what I thought the governor should do – step down or press on? I responded that if he could surround himself with wise counsel from his constituency, he could use this as a moment to become an ambassador for racial understanding. From his position, he  can become a spokesperson for making this 2019 Black History Month, the beginning of a paradigm shift. His apology means nothing without some form of positive action toward change. What investment can he make in providing resources and creating space for constructive dialogue informed by studying and acknowledging white privilege and the continuing impact of the dehumanization of Black people? Is he willing to say, I am sorry, ask for forgiveness, and to press on to become an active agent for change?

God’s grace toward me is a constant reminder, that although I have done things that would not be pleasing to God, God still forgives me and challenges me to forgive others as God has forgiven me.  Sharing well-researched, historically accurate information and creating spaces for healing are important steps in the process of moving forward. The blog from the National Urban League is a useful primer for those who still may not understand and query why the blackface controversy matters.


So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NSRV



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