Racism in America is real. It is sin. And it will be tough to eradicate.
That was the message the Rev. Sharon Watkins brought Wednesday night to Phillips Theological Seminary’s Remind & Renew, an annual ministers conference that ended Thursday.
Watkins spoke to a nearly full house at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) downtown, the only public event of the conference.
She is general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, the highest position in the denomination.
Watkins has strong Oklahoma ties. She is a former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville and held leadership positions at Phillips Theological Seminary, now in Tulsa. She was moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma.
The theme of the conference was “Let’s Talk About Race, Liberty & Justice For All.”
Watkins said the body of Christ, the church, cannot be what it should be “as long as the gash of racism still exists.”
She said white people fail to grasp the reality of racism in America.
“It’s our problem, after all, which we visit so poorly on others. We must enter the conversation, listen, learn, get a clue and finally work together to resolve this.”
Watkins said that the “weed” of racism was cut down in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s that ended segregated lunch counters and Jim Crow laws.
“But we didn’t get the roots. It grew back. Racism in 2016 is as real as in 1960 and 1860.”
She said racism in America today goes beyond personal prejudice of individuals.
“It is misuse of power by institutions to the benefit of white people,” she said, seen in education, incarceration rates, housing and voting patterns.
And, she said, racism is sin, a tough topic among liberal progressive Christians.
“It’s not just individual sin. It’s rightly been called America’s original sin ... thinking that it is OK to displace Native Americans, OK to build nations with slavery. We want to root this out, but it runs deep.”
Watkins’ third point was that racism is “really, really tough. Principalities and powers do not go down without a fight.”
She said her worldview excludes demons, but “demonic seems to describe it.”
“It can only be resolved with the help of God.”
We're not there yet, but we recognize the Gospel demands we work to end racism and increase justice, peace, and compassion for ALL the whole human family. So we commit ourselves to this anti-racism work in Christ's name.