My connections to Meghan Markle and Barack Obama are pretty tenuous.
As someone who was almost certainly the first ‘black’ member of the Royal Household, I co-officiated at the first service at St James’ Palace after the death of Diana and I was a West Wing guest when President Obama was in office – alas, I was not allowed into the Situation Room to play with the buttons.
However, at another level we three are connected, all of us being of mixed race.
Race is certainly a hot topic and, my goodness, it is a difficult one. There is, it seems to me, so much humbug around this subject, not least from adherents of identity politics.
I read Obama’s wonderful memoir of his presidency recently and was reminded of all the talk about a ‘post-racial’ America after his election. His very election was a truly extraordinary event, not least given the appalling racial segregation in much of the USA until well into the 1960s.
But sadly, this ‘post-racial’ America has yet to emerge and racism remains, encouraged by Trump and his acolytes. Likewise, the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan was seen to mark a genuine advance towards a ‘post-racial’ UK but that remains further away than we had hoped.
I note from posters along the seafront that Saturday, March 20th is World Anti-Racism day. I don’t believe that Hastings is a hotbed of racism despite the gentleman in Quarry House who unleashed a torrent of racist abuse at me when I was canvassing during the 2019 General Election. However, racism is an issue that we need to address wherever we live because it can affect our understanding of humanity, whatever our own racial heritage might be.
Racism is not always a black and white matter, if you will forgive the play on words. The much-maligned Enoch Powell, for example, resigned from his club when he was not allowed to entertain an Indian friend and Churchill, a current target of the ‘Woke Brigade’ which appears to have no grasp of historical context whatsoever, urged that non-white recruits should have the same conditions and opportunities for promotion as their white brothers-in-arms.
Racism is wrong but why? It’s not simply that racial discrimination and injustice has a de-humanising effect on the lives of so many of our fellow human beings. For Christians it is wrong because we believe that all of humanity is made in God’s Image and that to discriminate and perpetrate injustice against another person is to discriminate against God’s Image. It is literally blasphemous.
Lent is still with us, a time for self-examination. Perhaps we all need to look deep inside ourselves and reflect on Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words that: “A person is a person because he or she recognises others as persons”. What does our attitude to others, especially those who are different in some way, say about our own humanity?
The Reverend Paul Hunt is the part-time priest-in-charge of St. Clement’s and All Saints in Hastings Old Town. St. Clement’s has re-opened for public worship at 10am on Sundays.