It is surely time for the culture of victimhood and entitlement to end. Over the last few days we have seen justifiable outrage over the killing of George Floyd – but nothing justifies the outpouring of hatred and cries for revenge that we have since witnessed in demonstrations across the globe.
Bad things happen. They happen to all of us. For example, down the centuries women have been sexually abused and oppressed by men. Jews have been slaughtered in their millions, while an uncaring world looked the other way. Millions of innocent babies have died because they were unwanted… Anglo-Saxon settlers were killed and enslaved by Viking marauders … white farmers across Africa have been driven from their homes and sometimes killed by black tribesmen.
Black people have been enslaved and treated shamefully. Yes, but so, in various ways, have all these others. So has every group on the planet, in fact, and there has to be a time to move on. Unfashionable as it is to say this today, let us not forget that Great Britain was at the forefront in ending slavery. As long ago as the 12th century, the practice was outlawed in the British Isles under edict issued by the Council of London convened by Anselm: “Let no one dare hereafter to engage in the infamous business, prevalent in England, of selling men like animals.” And though the international slave trade undeniably continued to flourish, let us remember that Britain, led by William Wilberforce, spearheaded the movement in the 19th century for its worldwide abolition. Were it not for his brave stand, many black protesters would remain in slavery today.
Yet instead of acknowledging this, there is an endless litany of recrimination and abuse – of hatred and violence. It is surely time for those who feel they have been ‘oppressed’ to move on.
Every group and every individual has at some time faced injustice and oppression. That indeed was one of the reasons Christ died, and, by His death on the Cross, He taught us the way of forgiveness – calling us to forgive and keep no account of past wrongs, as God forgives us. So true forgiveness means that the offence disappears and is from that moment wiped out. It does not of course mean that we forget – as anyone who has had to deal with being on the receiving end of ‘wrong’ can testify. Nor does it mean that we should not address current and continuing wrongs – indeed we must remain vigilant in doing so. But there is a higher and a better way than screaming endlessly for revenge, and for domination that glories in the humiliation and subjection of those who we think have done us wrong. Forgiveness and letting go sets both sides free.
In this fallen world we all do wrong – and we all, inevitably, on occasion suffer wrong. Neither experience entitles us to destroy. A part of our humanity is facing challenge, and we grow by effort. For this reason, for example, the disciples fishing all night on Lake Galilee did not have the fish jump into their boat at Christ’s command in the morning, but had once again to let down their nets for a catch (John 21:3-18).
Black lives matter. Of course they do. So do the lives of white men, and of women, children, the disabled, and the unborn. More peaceable demonstrators will of course say that they are protesting not about the past, but against inequalities and unfairness today – and there are undeniably massive problems in our black communities that do need urgent addressing. Black Caribbean children, for example, are three times more likely to be excluded from primary, secondary, and special schools (https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/school-racism-black-students-exclusions-hair-kiss-teeth-a9280296.html), because they tend to be seen as disruptive and difficult to handle by teachers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, there is lower educational achievement amongst the black community overall, which persists through to higher education (https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2019/bame-student-attainment-uk-universities-closing-the-gap.pdf ). But this in itself is part of a broader scenario, because inner-city areas, home to many black and ethnic minority groups, are notoriously bedevilled by gang violence, drugs, almost daily stabbings and shootings, and sexual exploitation and abuse. These are all problems that need to be tackled, and a good place to start is without doubt by strengthening the family unit, so that all children grow up with a mother and a father – instead of, as so often happens at the moment, with a mother alone. With a stable, strong family, where they are loved, children will flourish and a lot of the problems will surely disappear. They will start to fulfil their potential.
But let there be an end to this evil spirit of victimhood and entitlement, and let’s work together to tackle the problems. Whether it’s Me too, Black lives matter, or any other movement calling for redress – let this fostering of bitterness end. Let us rather acknowledge every individual as made in the image of God – each one precious and of infinite worth. Let us celebrate and acknowledge that we all have different gifts and strengths – that all alike need to be nurtured and developed. And let us put the past behind us and rise to the challenge of being the best we can – now. So that all may flourish.