“Healing Racism Through Jesus Christ – Forms of Racial Injustice”

Dr. Ryan Gabriel-BYU Assistant Professor of Sociology

April 6, 2021 BYU Devotional Address

“…roughly 12.3 ­million Africans were trafficked to the Americas.  Enormous wealth was generated for those in the slave industry through the unjust toil of Africans—men, women, and children.  Daily life of enslaved Africans was punctuated by horrendous abuse. In some instances, they were branded with hot irons on the chest or face.  Slaves were whipped, forced to wear iron masks, placed in the stocks, sexually assaulted, and subjected to other forms of torture.  Besides torture, enslaved Africans’ agency was severely limited by a set of laws called slave codes. It was, for example, illegal for an enslaved person to own property, trade goods, leave an enslaver’s property without permission, learn to read and write, speak their native language, or marry. Black families had no rights under the law, which meant that children were ripped from the gentle embrace of their parents and wives were sold, never to lovingly look into their husbands’ eyes again.  Slavery was and is a sin against the family.

Another form of racial injustice called convict leasing was perpetrated upon African Americans after the Civil War. Lasting until the early 1940s, convict leasing was a system of legal slavery in which southern states leased prisoners to ­private companies such as mines and farms. The legal basis of convict leasing was found in the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude but exempted those convicted of a crime. To take advantage of this amendment, southern states passed Black codes. These laws pertained only to African Americans and subjected them to criminal prosecution for the most trivial offenses—acts that many of us have committed before, such as standing around without an apparent purpose or breaking curfew. These laws effectively placed Black people, including children, under a new form of slavery in which they encountered terrifying work conditions that frequently ended in death.

…between 1830 and 1850, the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations in the United States were displaced from their ancestral lands. In this forced migration known as the Trail of Tears, they encountered starvation, exposure, disease, and death. During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of United States citizens with Mexican heritage were forcibly expelled from or coerced to leave the country. Throughout World War II, more than 100,000 innocent Japanese Americans were incarcerated in internment camps. Certainly, learning of events like these can draw out deep compassion for the families who have experienced such suffering and racially motivated injustice.

Because of the humble and holy sacrifices of previous generations of all races and ethnicities, we have made strides in the United States concerning racial equality. As an example, the recently elected 117th U.S. Congress is the most diverse in our country’s history, in which around “a quarter of voting members . . . are racial or ethnic minorities.”  In spite of the progress we have made, racism remains a destructive force in our society.”