Repenting the Sin of Racism

A season for repentance

uThe violent events of this past year have riveted national attention on the ongoing reality of racial injustice. Kaleo Center’s response has been to focus much of our attention at the intersection of faith and race. It has become inescapably clear that at this moment in history, people of faith are being called into repentance for the deeply-rooted sin of racism.

Our spiritual traditions are the wellsprings from which we draw vision and sustained power for the work of justice and right relationship. Last month, many of Kaleo Center’s partners in the work of social transformation observed the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur—a day devoted to personal and communal repentance.

A challenge from Yom Kippur

In his Yom Kippur sermon, Kaleo Center colleague Rabbi Michael Adam Latz spoke with sacred urgency about the work of repentance or teshuvah in a world where Black lives are being destroyed:

“On Yom Kippur, we do not silence the real pain we’ve experienced, we’ve witnessed, and we’ve caused. We recite the names out loud of our dead in a litany of woe. We beat our chests as we publicly confess our wrongdoing. We cry out, ‘We have sinned, we have transgressed, we are sorry.’ We fast to cleanse our bodies of the emotional toxins that have built up over the past year. We beg forgiveness…

Dr. Cornel West teaches, ‘Justice is what love looks like in public.’ Tonight, this Yom Kippur eve, we speak of love in public.

Rabbi Donniel Hartman teaches, ‘A Jewish society is one which understands that to be fully human is not to accept our failings; to be fully human is to aspire to overcome them. This is the fundamental idea behind teshuvah and its challenge to us—to embark on a process of self-criticism and self-reflection. To embrace teshuvah is the ultimate aspiration of our humanity…to evaluate the lives we have created and to challenge us to move forward and beyond.

Tonight, I invite you to do t’suvah with me for the insidious, base, vile hatred of our fellow human beings. Tonight, we Jews must atone for racism and for our role in perpetuating it, knowingly or not.

Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is the first step on the road to redemption, never the last.

On this, the holiest night of our Jewish year, I ask each of us to crack open our hearts, to robustly embrace our compassion, and to show up as Jews in the world to state without fear that Black Lives Matter, that we Jews stand for justice, righteousness and fairness.”

To read more of Rabbi Latz’s Yom Kippur sermon, click this link.

What in your spiritual tradition speaks to the work of racial justice and right relationship?At the Kaleo Center, we are building toward a Faith Summit on Faith and Race early next year, and we’re wondering:

What would it mean for you to move from a vision of racial reconciliation to one of repentance and repair?

Welcome to Kaleo Center