I was going to start this blog piece by writing about our Community day, which didn’t happen as I was ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app that morning and asked to self-isolate. So then I wondered about writing about self-isolation, with the related issue of the lifting of restrictions as well. That didn’t seem to work - there’s only so much you can say about isolation when you’ve been at home isolating all week, and the messaging about Covid restrictions has been changing in emphasis from ‘freedom day’ to an expectation that masks will continue to be worn. Then came the final of the Euros, which I wasn’t going to write about as I’m not interested in football, and there’s been enough written/spoken about it already. Except the news came today about black England players being targeted for racist abuse. Which I do think needs writing about.
But how? I can stand up and point out that this is wrong, that no one should be abused for the colour of their skin, however well or badly they may have played (which I don’t know, I know nothing about football – although presumably being the first male team in a major final in 55 years counts as a success?). It does seem to be becoming a feature of English football, that black players will receive abuse. Which shouldn’t be happening. But, other than actually saying that people should be able to live their lives, to do their jobs, to the best of their ability without receiving racist abuse (or any other manifestation of racism), what else can I say? Especially in a blog where (I hope) I am preaching to the converted anyway. I have no direct experience of racism, and no direct experience of social media either, so I am probably not the person to talk about it.
I do remember being in a park one day many years ago when a couple of boys started throwing something at me. It was wood chippings, or hazelnut shells, or something found in the park. It didn’t hurt, but it became clear to me that they were targeting me – presumably because I was in habit. I just ignored it. It’s never occurred again – but I still remember that time when something happened to me, merely because of who I was. It was fairly minor, and certainly not classed as abuse. But how much worse must it be when you know you will be targeted, however much you try, simply because a group of people decide they can.
At which point I come back to self-isolating again. I’m not doing this out of choice, or because I want to. I enjoy being on my own, but it’s much more enjoyable when I’m able to go out. I don’t think I have the virus: I had a negative lateral flow test the day before I was notified, and a negative PCR test at the weekend. But the guidance says to isolate for the full time, as symptoms can still develop. So I am; not just because I am naturally a rule keeper, but also because if there is a chance I have picked up the virus, then I want to avoid passing it on. For the same reason, I will carry on washing my hands, wearing a face mask where appropriate once it is no longer legally required and so on; because we are still in the pandemic, and I don’t want to spread it. I assume many other people will be acting similarly for similar reasons, where they can.
So we’re left with this dichotomy. A world where people are abused for no reason, a world where many will go out of their way to help others and to protect them. This is a world where all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3) – as how can we not fall short of God’s glory? Yet we are all, each one of us, made in God’s image and in some measure can reflect God’s glory. There have been many good news stories during the pandemic of people doing just that.
For each one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You, me, the stranger we pass in the street. We can abuse, criticise, laugh at people for who they are, for who we think they are or for the mistakes we think they may have made. But I think that may say more about us than about them. Maybe we should try and see each person we meet as falling short of God’s glory, yet also made in the image of God, with the potential to reach beyond what we are. It may not stop other people being racist, yet it may help us treat those we meet as we would want to be met.