As a teacher and especially as a theologian I try to help students connect how a community's understanding of who God is connects to the way they see themselves and their world. But inevitably, when we encounter the historical atrocities of the American slave system, Jim Crow, or other global acts of tragic dehumanization and violence, students are overwhelmed. But they also express a curious distance from those historical perpetrators. They say something like this, "Well, surely something like that couldn't happen now, we are not those sort of people."
But what "sort of people" either justify or ignore the persistent cries of those being dispossessed and persecuted? And herein lies the fundamental problem. The implicit language of what is natural underlines how we view ourselves and others. While a relatively small percentage of individuals owned slaves in the United States, the assumption of what black bodies were, by nature, and what white bodies were, by nature, served to perpetuate the system as part of God's natural order.