In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that black people were “still languishing in the corners of American society” and were “exiles in their own land.”
Jesus understood the pain of racism. He preached and gathered to himself the outcasts of society. He called these people the anawim, or poor in spirit. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
The relationship between Jews and Samaritans at the time of Jesus approximates contemporary examples of racism. Many of the people of Samaria were Jews who had intermarried with Gentiles during the Assyrian captivity. Jews bypassed the region altogether as they traveled between Galilee and Judea. With your students, cite Gospel passages that refer to this strained relationship: Luke 9:52-54; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 17:11-19; John 9:48. Next, read Jesus’ response to this behavior: his healing of a Samaritan leper (Lk 17:11-19), the conversation with the Samaritan women at the well (Jn 4:4-42), and the telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37).
1. Why do you think people of different races have trouble getting along?
2. How do you respond when someone makes a racist statement?
3. Tell about a time you were excluded from an activity for no good reason?
Extending the Lesson
Ask an adult who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s to give a short presentation detailing society’s (and his or her own) changing attitudes from then to now.