Dear white Christian,
I am you.
I am overwhelmingly and uncomfortably aware right now that racism is still alive and well in our country.
Yet I have not always been this way.
If you haven’t perused this blog, you may not know that I have been married to a black man for a little over a year now. I am ashamed to say that my relationship with my husband is the first real, deep, interpersonal relationship I ever had with a person of color. I always pushed that fact aside, saying that it was because of where I was raised.
Yet no part of me ever sought to get to know anyone who was not like me. I sat where I was comfortable. I avoided uncomfortable conversations. I kept my mouth shut.
I said things like, “If I were around during slavery, I would have never stood for that.”
And “I just don’t understand racism.”
And the beloved, “I don’t see color.”
Yet by the same breath, I would easily say something like, “You speak so well and articulately,” and (I am so very ashamed to type this) “You’re like an oreo: black on the outside but white on the inside.”
As if whiteness is something to be desired—the goal—and blackness is just the barrier standing in the way of true goodness.
I believed that our country had truly come strides and that we were pretty good.
Then I met Austin (and all my other awesome friends of color from speech. Thank you.)
I began to hear words and phrases like, “institutional racism” and learned that “colorblindness” was not, in fact, a good thing. I listened to all my people explain how they had to do so much more to be trusted. My husband, boyfriend at the time, explained that he spends the majority of his time smiling just so he doesn’t come across like “that guy on the news.” He revealed how tired he was.
Unfortunately, like most of us are, I was questioning at first. All my mind saw during Black Lives Matter rally’s was the little bit of violence that was happening. I didn’t stop and ask myself why it was that they felt that was the option. I didn’t look into the eyes of the mothers of black children that sat in the background. I didn’t heed to the exhaustion my friends of color expressed.
White Christian, I am begging you to catch on more quickly than I did. I am begging you to look at what just happened and recognize that this is not a random act of hatred. It was methodically planned. The ideas that these people hold were approved by our leadership.
Take this for example: When the governor of Virginia was addressing the rioters, he told them that they were not real patriots. That the real patriots were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He completely neglected the fact that these men owned black people as property. They are the ones we are so quickly to worship and also the ones who instigated the kind of violent ideas these people build their ideologies upon.
It is those kind of statements—the kind of statements that we make subconsciously—that make people of color feel unsafe in the home that people who look like us dragged them to.
I could go on for years. But I will ask that, instead, you take these steps toward being the kind ally that I believe Christ calls us to be. It all comes down to one action.
Respond in prayer and repentance.
First and foremost, let’s ask God that He would show us our own evil hearts. Sisters and brothers, we will never walk a day in black skin. We will not know the fear when sirens sound. We will never know what it is like to have to question the choice of wearing a sweatshirt over a sweater vest. We will never know what it is like to listen to the stories of our parents and grandparents being hosed down in the streets or hung from trees because of the skin they were born in.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. As I walked through the section detailing the horrors of segregation and Jim Crow, the man in front of me said, “Yes! This is exactly what my school looked like. I remember this well.” The man was in his 60s at the latest.
Friends, this is not buried deep in history. We have sisters and brothers who have lived and are still living in hatred that you and I will never experience. That’s what the Lord revealed to me in that moment. Tears. Instantly. This reality should produce nothing less that just that!
Christian, ask Jesus to show you your prejudices. You have them. I have them still. Ask Jesus to remind you of the injustice that He experienced. Ask Him to reveal to you the unique hatred that this land of the free freely poured out onto the backs of innocent black lives.
Turn! Write those prejudices down that you might remember their lies. Satan wants nothing more than for us to be divided, and he will do everything in his power to pull you away from the conviction that our Father will bring about.
Respond on your platforms.
Here is food for thought: if you posted something about how “unpatriotic” Collin Kapernick was when he refused to sing the National Anthem, why aren’t you posting about the horrendous nature of this—the exact thing he was fighting against!
Brothers and sisters, we should be horrified to admit that this is surprising on social media. It is what Black Lives Matter has been warning us about as we have been calling them a terrorist organization! When I say respond on social media, this is what I mean:
Do what I did in the paragraphs above. Admit where you have been prejudice. Let others know that you are not beyond reproach. Turn the blame off of the protestors and remember the fact that, if we are in Christ, we believe that we hold the same amount of sin they do. Let’s turn our focus to what we can do. What we have been doing wrong. How we have been slowly (and for some unknowingly) perpetuating this kind of thought.
Respond in your conversations.
Look for opportunities to talk about how God feels about racial injustice. Remember that when John looked into heaven, he SAW people from every tribe, tongue, and nation—meaning they looked different! Color is not the problem, friends. It is beautiful. Our skin tones are exactly what God has given us. They are unique and strong and give us platform for His glory.
Let’s talk about some ways to respond to some specific phrases you might hear.
“The only race is the human race.” Or “I don’t see color.”
You could say, “I know that you mean that we are all one in Christ, but by saying that, we are neglecting the unique, horrible, recent hardships that most of our friends of color have had to experience. Yes, we should absolutely treat all people with respect no matter their skin color. That point you make is correct! But part of treating someone with respect is understanding and recognizing the struggles they face because of their skin color.”
“Black Lives Matter just needs to get over it.”
You could say, “What makes you say that? Would you look at someone who has faced any other hardship and say that? What if a widow who had lost her husband years ago grieved him actively right now? You would aid her. You would come to her side and love on her. You would listen to her.”
“They have just as much of an opportunity to be successful as anyone else.”
You should say, “Now that is not true. I am not saying that white people haven’t had to struggle for success, but I am saying that our great grandparents weren’t considered 3/5’s human. That is recent! The African American community is just now seeing a generation that actively seeks out school. There has been a lot of catching up to do that people who look like us haven’t had to deal with.”
“I am just so shocked that white supremacists still exist.”
Please ask, “Why? There have been lynching’s this year. Our black brothers and sisters are crying out in pain all around us, and our first inclination is to push aside their frustrations (see above statements). We didn’t listen when people of color were heart broken when Trump won the Presidency. They saw this coming. They warned us over and over and over! We should all be pushing our jaws back up and looking at the warning signs we have been ignoring by people made in the image of God.”
Respond in your listening
Finally, brothers and sisters, let us listen.
If you have a friend of color, buy them a cup of coffee and ask them to educate you. Refrain from the words, “yeah, but…”.
Look up Christian authors and pastors who are excited about racial reconciliation. Log onto the website, The Front Porch, and just read and read and read.
You might be skeptical, but I ask that you please, please set that aside and open your ears. We preach over and over that “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” and believe that by saying that we are pulling races together. Sisters and brothers, we are pushing aside the concerns of our sisters and brothers! We are saying, “the only perspective that matters is mine, and you should just conform.”
I am not saying that any one person is always right, but why do we have such a hard time with giving someone the courtesy to share their heart?
This weekend opened my eyes.
It opened my eyes to the fact that yes, most of us can agree that this extreme kind of racism should not be tolerated. But what about the subtle racism? What about when someone says to my husband, “I don’t usually like black people, but I like you.” Yes, that has been said to him. What if it is just something as simple as the things I said before I was educated? Those phrases, those words are hurtful, and when we use the, we misrepresent our Jesus.
We don’t want people made in the image of God. We want them made in the image of us.