How’s that for a title? I admit I used the title to get you to click and read!
The topic of racism is so hyper-politicized (not sure that is a word bit it seems to fit) any discussion around justice or racial reconciliation feels daunting. Put a post on social media, and things can get crazy. Check out CNN or Fox, they tell you the world is ending and who to blame.
If there ever is an actual conversation about racism, I have a knee jerk, reflex response. I quickly say, “Well I not a racist”. Whew that was close! Good thing I was able to so deftly dance around that, problem solved!
In an atmosphere of accusations, controversies and a desire by many to point out anyone’s failures and loudly condemn them, there is little space or time to reflect. Instead of asking myself hard questions, I quickly affirm I am not part of the problem and then, maybe worst of all, never consider if anything in me needs to change.
Ironically for me, the claim “I am not a racist” might ensure I continue to ignore the problem I insist I don’t have.
Confused yet? Me too.
Here are the three ways I avoid asking myself hard questions:
The Mirror, Don’t use It! – I make sure I never look at myself or consider my words. Never think about what I just said or how others may have heard me because “I know what I meant”. Also I ignore my body language when I am around someone different. If I feel uncomfortable, I remind myself my feelings are king and everyone else should adjust to me. If I don’t look someone in the eye, or I look at a person suspiciously they need to deal with it. I have to make sure I don’t consider how other people experience me.
Close off the heart – This may be the easiest step. I make sure I don’t feel anything around justice or injustice by staying uber-busy and keeping everything on the surface. I eliminate the temptation to feel. The danger of allowing my heart to open is finding out my heart may harbor some things…ugly things that aren’t you know “racist” but they are things that allow me to see other people as “less than”. Which maybe, technically, is racist but I like to think it isn’t as bad as other people right? So I don't run the risk of feeling and looking inside because I might not like what I find.
Blame Someone, Anyone – When things get too close for comfort, say I get a glimpse of myself or my heart cracks open, the quick fix is to blame. When I can find someone to blame I can remove the pressure and put it on someone else. The government, the conservatives, the liberals whoever. This racism problem is because of them. Actually the people who are being denied justice, who are being treated as less than are probably at fault too. Or, maybe it is the legal system, or culture, or history, some other activist group, they are all part of the problem. The best part of blaming is it doesn’t matter who I blame, it doesn’t matter if I am right or wrong, either way blaming keeps me safe.
Do these sound familiar to you? They hit home for me because I have done them all in the last couple of months. I slipped up a couple of times though. I got a glimpse in the mirror, opened my heart and stopped blaming and I found out there are some issues in me! What I was hoping to avoid, sneaked in and scared me.
I so much want to love my neighbors as myself. I want to show them Jesus, I want them to repent, to find forgiveness, healing and new life. That is really hard to do though if I don't allow Jesus to work in me and change me so I can love well.
On my street, I live next to a hispanic family on one side and an asian family on the other, there is a black family two doors away, and a mixed race couple further down the street. I have to wonder, how do they experience me? Have I made sure they know they belong in my life, that I value them as much as anyone else?
The only way to find out is to look in the mirror, open my heart, quit blaming everyone else, ask God’s forgiveness and do what I can to fix the problem. Fixing the problem can feel complicated but more than anything it means to love them and point them to Jesus.
Oh yeah I almost forgot, while I was looking in the mirror, opening my heart and not blaming I realized there is more to this than skin color. Things like income level, education, career choices, political persuasion, sexual orientation and religious practices don’t give me permission to see people as anything less than being made in the image of God either.
Guess I have to look over my list again!!
This is hard, it reminds me how much I need Jesus.