Average reading time: 5 minutes.
I sit here and I think as I write this that I am not an authority on anything. I probably shouldn’t be writing this. I am a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, heterosexual white female in my late twenties and have never experienced institutionalized racism/discrimination (and never will). I have that privilege.
Although I do have that privilege, I spent this Saturday morning in tears over the events of this week. My stomach aches for all involved, for statistics that represent families affected, fear, and injustice. But it aches for so much more than that – it aches for awakening and reconciliation.
Some people claim that racism isn’t a real problem for our society anymore. Ignorance, that is what that is—straight up delusion (especially if you have been watching the news at all the last couple of years).
When I was in high school and early college, I dated a black guy. For three years. In a small country town in Southeast Texas. That was my first real glimpse into how racism is still alive and well today. Old white men in big rusty redneck trucks would stare threateningly into our car at stoplights. I was often nervous that we would get pulled over on the highway. Some older Texan relatives urged me how “wrong” it was I was with an African-American.
One event sticks out in my memory the most. We went to the mall and took my younger teen sister (also white, duh) and his best friend (black) with us. We all drove together and spent a fun evening doing teenager stuff around the mall. It was getting late and my sister and I needed to get home, and then we all realized that my boyfriend locked his keys in his car.
We went to the information desk in the mall where a middle-aged white woman was working. We told her our situation and asked if mall security could assist us in trying to get the keys out of the car, or had a flashlight we could use to see if they were actually in the car (making sure they were in there before we called a locksmith, and not just forgotten in a mall store somewhere). Her eyes glanced suspiciously at me and my sister, then at our two tall male friends.
My stomach still turns thinking about this memory.
When I entered the workplace after college, I was surprised that I experienced prejudice. I know that my minority friends and classmates had to fight against it in their careers, but I never thought I would encounter it.
I remember a group of coworkers excitedly talking about a movie that they wanted to see that was coming out soon (that was marketed towards African Americans). I jumped in and told them I was wanting to see it too, it looked like a fun movie and I enjoyed similar movies put out by the same crew before.
“Why do you want to see it? You don’t know anything about this,” one of my coworkers said to me.
Another time I saw someone I knew wearing a cute new top. “You look great today! Where did you get that shirt? It’s a good look for work, I think I probably need to pick one up!” She described a store that I never had been in, but I knew where it was located. “I think I’m in that area of town this weekend, I’ll have to stop in and look around! Thanks for the suggestion,” I replied.
“No, don’t go in there. It’s not a store for you,” I was told.
Once I had someone come up to my desk and he simply said to me, “You look like the white devil today.” I liked this person a lot and had lots of great encounters with him, I still to this day have no idea why he felt the need to say this to me or what he meant by using the term.
I also had people assume that because I was a young white girl with blonde hair who liked fashionable clothes and did well at my job that I “had never experienced a hard day in my life,” and that “my life was so easy,” that “I must have had rich parents and went to private schools growing up,” and that I look like “I don’t eat anything.”
What I never told them is the very difficult financial and family situations I did experience growing up, that I was eyeball-deep in school loan debt and busting my butt to pay for my own university education, and that I regularly eat donuts and tacos like a crazy person.
These examples above (and, unfortunately, I have more) are nothing compared to what minorities experience on a regular basis. I am not at all trying to make a point that I have received the same level of negativity as a person in a minority group. And I am not pretending to know what a minority person experiences or how they feel at all. That would be absolutely just as stupid as saying racism doesn’t exist.
But we all have been prejudiced towards people based on their outer appearance, and we have all been on the receiving end of prejudice.
What do we do then? What do I do as a Christian?
I get so angry.
I get so angry when a group of my Christian brothers and sisters are murdered because of their skin color in their own church after inviting in a visitor.
I get so angry that the sweet and intelligent kid who lives next door may experience difficulty landing a job one day because her name on her resume gives away her race.
I get so angry that I could lose a friend in a traffic stop.
I get so angry that I could lose a friend who pulls someone over for running a red light.
I get so angry, but anger doesn’t solve the problem.
People say guns are the problem – but guns aren’t the core problem, people’s hearts are. People say that law enforcement training is the problem – but law enforcement training isn’t the core problem, people’s hearts are. Some say it’s how people respond to law enforcement that is the core problem – but response isn’t the problem, people’s hearts are.
We are all the problem. We are all broken.
My broken heart aches for the Kingdom of God to come and heal us all.
I pray that we would all be awakened by and personally convicted of our own prejudices that are deep down in our hearts. That we would admit to them and that Christ would heal and remove them.
(Want to know mine? I regularly am prejudiced towards wealthy people. I went to a private university where I experienced more interactions with upper income folks than I ever did growing up, and a lot of those interactions were negative and left me sour. But I am working on it. I know many wealthy people are incredibly generous, grateful, and humble.)
I pray that the Church would be awakened to the needs of our community, actually read our Bibles, and go be the hands and feet of Christ—that we would fight to protect the unprotected, that we would give freely to widows and orphans and the lonely.
I pray that we actually would love our neighbors, and that we wouldn’t move out of fear to neighborhoods to seclude ourselves from those who are different from us.
I pray that those of us that society gives privilege to (whether that be race, sex, class, income, education, occupation, whatever) would use that privilege to empower and educate others.
I know you are mighty and loving and still in control. I know you are gracious and full of mercy for me (a sinner), and I am grateful.
I grieve over the events of this last week. I grieve that so many broken hearts resort to violence and hatred. I know you did not design our world to look like this, and that you are reconciling it through the work of Jesus Christ to make it new.
I ask that, by the power of your Holy Spirit, the people of your Church are convicted with the realization of our own prejudices and how those prejudices keep us from loving those around us. I pray that you would remove them from our hearts so that we can be your hands and feet, so that we can love others more than ourselves.
I pray that you would reconcile your Church. I am saddened that we are so segregated. I know that is not what Heaven looks like, and I pray that you would bring Heaven to Earth, and the Church would start looking more like you designed it to, and that we would do your good work.
I ask that you would give us grace and wisdom by the power of your Holy Spirit to carry this out, to do your will.
I love you, Jesus. Please heal our hateful and sinful hearts.
***After I cried, prayed, and wrote this on Saturday morning, I went to the YMCA as part of my regular Saturday routine. Walking by the tables where old people sit and shoot the breeze, there were two old men, one white and one black, and one young black man. They were conversing passionately with their hands, and their voices were loud enough that I could hear part of the conversation:
“Why are there black churches, why are there white churches, Hispanic churches? We all need to be together!”
Yes, we do. And we all know it.