We all want to say that we aren’t racist, but there’s more nuance to the conversation than that. Racism and the ideology of white supremacy has played a key factor in our society since the beginning. We all know the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow. And while the passing of the Civil Rights Act certainly made a difference, it did not magically heal centuries worth of wounds inflicted on black people in our country. It also didn’t remove centuries worth of hate and dehumanization from the hearts of white people in our country.

Even those of us raised in homes that “weren’t racist” have still been exposed to a deluge of racist messages from the world around us. Just because we don’t use racial slurs or hold a deep hatred or disgust for anyone due to their race doesn’t mean we don’t perpetuate hurtful prejudices.

We think of racists as members of the KKK or that socially awkward relative who makes inappropriate jokes in public. But the divisions in our country will never get better until we are all willing to look into our own hearts and root out the racism that inevitably works its way in1.

Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

Psalm 26:2
Ask yourself:
  • Do you feel more nervous encountering a black man on the sidewalk than you do when the man is white? (By the way, most crime victims are the same race as the perpetrator.2)
  • When you hear about a black person’s death at the hands of police, are you quick to automatically assume they did something to deserve it?
  • Have you ever bought into the argument that black people are over-represented in prison due to “culture” problems rather than injustices in our system?
  • Do you go to bat for any issue your kids have at school, but then assume that a black parent who says their child is being discriminated against is “playing the race card?” (Despite studies that show black children are often punished more harshly in school than white children for the same behaviors.3)
  • Do you wring your hands more over broken windows and stolen property than you do over human lives taken by brutality?
  • Are you more likely to lock your car doors in a neighborhood that isn’t predominately white?
  • When you saw the Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd videos, did you need “more information” before you could agree that their deaths were unjust? But then believed any negative press about the protests without needing extra research?
  • Do you think black people are being “overly sensitive” when they describe a racist incident?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it is worth it to meditate on why that is. I know these are questions I’ve had to wrestle with in recent years. It’s nice to believe that every individual has an equal chance and if people would just follow the rules, everything would be fine. But I can’t believe that anymore.

I remember being particularly struck several years ago by a story from a white mom who adopted a black son. She talked about prejudice and police brutality that her son had endured. I remember reading it and thinking, “Oh, how awful!” But the truth is, black women have been telling that story for years. Why did it take the white mom’s story to really catch my attention? That was my wake-up call. There is prejudice in me, too.

So what do we do with this?

I think the biggest reason we look away from this issue is because we aren’t sure what to do with it. It is a far-reaching problem, and we feel overwhelmed. It’s easier to decide to look away rather than deal with painful self-examination and uncomfortable conversations.

But that’s not doing justice and loving mercy. That’s prioritizing our own feelings of comfort over other people’s lives and well-being.

I am not an expert, and do not have all of the answers here. I am still very much working on myself. If you would like to hear from some people who are the experts, check out:

  • Latasha Morrison (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
Or if you prefer watching:
  • 13th (available on Netflix)

My Personal Action Steps:

My plan right now is to take the actions I can and keep moving forward.

  1. Continue listening and learning from those who have a lot more experience than I do.
  2. Do a better job of having these awkward conversations. We can’t continue to ignore racism and think that is going to make it disappear. We have to talk about it.
  3. Educate myself on local policies and leaders that have an effect on my neighbors. Do my homework, vote, and advocate for the flourishing of everyone in the community – not just for my own family.

[Let] nothing [be done] through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4