Am I Racist? (Part 2)

Last week, I told you my first memory of noticing skin color … and of questioning the difference. My Mother’s wise and Biblical answer set a good direction in my life.

Today, I want to tell you my first experience with feeling the weight of racism. Growing up in small-town Kansas didn’t give me many opportunities to examine my own feelings about ethnic difference. There just weren’t that many minorities. I only realized after high school that some of my friends were Mexicans. I encountered more ethnic diversity in my work life and college, but again I don’t remember feeling any different towards people based on their skin color. It just wasn’t an issue for me.

Then we moved from Kansas to Chicago and encountered a palpable difference. Two things shocked me: hearing racial slurs among older members of the church I was serving, and I feeling a coldness from black people that I had never experienced. The sense of division was undeniable.

Shocked and uncertain how to respond, I felt myself withdrawing. I would not offer a greeting when a black person approached unless I was spoken to first. I began avoiding eye contact. I wasn’t pleased with how I felt, but I didn’t know how to remedy the situation.

One day I was in the check-out line with an older black woman. She regarded me without expression and then diverted her eyes. I suddenly knew that I had to speak to her … no matter what response I received. It took one comment (which I can’t even remember) and she came to life. We talked all during the checkout process, exited the store together and talked like old friends all the way to our cars. I began making a point out of breaking the ice … and I honestly can’t remember a time when my attempts to be friendly were rejected by a member of the black community. I believe the coolness I felt originated from their uncertainty (or perhaps their certainty) about how they would be received by me.

So … am I racist? I don’t believe so. But, “Do I act like a Racist?” I am capable … it is in me. So, when world events present the chance for self-reflection on this subject, I need this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23–24

I also need to go back to the basics of how God has called me to treat all people. If I find that the color of a person’s skin affects those core Christian behaviors … I need to take that to God in repentance and ask for healing. I heard a preacher say, “If we will not be subject to God … we will always want someone to be subject to us.” Here’s a good place to check your own heart …  “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8