Is there a race problem in my heart?


It’s clear from the events of last weekend that race relations in America are strained to the breaking point. How is this possible? African Americans have broken into all levels of society and economics, all the way up to and including the office of the President of the United States, and yet the black ghetto of any city is still the black ghetto, education and job opportunities are not the same, and crime is disproportionate, leading to the attitudes of white law enforcement officers that caused these wounds to fester and bring all kinds of hateful attitudes to the surface.

We have a facade of equality, but we are far from equal.

How many black friends (or white friends, if you are black) do you have? My friend Wayne Bridegroom talks about “the willingness to do the hard work of honest, respectful racial understanding.” Just what is that hard work? Well, we’re going to find out, but I don’t think I know what it is because I’m not expending any energy doing it. I don’t think most of us care. Until the problem ends up on our doorstep, we’re not going to do anything about it. I can count on one hand the number of black people on my contact list. My already short list sadly got even shorter most recently when gospel singer/songwriter/pastor Andrae Crouch passed away. This mere fact alone would say that I’m not doing the work necessary to create racial understanding. If I’m not a part of the solution, I’m a part of the problem, because my solution is to simply not be any place where the problem shows up.

We are still stereotyping people by the color of their skin. We are not treating everyone the same. I am intimidated and somewhat frightened around African Americans. I want to get rid of that feeling. Can I? Is that part of the hard work necessary? If so, then let’s begin.

How about you? Are you comfortable around people of a different color? Do you look upon everyone with equal value? I think we all have some work to do here.

Please consider this an open invitation for any African American members of our Catch community to contact me via reply to this email. Perhaps we can get some dialogue going that would be helpful to us all.

I am pleased to announce that Wayne Bridegroom has agreed to be our guest on BlogTalkRadio Tuesday night. Wayne is the first white person to receive the Martin Luther King, Jr. award in the city of Modesto, California, for his contribution to improving race relations in that community.

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13 Responses to Is there a race problem in my heart?

  1. Connie Hernandez says: Racism is so embedded in our society that even if we are not personally racist, we benefit from the cultural racism and are not even aware that it exists. Here is a well-written, well-researched, and well-documented article that every person who cares about racism and its history should read.

    • Andrew P. says:

      That is, indeed, a challenging article and worthy of consideration. That said, I ultimately find it frustrating. An excerpt illustrates why.

      “The following are examples of the kinds of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people: …
      “People of color talking directly about their own racial perspectives (challenge to white taboos on talking openly about race); …
      “People of color not being willing to tell their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences (challenge to the expectation that people of color will serve us);”

      I simply don’t know what to do with the contrast between those two examples. If I’m supposed to listen to different perspectives but not ask about different perspectives, whither am I to go? Perhaps I misunderstood the writer’s point. Perhaps he meant that I should “go with the flow” either way: listen to those who want to talk, let those who wish to decline, do so. But I’m afraid it rather came across as “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” So it makes it frustrating when attempting to turn a sympathetic ear toward the racial problem.

      • Connie Hernandez says:

        I think the author is pointing out behaviors that cause stress and is not listing things we are supposed to do. I think these things hold true in other relationships as well. Some people get stressed out if someone shares too much and some people get stressed out if people don’t share as much. I think the author wants us to look at ourselves to see what causes us stress. And the goal is not to turn a sympathetic ear to the racial problem but to realize that we are part of the racial problem, we just don’t realize it.

  2. drewdsnider says:

    Is it naive to suggest that, if we approach one another with love, we will go much further towards peace among races than we could ever ask or think? Jesus calls us to love one another — not try to understand. Love knows no color, but doesn’t “understanding” them lead to a reverse racism, substituting one stereotype for another?

    • Connie Hernandez says:

      It is great to love each other and we should – but racism in the US is so culturally embedded that we can love everyone and our society is still racist. It is the systemic racism that we need to acknowledge and then to confront. As far as understanding, we need to understand ourselves and how we benefit from a system that is racist and how we allow it to continue. I totally agree that love is a huge part of the answer but so is education and a hard look at our systems.

  3. Kris Rudin says:

    Thank you for speaking out on this. Too many white churches are ignoring the crisis. But when I hear the very real laments of my black friends, I cannot be silent any longer. Their pain is real. Their struggle is real. Dialogue is the first step to understanding. Jesus reached out to the marginalized in his times. We can do no less.

  4. Forgive my simplistic and somewhat irreverent response to your title question, “Is there a race problem in my heart?” but the long and the short of it is, yes John, there is a race problem in your heart.
    There is a race problem in my heart, too. There is a race problem in every Catch members heart. There is a race problem in every human heart regardless of the race they were born into. That race problem has been with us since at least the time when Cain jealously killed Abel and defiantly said to God, “Am I my brothers keeper?”
    Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have a little bit of Cain in us.
    Whether racism is something we’re taught from childhood or is part of the sin package we inherited when we emerged from the womb, only God knows. But it’s there.
    And, as with any other sin, we each have the choice in how we’re going to deal with it.

    Even though Jesus’ blood cleanses us from our sins, we still have daily opportunities to behave either like pious priests who avoid getting involved or like despised samaritans who help heal the wounds of strangers.

    I’m reminded of the ’70’s sitcom “All in the Family”.
    Archie Bunker, described at the time as a “lovable bigot”, was none-too-subtle in how he spoke about others who were different from him or differed with his views. And we, as the audience, all laughed at his obvious closed-minded ignorance. (Some of that laughter may have been more of the nervous variety as we realized how close-to-home some of Archie’s diatribes hit.)
    And even though Archie was challenged by or argued with Michael, Gloria, Edith, and others, he stood his ground feeling he was absolutely right in his beliefs – nothing reasonable or imaginable could dissuade him, not even a kiss on the cheek by Sammy Davis Jr.!

    There are many Archie Bunkers from every ethnic background out there right now, 40-years after the television series, and the question is:
    Do we decide to stick to our guns like Archie, choosing not to realize or admit there is something wrong with us internally, spiritually – choosing self-confinement inside a bigoted bubble?
    Or do we recognize the sin of racism for what it is, admit it’s inside us and with the Spirit’s help, endeavor to overcome it through bold faith, active love, genuine trust, and welcoming acceptance directed toward those whose skin tones, accents, and beliefs differ from ours?
    If we commit ourselves to the latter we have to understand it’s an endeavor that will literally take our whole lives to achieve – simply because there are so many varieties of peoples on our planet whom God has created…

  5. Markus says:

    Prejudices stem from the fact that it is a matter of fact that we often have to make a decision based upon little to no facts. This leads to educated guesses at best, but it also leads to abhorrent things like racism. An important though not necessarily only step is to get to know each other. It is hard to hate a person you know and like.

  6. Terri Main says:

    The first step in solving a problem is admitting we have one. Since the 80s America’s mainstream white culture (of which I am one) went into denial over racism. We had Affirmative Action to help level the playing field in certain job fields and education. The Equal Opportunity Employment Act banned discrimination in hiring. The voting rights act meant everyone’s access to the ballot box was assured. An increasing number of top entertainers, entrepreneurs, and politicians were people of color. So, how could we be prejudice? We settled that in the 60s and 70s.

    But we hadn’t. We still turned the corner if we saw several young black males standing on the corner talking. We still characterized Black Americans in our pop culture as gangstas, hoods, guys who couldn’t speak well, uneducated, sexually promiscuous and generally low lifes. For every Huxtable Family, there were hundreds of thug roles.

    But that’s just literary license. Look at all the good roles for people of color as well. And there were a growing number of such roles. So, again, we can balance the ledger by balancing an African-American thug with an African-American doctor or lawyer. or cop.

    So, again we could claim that racism was a thing of the past. I think the Trump candidacy, which made it okay to not be ‘politically correct’ which is really code for using demeaning language toward others, made it kind of okay to be racist as long as you could claim you weren’t.

    But until we all admit (all races) that there is a natural tendency to distrust people who are “not like us” whether that be race, gender, sexual orientation, education, occupation or religion, we will continue to carry with us the seeds of racism.

    Once I know that my carnal side sees others as different or even evil, then I can work to set aside those thoughts and to work as if they are not true. AA has a slogan. They say “Fake it Till you Make it.” Not bad advice when we are dealing with our own dark side of prejudice

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