We have met the racist and he/she is us

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I don’t know if there is anyone who can truthfully say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are not a racist, I just know I can’t. If you have ever participated in the denunciation of any group of people whether it be by color of skin, or ethnic origin, or religion, or sexual identification, you are a racist. I put that in present tense because if there was ever the tiniest shred of thought, reaction, fear, or sense of contamination present in our thinking about others, how do we know for sure it’s gone? I don’t think any of us can be the judge of this.

My parents grew up in Texas and had typical southern white attitudes towards blacks. The N-word was used freely when I was a kid, Mexicans were all “wetbacks” from having come over to America across the Rio Grande River, and being only a few years past the end of World War II, all Japanese were still our enemies; we called them Japs.

Racism is a bad aspect of human nature. It’s part of how we cope with what we don’t understand. It’s how we bolster ourselves against the fear of what isn’t familiar. We gravitate towards people like us and put down all others. It’s insidious and it’s ugly, and certainly untrue, but we all do it or we have certainly done it in the past, and how do we know for sure that it’s gone?

Honest to God, I’m a racist toward non-Christians. My parents and my church condemned them and put them down so much when I was a kid to keep me away from them for fear of their bad influence on me that I truly look on them as unlike me and inferior. They are bad company. I swear this is in my DNA.

What do we do about this? How do we rid ourselves of these thoughts, at least the conscious ones? Here are some suggestions: first, bathe ourselves in humility. Realize that we have met the racist and he/she is us. Look at our own sin first and our need for a savior. Remember it’s by the grace of God that we are anything, and that grace has been extended to everyone, so everyone is important in God’s eyes — indeed Paul asks us to consider everyone as more important than we are. That’s what we call grace turned outward. Then continually ask God to remove all thoughts and attitudes of judgment and superiority, and all assumptions we have come to attach to certain groups of people in our thinking (i.e., blacks are not smart, Asians are too smart, whites are stuck-up, Arabs are terrorists, gays are sexual predators, etc.). God considers each person individually. There are no categories of people that capture the truth about anyone; there are only unique individuals, each in the image of God, each made to the glory of God. And finally, imagine that person out of this body as an eternal being forever alive in the heavens to the glory of God — a person with whom you will serve for eternity.

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11 Responses to We have met the racist and he/she is us

  1. Sandy L Shorter says:

    You sure hit the nail on the head with this catch! I am going to share it on my facebook page. Thanks as always for your thoughts.

  2. Lisa says:

    Yes yes yes. No matter how hard I try, thoughts still come into my head that I don’t believe are true. I still fight with these first reactions and then I am reminded that we are all loved by God! We cannot give in to these prejudice. We must never give in to these first reactions.

  3. Mark D Seguin says:

    Loved Today’s Catch, because I NEEDED to read it! ❤

  4. While I appreciate your honesty, John, at least you haven’t taken to the streets – weapon in hand, foaming at the mouth for another civil war. I think (my opinion is) that people too often tend to confuse prejudice with racism.

    God bless.

  5. Suzan says:

    I’m struggling with today’s Catch. I think I understand what you’re trying to say, and I totally agree, we all have prejudices and biases through which we view the world that we often don’t recognize as such. However, that is not the definition of racism. Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, and it is typically accompanied by a hatred of another because of this belief. I recognize that I easily stereotype people because of their outward appearance, or actions, but it doesn’t automatically follow that I believe they are inferior to me or hate them. As you note, our tendency as human beings is to group people and things in an attempt to create meaning or understanding of that which we don’t understand. Also, we are generally most comfortable in groups with which we have the most in common. I’m not advocating these are great things we do, but they are not necessarily racism. Once we move toward hatred, intimidation and hostility based on our prejudices against another race of people, we enter the realm of racism.

    Making a general statement that we are all racists, is not a parallel to saying we are all sinners (which is most certainly true – my Lutheran is showing). Christians come in all races, so describing your prejudice against Christians of a different persuasion than yours, is not racism. It’s not a good thing, nor is it Christ-like for any of us to do, but not racism.

    Racism is Neo-Nazis marching in our streets slurring Jewish people. Racism is the Ku Klux Klan advocating violence against, threatening and intimidating African Americans. Racism is our country systematically denying Native Americans their sovereign rights.

    Our country is at a perilous point, and I believe it is terribly important that we not diminish the meaning of racism and our responsibility as followers of Christ to stand against such hatred and evil. I don’t think you’re advocating this, but we must be clear in these challenging times. We should not placate ourselves by simply looking inward, pondering our own sin and describing all prejudices as racism. I agree, we must bathe ourselves in humility. We must recognize our own sin. We must pray continually for forgiveness and strength to change our prejudiced or racist thoughts, yet, whilst in the midst of our own sin, we must also be active, visible, vocal, sincere followers of Jesus sharing love and forgiveness AND standing against evil.

    • John A Fagliano says:

      Very well said Suzan. John’s article today is so typical of his way of looking inward and judging himself first before lashing out at others. While he is right in many ways, so are you.

    • jwfisch says:

      Thanks Suzan, and John. I think Xavier is right; I may have confused racism with prejudice. But maybe they are not two different things as much as they are degrees of the same thing. I was probably talking more about prejudice than racism, but isn’t racism just prejudice all grown up? And if I’m right about that then maybe it is good to think about our prejudices as making us racist since that is where they end up when they are fully formed. Do we really want to say, “Well we all are probably a little prejudice in some ways but that doesn’t make us all racists”? Realizing that prejudice when it is fully formed is racism might make us more apt to do something about getting rid of it.

  6. John A Fagliano says:

    Oprah once said there are different degrees of racism. There is the KKK and then there’s everybody else. Thanks John for focusing on the “everybody else” part. We need to be reminded of that as much as we need to fight against hate. We can’t do one without the other but we must do both. If I may I’d like to share may favorite message on the topic. It’s just 4 minutes but it’s a lot of truth packed into that time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0qD2K2RWkc

  7. Dave Kelley says:

    I love it. I think you use the term “racist” too broadly. I think “prejudice” is a more fitting. My religion does not define my race. My preferences do not define my race.

    One question I’ve had lately as a result of reading http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/told-white-friend-black-opinion/#.WauUgiEyy8w.facebook, is that why is it I am so comfortable and at peace with Kenyan Blacks, but less easy going with American Blacks? My answer to this is that it is not racial prejudice but a cultural prejudice. Because of race, American Blacks have been hammered and carry around emotional baggage because of that hammering. I am afraid of being insensitive to tripping up on the emotional baggage that varies from person to person. It affects how I treat them before I even know them. It is a prejudice in me that affects my behavior usually by being less outgoing than I would be to others. I don’t want to be like that. I call it cultural prejudice because the emotional scarring is not directly a result of being Black, but because the culture of American racism is the source of the scarring.

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