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.