Being completely honest, this post is very hard for me to write. I don’t pretend to know everything or even pretend to know everything about racism. But I do know what I’ve experienced.
Our individual experiences are huge for each of us. They shape decisions we make. We guard them, hold them dear. And more often than not, our experiences are infallible in our eyes.
But when it comes to believing the experiences of others, that’s a whole different ball of wax.
If another’s experience doesn’t line up with ours, we often discredit it and count it as less than. We shut our ears and refuse to listen because “that just can’t be… that’s not what I’ve experienced.”
And if you’re hard-headed like me, it’s even harder to convince me otherwise.
I say all that to say this: I get racism.
You see, I was raised in the deep south.
I remember more often than not, Black people being referred to as Nig***s.
I remember the distinct racial separation in my home town for where white people lived versus black people. That area of town was referred to as “Black town.” Yet, the rest of the town had no special label or distinction.
I remember as the schools I attended became increasingly less white and more black, subtle comments were made to vocalize people’s disapproval of such happenings.
I remember being asked when going off to college if I knew if my roommate would be a Nig*** or not. And if they turned out to be, would I be able to request a different roommate?
And I remember hearing reports of legitimate KKK activity in my little town of 400 or so people.
Those are just a few experiences that have shaped my understanding. Because of those, and many more situations, I’ve had to deal with my negative presuppositions towards people that are not white. Whenever you’re exposed to something over and over and over, and is a norm within the culture you live, it will affect you whether you want it to or not.
So, I get racism.
I don’t say that to say I agree with racism. But I do understand it.
And if it weren’t for the grace of God, due to my surroundings as a child, my natural inclination would be to be racist. That’s just the philosophy of the area I grew up in.
At this point, I should make it clear that my parents were never intentionally racist, nor did they rear me to be that way. I just grew up in a culture that was, so I get it.
However, even though I could legitimately use my upbringing as an excuse, there’s a greater problem in my life that is the root of racism.
That root, my friend, is pride.
Pride in myself. Pride in my own philosophies. Pride in my own thinking. Pride in thinking I’m always right and everyone else is always wrong.
Pride in thinking that my skin color makes me better than someone else of a different shade.
Racism is a form of pride.
During this current season of upheaval in our nation surrounding racial tensions, the best thing all of us can do is humble ourselves. One way to do that by listening. Listening to those who’ve had experiences that are different than ours.
I get the thinking that to listen equals agreeing, however, that is not the case.
To listen to someone, is to serve them.
It’s serving them by giving them time to voice their experiences. It’s serving them by giving them a mutual respect and not immediately writing them off. It’s serving them because it’s compassionate to listen.
Jesus did this.
A great example is the Samaritan woman at the well. She was someone, who according to cultural norms, should not have been given the time of day by Jesus. But because He listened and cared for her, lives were changed. Forever.
You see, while I, as a white male, may not have experienced what my Black brothers and sisters are saying happens (on a daily basis), my experience does not trump theirs. And to think otherwise is pride.
It’s the same with gender stuff. For me to say misogyny doesn’t exist in 2014 because it’s never happened to me, is laughable (especially since it HAS happened to my wife).
To refuse to listen is pride. Racism is pride. To think we know it all, pride.
Pride is something I’ve been guilty of. Something we’ve all been guilty of at some point. And it’s what got satan kicked out of heaven.
Why would I want to be on satan’s team?
Jesus took care of pride on the cross. He took my sin of pride, your sin of pride, and carried it.
Our sin of pride nailed Jesus to a tree.
So why, WHY would we want to pick it back up and let it operate in our lives?
One of the most important things we can do right now, especially as followers of Christ, is listen to other people, specifically those who’ve had different experiences than us. We may find ourselves being a bit more compassionate and we may discover we don’t know everything we thought we did.
I may get racism, but I don’t know everything.
I’m still listening.