As promised, the letter written by a black sister in response to my post on “Nationalism and Racism” is here for your reading and consideration. After you finish reading what this sister wrote, I will have some concluding observations about what she has shared with us all. Please read carefully and prayerfully.
I just read your article this morning, and I have to tell you, it was so spot on! It also came at the most appropriate time as well. I had just attended a session in another church group called “Conversations on Race.” It was put on by a group of women from a predominantly white church, who are making an effort to embrace the black race with education and understanding, through empathically listening to stories of privilege, racism, and discrimination from women of all walks of life. It has been amazing to see God work and move in the hearts of many, who have been willing to have uncomfortable conversations, cry, hug, and even apologize for what others have endured.
I am a black woman in my 40s who grew up in the projects of a Southern city. All of the schools that I have attended were about 60/40 white to black. We were never taught to isolate ourselves or to fear or stay away from any groups of people because of their color. I truly cannot remember any incidences of racism other than a few occasions of people asking me, “What are you?” They were confused about my face or ethnicity because I am light skinned. Some have said, “You don’t look black.” Most of the racism that I have experienced has been from my own people. I was picked on, bullied, and even recently told that the only reason I have my job in management was because I “look like them.” One young girl said that she didn’t think I was black, because I don’t talk or act black. In my case, I have been treated as if I am not black enough.
Although I agree with, as you stated in your article, the correlation between nationalism and racism, I also believe the other major issue is the victimized slave mentality that a lot of black people have. Yes, many blacks have been victims of racism and discrimination time and time again, and that is truly disheartening. However, these isolated incidences have formed a collective thought process so that any unfavorable thing that happens to them, when involving a white person, is because they are black. If they don’t get the job, and the white person does, it’s because they are black, not because they are not as qualified. If a guy chooses a light skinned girl over a dark skinned girl, it’s because she was black, not because he just wasn’t into her. When a black person is pulled over by an officer, it is often because they have a tail light out, were speeding or swerving, and not just because they are black. This mentality paralyzes people from embracing other races, and it evokes hatred, dissension, and factions, even within the church.
And yes, this same thought process is true for other cultures and races. After 911, many middle easterners have been discriminated against simply because of their race. I saw a video the other day of a black woman in tears because she was pulled over by a white police officer. The officer explained to her that he pulled her over because she was driving slowly on the interstate and usually people are either sleepy or intoxicated when that happens, and he just wanted to make sure she was OK. She broke down in tears in front of the officer because she was so scared, based on recent events of white officers pulling over black people.
My point is, as hard as it may be, we have to stop taking these individual incidences as an excuse to isolate ourselves from others. Not every black person is a ghetto criminal, not every white person is racist, not every cop is a blood thirsty supremacist, and not every person from the Middle East is a terrorist. Now we do have to use judgement and be discerning, however as Christians, we must die to the sin of hatred, discord, and dissension and put on love, forgive, and extend grace.
I have been a disciple for two decades and God’s Word has taught me to be intentional about reaching out to different people, having different people in my home, and loving without boundaries. Having open, humble conversations about race is a great way to be empathetic and understanding in order to embrace other cultures and make disciples of all nations. I have always been so proud of that reality within our family of churches. And I pray that it continues.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts in your article. I have shared it with some of my friends, as it may be a good aid in our next “Conversation on Race” meeting. I have always enjoyed your books and your deep convictions about applying God’s Word to every aspect of our lives. To God be the glory!
My Response to Her Response
A number of things in her well-stated response caught my attention. Although I was happy that some church group was openly discussing racial issues from a spiritual perspective, I was a bit saddened that it was not a church within our movement practicing what I have been preaching. Hopefully, we can be encouraged by their example and start engaging in what I believe is so sorely needed in our group.
Next, I found myself wondering what other black folks might be thinking about this sister’s experience in being on the receiving end of black-on-black prejudice. In a previous post entitled, “Why Think That White Is Right?” I describe a couple of related situations where a person with darker skin was looked down on with those of the same race with lighter skin. I also pointed out that this was not confined to the black population, but was found within all races of color. In the case of this sister with lighter skin tone, being looked down on by others of her race was a result of envy. Why people keep thinking that white is superior is beyond me. The Bible offers no support for such a humanistic conclusion.
I do hope that none of the readers of this blog have that sort of reaction, but I had to raise the question. The truth is that prejudices come in a wide variety of areas and none of us are prejudice free. We are works in progress, hopefully, but we must be committed to making progress. Prejudice and discrimination is ugly stuff in all of its forms.
Then, I found myself appreciating the fact that the sister pointed out both the tendency and the dangers of stereotyping others of any race or ethnicity. She summed up her thoughts in this regard very well in this one sentence: “Not every black person is a ghetto criminal, not every white person is racist, not every cop is a blood thirsty supremacist, and not every person from the Middle East is a terrorist.” We all need these kinds of reminders. I don’t like being stereotyped as a white person, a Southerner, a male, an older guy, a Christian or a preacher – to name a few possibilities that might invite stereotypical responses. And if I don’t like to be on the receiving end of such, I had better take care not to be on the giving end of it. Right?
Finally, I appreciated her positive view of our churches regarding our racial diversity and acceptance of one another. I am a “fixer” by nature, which means that I see the things needing to be fixed (in my opinion) more easily than first seeing those things that don’t need to be fixed, and appreciating them. I’m sure some are feeling that about my writing in this blog just about now! I will certainly let this sister’s attitudes in this regard stay in my heart. I do love our movement of churches, and in spite of our weaknesses and areas that need improvement (racial relations being one of those), we are the best thing I’ve ever found in a fellowship of churches. I love our racial diversity in our membership composition, and out of that love, want to help us keep improving in deepening our interracial relationships.
Many thanks to the two sisters who let me publish their heart-felt writings. Their examples and their hearts have helped me, and I pray that you feel the same. God is good!