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After the truth came out about the death of Ahmaud Arbery, I received a letter via Facebook from an older white sister in the Boston church of which I was a part for sixteen years. Here is her letter along with my reply to it. More and more white people, inside and outside the church, are asking questions and having dialogue about racial issues. I have been impressed and encouraged by the large majority (not all) of what I have personally heard from them. Although the circumstances that have led to this are horrific, many of the results are quite the opposite.

Dorothea’s Letter

Good morning, Gordon Ferguson. May this young man rest in peace and may we do “something” to help so this will stop. I only have heard about this on TV and although there are usually two sides to every story, this one reminds me of other cases that have been similar. Are we disobeying God by not getting involved to stop this or is prayer “enough?” I haven’t read everything you and Michael Burns have written but I’ve read enough to be led by God to seek your collective wisdom. Please invite Michael to comment if he would like to do so. It is so difficult for me to understand prejudice, since as a young child, I have never seen colorlines.

At 70, many of my early playmates, college buddies, co-workers, best friends, spiritual and secular advisors, prayer partners, and disciplers have been “of color.” Over the years, I’ve had two spiritual daughters live with me and one who called me Mom honored me by asking me to serve as mother of the bride at her wedding because her mom could not get here from Haiti. People of color? What IS that?

I have watched the Roots TV mini-series (I have also read the book), and read other books or seen other accounts on TV, radio, movie, and theater about the plight of our brothers and sisters. I still cannot fathom the rationale (greed, power, exclusivity, distorted thinking, etc.). Yet maybe that in itself is prejudice? I don’t know, but I pray humbly and contritely that is not true and, if it is, that God will show it to me.

Advice? New blog? Thank you in advance for reading this and for any wisdom you (and Michael?) can impart.

Love to you & Theresa 💕

My Response

Dear Dorothea (Dot),

Thank you so much for your FB post and for your permission for me to publish it on this blogsite as an article. Some letters raise more questions than they meant to; other letters answer the very questions they raise. Yours is in the latter category. Your post helps answer the question of what more we can do as individuals to help in the spiritual battle against racism, especially if we are white.

I happen to have this Blog on which I can speak up and speak out. Not many have that avenue available to them, so what can they do to avoid just sitting idly by in the midst of the ugly racism that is embedded in American culture in far too many ways – ways that we often don’t see even in ourselves? This is an incredibly important question and I thank you for raising it.  Your letter gives us some important examples and insights into what the average white person can do (and should do). More could be said, but I simply want to concentrate on what I see from your example as described in this letter to me.

  1. Be willing to admit that there is a problem, a really serious one. Your letter acknowledges the existence of the problem, although you have avoided racism yourself as far as you are aware. Many white people do not want to admit or address the reality that is far too obvious to hide. Those in this category absolutely astound me! But due to this current situation which prompted your letter in the first place, the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a growing number of white people are waking up to the harsh reality of racism. More and more are now willing to ask questions, educate themselves and enter discussionse. May God add to their number, quickly!
  2. Be willing to make concerned comments on social media, which some are unwilling to do because of their fear of potential disapproval. They simply remain silent and find ways to rationalize their non-involvement at any level. I think of this passage in Proverbs 18:9: “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” In other words, an idle person who fails to build is no better than the one who actively destroys what is already built. Edmund Burke’s famous quote reflects this biblical truth, as he stated that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” People who keep ignoring this issue are not being ignored nor excused by God for so doing. Racism is hurting our brothers and sisters in Christ, our co-workers, our fellow citizens, and the list goes on. Enough is enough.
  3. Be willing to ask for help. You have specifically asked for advice, which is always a great act of humility and concern. I don’t see any of us thinking and living exactly like Jesus, which means that we ALL need help from others to keep learning, growing and changing. Those who are satisfied with the status quo of their present spirituality level do not have the heart of a disciple and clearly not the heart of Christ.
  4. Be willing to self-examine your own heart, along with asking for others to help you. You are asking serious questions of yourself – heart-probing, uncomfortable questions. God bless you for that! I once heard a white person state publicly that they were 100% prejudice free. He and I definitely had a frank discussion about that comment. None of us, regardless of color and culture, is entirely free of prejudices. Hopefully, that is our goal, shown by our actions. Striving toward that righteous goal begins with personal honesty of heart and a willingness for it to be examined by God and man. David put it this way in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
  5. Be willing to share your own experiences and thoughts about the issues. Wherever we happen to be in our own journey in this area, we can move forward further. I’m grateful for my good experiences, sorry for my bad ones, and determined to learn from both as I strive to keep improving. That seems clearly to be your heart in the matter.
  6. Be willing to educate yourself by reading books, articles, and by watching movies and documentaries on the topic. If every white person would do what you have done, it would be a different world already. We are all ignorant in many areas, but if we are Christ-followers, we cannot allow ourselves to remain ignorant in the areas that matter most to Him. I especially want my education to include a large dose of asking people of color what their experiences and feelings in the racial realm have been. I talk to people I know and people I meet in public places. I want to know more about their personal world. Therefore, I ask about it.
  7. Perhaps most importantly, have FRIENDS of color – real friends, like you describe. Many Christians interface with those of other races and cultures at church meetings of one type or another, but outside of those settings, the ones comprising their main circle of friends are the same color as they are. I have had friends of all races for decades – close ones. I love them; I want to be with them; I want to be seen with them; I talk about them with my other friends. My children dated those of other races, including African Americans. My son is married to a wonderful Asian disciple, my daughter by marriage. Although I don’t think much about color when I’m with my friends of color, my goal is not to be colorblind except in accessing our common value before our Creator. I want to be color aware and color appreciative.

Your example speaks volumes, Dot. Thank you for teaching us!