Let’s begin this GodsyGirl Christian lifestyle blog post with a couple of explanations about racism. Then I want to speak from my heart.
“Racism is discrimination, pre-judgments or hostile behaviours directed at another person on the basis of their race, ethnicity or cultural background” Source: ReachOut.com Honestly, I fear many racist Christians may not even know they are racists, so understanding the terminology is important.
Here is my second definition of racism and the source:
“a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Source: Merriam Webster
The current political climate in the United States has everyone in a “tizzy”. I don’t mean to trivialize it, but the world is serious enough right now. Anyway, things are tense in the States. Even in my Christian circles, folks are calling one another racists just because one supports a particular political candidate.
Honestly, it’s getting on my nerves a bit.
As I’ve said in my previous post, many of my friends are avid pro-life supporters. As a result, they support any candidate if he/she is against abortion. It means that much to them.
Some people, I’ve learned, support the presidential candidate in spite of himself. They don’t believe his accepting endorsements from white supremacists makes him racist. I, personally, do see that as a problem.
Anyway, I’ve also discovered some people I care about -who support the candidate- say they simply don’t trust the media’s coverage of him.
So, if the media says he did this or that, they don’t believe it and label it “fake news“. The very same people have run out and purchased face masks because the same media reported a virus is among us. I don’t know how they can “cherry-pick” when to believe the media and when not to, but they do. I don’t get it and no explanation seems to help, but whatever.
At the same time, when the news broke that Trump was endorsed by a white supremacist group, a Facebook friend was one of those people who said “he’s not a racist” and she went on to say the newspaper (a major national outlet) was a bad press outlet.
I’ve allowed her grace and opted to not end our online relationship because that’s just who she is. She believes the best about everyone. She and I are not close friends, but went to the same high school and connected on social media not long ago. No harm was done. She was a sweet person back in the day, and I think she still is. I don’t feel the need to end our Facebook connection as a result of that.
We have to be careful labeling people “racist Christians” with little evidence, don’t you think?
Some people probably would have ended the relationship with my schoolmate just because of her opposing view. For me, it’s not enough proof she is a racist.
How does racism show up and make us racist Christians?
I have a one-word answer: in a bunch of church interactions.
That’s how racism often shows up. Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. But, that’s not all.
It shows up every time we assume a person of another race believes a certain way, will act a certain way, or lives a certain way without actually knowing that person for ourselves.
Racist Christians assume people are guilty of crimes without solid proof or conclusion in the legal system. (Example: if a brown person is accused of a crime on the news, a racist Christian would immediately assume the person is guilty.) This is prejudiced.
Racist Christians believe some people lack a moral compass just because of their complexion. (Example: “”All _____ people steal”). This is called Stereotyping.
Racist Christians assume people will be racist just because of their race.
(Example: so many people of color assume all Caucasian people are racist just because they are white). This is the pot calling the kettle…you know the rest. Doing this is prejudiced.
Racist Christians may assume a person’s capacity is limited or “different” based on their race. (Example: a person cannot be the ministry leader because he/she is Black or because she has an accent.) This also is prejudiced.
Racism shows up in assuming something, making “blanket” statements, and limiting people without knowing their full capacity.
Have you ever been guilty of any of the above? I will be honest and say I have!
Don’t talk about my “junk” and I won’t talk about yours!
Here’s the thing. We all make assumptions about others and I venture to say that is not the problem.
We can’t help it! Television, media, and even our families have shaped our perceptions about many things – including race.
Based on where you grew up and what messages your dear parents delivered to you about other races, you could be operating on faulty data. Pastor Steven Furtick preached a sermon called “There’s a hole in your story.” It speaks about this very thing. I heard it on YouTube and it so blessed me.
Let me tell you my story.
Growing up, a member of my family used racial slurs often and told me a particular race of people was “sneaky” and could not be trusted. He really did.
In his defense, he grew up in a time when that race of people collectively prevented him from drinking from a water fountain on a hot day, regularly “set him” up at his job, and tried everything they could to inhibit his success.
They even limited his advancement opportunities based on the assumption that all people who looked like him were not intelligent. These experiences made him cautious and defensive.
I cry as I type this because I recall the stories so vividly.
I also recall being called names as we drove our car down a street.
I recall the story he told me about how in the army several people of a different race pretended to be his friend only to betray him and laugh while doing so.
None of these were isolated experiences. As a result, out of duty and protection, he warned me from a genuine place of concern, love, and care.
In all fairness, later in life, he grew to trust people and make friends with people belonging to the very race that abused him so many times before. He released his bitterness and must have found a way to forgive.
All this to say, many of our parents, meaning well, gave us bad information. There was a “hole” in their story.
Because of that information, when we meet a person of that racial group, we replay the “junk” they told us and that is not our fault.
The fault comes when we allow that “junk” to affect practice.
The fault comes when we perpetuate that “junk” and pass it on to the next generation.
The fault comes when it affects the ministry.
For that reason, when a person [of that specific race] wants to have a relationship with me, I feel initial resistance, based on what my family member(s) conveyed to me.
At the same time, it’s my job, it’s my work, to check that information instantly and file it in the “trash dumpster” of my mind.
Also, it’s only fair to say, I’ve met people who have proven my family member right.
I’ve also met countless people who totally smashed those accusations and proved to me that “those people” were NOT disloyal, sneaky, hateful, and unloving.
I’m so glad they did.
The website “Showing up for Racial Justice.org” addresses our constant battle so well:
“It is our responsibility, as people with integrity, to unlearn the lies and misinformation we have learned and to replace them with more truthful and complex understandings of the peoples and cultures around us.“
Read more here: https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/racism-101.html
Subtle forms of racism and microaggressions done by racist Christians.
Another challenge for the church and those who don’t want to be racist Christians are subtle racist tendencies and microagressions.
In life outside the church, a subtle form is racism is intentionally not hiring people of certain races. Inside the church, the same can occur when we don’t support opportunities given to people solely based on race.
An example might be:
Not supporting (or wanting) a pastor who is another race.
Leveraging support and assistance based on one’s race. I remember once seeing someone throw one “monkey wrench” after another into the processes of a leader because he was of what is called a “minority” race.
“Standby racism” is also a challenge. I coined this term after being around a group of coworkers making racially fueled jokes about people from other countries. Had I not said their behavior was wrong at the moment it happened, I would have been guilty of “standby racism.”
The person who stands by and doesn’t denounce the behavior is just as wrong as the person initiating it. Christians who hear racial slurs and say or do nothing are racist Christians, not to mention cowards to boot.
Here are some other examples I’d like to think don’t happen in church circles:
Not saying hello or getting to know a neighbor based on race.
Stepping in front of a person in a store line because of race.
Making a big deal about another race’s hair. Even when complementary, this can be a subtle racist issue because it separates the person when the person is the minority in a group or social setting.
Assuming a person has a particular skill because of their race. Let me be the first to tell you that all Black people can’t dance or play sports. Similarly, all Asians are not mathematically inclined.
Touching the hair of another race or even asking to do so WITHOUT the benefit of relationship and friendship. Honestly, I don’t care if my friends (of any color) touch my hair. But, someone without that friendship liberty may get their feelings hurt doing it or trying to. Stop messing with people’s hair!
Racist Christians and Micro-aggressions
“Microaggressions are the “constant and continuing reality of slights, insults, invalidations, and indignities visited upon marginalized groups by well-intentioned, moral and decent family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, students, teachers, clerks, waiters and waitresses, employers, health care professionals, and educators,” writes Derald Wing Sue in the book Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Note: this quote is from an article on USAToday.com called “What are microaggressions?” By Anne Godlasky.
You know, when I learned the term micro-aggression, I felt vindicated because it confirmed I wasn’t the only Black person dealing with these awkward encounters.
To be clear, in my opinion, I’m not sure micro-aggressions are racist. I think they are more rooted in ignorance.
Racism comes from a place of feeling superior because of their race, in my mind. Micro-aggressions come from a place of just being ignorant or ill-exposed. Or as my grandma would say “they just don’t no any better, Baby.”
If I tried, I couldn’t draft a better definition of micro-aggression than these:
“Microaggressions are the “constant and continuing reality of slights, insults, invalidations, and indignities visited upon marginalized groups by well-intentioned, moral and decent family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, students, teachers, clerks, waiters and waitresses, employers, health care professionals, and educators,” writes Derald Wing Sue in the book Microaggressions in Everyday Life.”
Examples I’ve found online, from the University of Minnesota) are:
You can view the entire document at:
Do you see what micro-aggressions are?
They’re these subtle messages rooted in racially biased beliefs. They are hurtful, they are dangerous and they must be eliminated.
Have you ever been in a car when it was struck by another vehicle? If you incurred an injury because of another driver it was unsettling.
I’ll be it was likely an accident too, right? Did it hurt any less because it was an accident? No, it didn’t. Micro-agressions hurt. They create distance and damage. They become part of a person’s inner narrative and can be potentially perpetuated from generation to generation.
Be aware and do your best to be kind.
I’m not talking about political correctness. I’m talking about caring about the feelings of others and that is what Christians do…at least the genuine ones.
“Dear fellow white people: Here’s what to do when you’re called racist.”
Quote that stood out to me: “Even white people who consider themselves good allies of people of color can be unaware of their racial biases.”
“6 ways to be antiracist, because being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough”
Quote that stood out to me from the Mashable article: “One cannot strive to be antiracist without action, “