This is the second of two posts on White Privilege that I have re-posted today. This one was written in 2013. Each post rings very true in today’s world. I hope both posts challenge and encourage you.
This morning I read a wonderfully warm and authentic article* by a local pastor on racism which, he called ” a slippery snake that pokes its head out of the rocks and then slides back into the labyrinth of our thoughts.” In the article he comments, “More than once, we have seen public figures look into the camera and say, ‘I am not a racist.’ Who would dare to admit that, if they were?”
Well, I’m always up for a challenge. So – I admit it. I am a racist. And I bet you are, too. I am also prejudiced. And I bet you are, too. Before you click out of this blog, let me assure you that now that I realize it, I do everything in my power NOT to act on racist or prejudiced thoughts that come, seemingly unbidden, to my mind. I hope you do, too.
I learned I was a racist nearly 30 years ago when I married a proud black man. At the time, I thought that our relationship proved that I wasn’t a racist. (You know, like the way the people say, “I’m not a racist. I don’t even see color.”) However, as we have lived life together, we have learned that we are each racist and prejudiced. It has been a fascinating adventure for the past decades to look more deeply at my initial responses to life and see how often they are prompted by a subconscious pre-judgment.
For example, living near Flint, Michigan for many years, I absorbed the notion that when a big black man comes down the street toward me, I should immediately head to the other side of the street. When I realized what was motivating my crossing the street, I stayed right where I was no matter who was coming. This upset my husband who believed that because we were in a dangerous part of the city I should always be on the lookout for danger from any source – black, white, or purple.) But that lesson taught me to look more deeply at the thoughts that poke their heads out of the rocks before I speak or act.
Today, while reflecting on the reality of the “unbiddenness” of racist thoughts and attitudes, I was reminded of a lesson in the Bethel Bible Series from years ago which taught that when sin came into the world (there’s that “slippery snake” again), harmony left. Before sin, we humans lived in harmony with each other, with God, and with the rest of creation. Even our souls were undivided. But with sin came a desire for control and with the motivation to keep or gain control came the urge to look at everyone and everything else as “other.” We have perfected that caution about “the other” so well that we don’t have to consciously make a choice to fear. In fact, we have to make a choice to not fear.
So, yes, I have to admit that sometimes I look at “others” and prejudge their actions, their motivation, and their probable reaction to me based on what they look like and what color their skin is. But I am learning to disown those thoughts and am rewarded daily with deeper understanding of the harmony that God intended for his creation.
*Casting out Fear and Loving one Another by Chris DeVos in the Holland Sentinel (Sept. 14, 2013).
For a brilliant description of the disease of white privilege and a superb suggestion of how to treat it, read Melissa Stek’s essay from the Reformed Journal – The Twelve.