I don’t usually publish things like this, but this one won’t rest and can’t be ignored any longer. I can’t get it out of my head, and so, I write. Today, my heart is breaking for my dark skinned brothers and sisters everywhere. Because, yes, America, racism still exists.
Note: This post was written about the shooting in Charleston, SC in 2015, but it still resonates with me today when standing together to fight racism.
When I read that a shooting had occurred and people were dead, I immediately picked up my phone. Heart pounding, fingers shaking, I dialed my mom: “Are they home? Are they home yet? There’s been a shooting.”
Hours before, my husband, girls, and I had left my extended family in the Low Country of South Carolina and headed home. Around the same time we drove toward North Carolina, my brother, sister-in-law, and two of my cousins started toward downtown Charleston, Calhoun Street.
My mom calmed my fears and let me know they were home, safe. But my family members were never in danger that night: They are white.
What My Parents Taught Me
My parents taught me that we are human. That someone having a different color skin is no different from someone with blond hair versus someone with red hair. That God’s human creation is made up of a myriad of beautiful colors. That we were all created in His image.
I grew up with very little knowledge of racism.
I spent my childhood in predominantly white Christian schools. My sister had one little black girl in her class, Clarissa. Clarissa and Shannon were best friends. My parents enjoyed friendship with Clarissa’s parents too.
Clarissa and her family didn’t seem any different from our family. They laughed. They cried. They played. They loved God and each other. They were entrepreneurs and in the ministry as well. They worked hard to provide for their family.
One of their businesses was a predominantly black Christian daycare center. The summer I turned 15, they gave me a job.
The kids called me Ms. Boyd (my maiden name).
“Ms. Boyd, are you black?” they asked.
I laughed and shook my head.
“But is your Mama black? Is your Daddy black?”
Because I speak Spanish, I also got similar questions from Hispanic children when I taught ESL in a Memphis suburb as a newlywed.
“Mrs. Odom, are you Mexican? Is your Mama Mexican? Is your Daddy?”
Back then, I found it humorous, but the more I’ve considered it, the more I’ve realized that, perhaps, to them, I appeared different because they didn’t see blue eyes and red hair and ghost-white skin. They saw love.
The little black children at the daycare center saw a teenage girl who hugged them, praised them, sang silly songs with them, and taught them Bible verses.
The little Mexican children saw a teacher who spoke their language, who ate their food, who asked about their families and country, and who was concerned about their lives.
Face to Face with Racism
It wasn’t until I spent a few years outside of my sheltered life that I experienced obvious racism for the first time.
It’s not that it doesn’t exist in my home state of North Carolina; it does. But my parents sheltered me from it. Racism exists everywhere, but I experienced for the first time in Memphis.
Racism still hangs thick, choking the culture like the humid heat there suffocates the breeze out of July.
Memphis is the home of the blues, tasty barbecue, Elvis’s Graceland, and the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
It’s been over 50 years, but Memphis hasn’t forgotten.
My husband grew up about 45 miles down the Mississippi River from Memphis–in a small town in northern Mississippi. His high school prom was segregated–in 1995. That is right, friends. 1995. He attended a white prom, while his classmates attended a black one.
“I don’t know why we had separate proms,” he says. “We liked each other and hung out at school, but the proms were in different locations. Looking back at it now, I wish we would have stood together to fight racism.”
He is often asked about racism in Mississippi and how his views have changed over the years.
(Note: This is no way implies that people who live in certain state or area all think the same way or act the same way. It has just been his experience with questions he has been asked. He is quick to clarify that it’s not just a Mississippi problem.)
While living in that suburb of Memphis, I heard the “n” word used for the first time.
I cringed incredulously and filled with anger when I heard black people spoken of derogatorily. And in the five years I lived in there, I cannot count the number of times I saw people feign warmth and cordiality in public only to go back to their racist lives in private.
Real relationships between those of different races was, sadly, not as common as it should be. Many people believe that in the Bible Belt, Sundays are still the most segregated day of the week, and little is done to stand together to fight racism. That’s not to say that people don’t worship differently culturally, but it also not a reason to exclude people.
Racism’s roots run deep, but we need to stand together to fight racism.
Sometimes It Is About Race
Wednesday night, June 17, 2015: Another high-profile violence against black people. This time, it was in a church.
And this time, we can’t deny it. This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t a random mishap. This was a premeditated act of hate against a specific group of people.
Yes, America, racism still exists. Pretending that it doesn’t exist does not help the issue one bit. We’ve come a long with from the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s work, but we still have work to do. We must fight racism by standing standing firmly together.
The comment I hear most frequently from my fellow white Christians in the Bible-Belt South after an incident like the one in Charleston is this: They are going to make it into a race issue.
Who are “they” anyway? Black people? Liberals? The media?
Friends, it IS a race issue, and it’s past time for racism to die, especially among Christians and in the Church.
I’m not just referring to blatant racism like the KKK, burning crosses, or using the “n-word” or other slurs. That’s how many people define racism. It’s easy to see those forms.
Love My Neighbor As Myself
I’m talking about the more subtle hidden prejudices and biases that we all have. I’m talking about racism that is veiled and covert, so it’s harder to uncover.
I’m talking about refusing to admit that the color of my skin has afforded me certain advantages.
I’m talking about not worrying about walking into a house under construction without being hunted down and shot. I’m talking about refusing to recognize that some may judge other cultures or ethnicities based on language, dress, etc.
I’m talking about friends who are told not to speak Spanish because “We speak English in America”. I’m talking about students being bullied because of their ethnicity. I’m talking about my friends who are worried about their kids’ (biological or adopted) futures and having conversations with them about their futures.
And as a follower of Jesus, I am called to this: I am called to stop pretending that there isn’t a wounded man lying on the side of the road. I am called to stop walking past him. I am called to bend down, help him up, and be the Good Samaritan. As a Christian, I am called to care about people.
I am called to love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31) and to love one others; as Christ has loved me, I am to love others (John 13:34).
It’s time to stand up, Christians. We cannot continue to pretend that this is not an issue in our country. We just can’t. We have to fight racism as we show that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Fight Racism Within Ourselves and Within Our Community
My black friends grew up with stories of their parents and grandparents drinking out of separate water fountains, using “colored” restrooms, riding in the back of buses, and dodging hate crimes.
My Hispanic friends have been told to stop speaking Spanish because we speak English here in America. They have been asked to leave restaurants because they were speaking Spanish. They have been told to go back to Mexico when they aren’t even from Mexico or are U.S. citizens.
My friends who have dark skinned or biracial children (whether biological or adopted) are having conversations with their children about how people may make assumptions about them based on their skin color. They are discussing the dangers and difficulties they may face purely based on pigmentation.
It’s not fair, and it breaks my heart!
We have had some anti-racism conversations with our girls, but I know a day will come when I will need to explain it more deeply to them and how we can be work together to fight against racism.
One reason we took our girls to Costa Rica one summer was because we want to normalize interracial friendships and cultural diversity for our children. We have friends from different ethnicities and cultures, and we want that to be the norm.
We want them to experience relationships with those who look different from them. Because how will racism truly end in this country?
In one conversation I had with a black family, the father said: “We need to get together and break bread.” I liked that–break bread.
Jesus broke bread with his followers. He didn’t set up fancy dinners or organize polarizing political gatherings. He simply broke bread.
And maybe it starts with breaking bread–together. One beautiful black family with one beautiful white family at a time. Listening to each other and sharing each other’s experiences. Don’t try to solve the problem or have all the answers. Just listen.
Having the Hard Conversations
It starts with Jesus. It starts with the love that he has called us to. It starts with friendships. It starts one conversation at a time.
It starts with acknowledging the fact that racism still exists. It starts by taking action and standing up for others to fight racism.
It starts by asking ourselves hard questions and being willing to examine our own issues and challenge our own preconceived notions.
Be open to acknowledging your own biases and acknowledging that there have been injustices towards our minority brothers and sisters.
The vast majority of them are not trying to blame anyone for what is happening or accuse anyone of supporting racism. They just want to know that we recognize what is going on and will stand with them to stop it.
Will and I have discussed this in great detail recently. He told me that he has wrestled with this over the last few years. “I’ve had to be brutally honest with myself and reframe much of my thought processes. I’ve had to read, question, understand, and reconsider many judgements,” he said.
“Most of all, I’ve had to listen,” he continued. “Listen to others’ perspectives and expressions. I’ve had to dig into Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to change me. The discomfort was real, and it was exhausting. But it will give way to empathy, compassion, awareness, and action. It’s the the first step…it’s difficult…it’s painful…but it’s absolutely necessary and worth it.”
It’s a difficult process, but it is so well worth the work to get to the end result. Once we begin, there are layers of assumptions and thoughts that we must examine in ourselves. It will be uncomfortable, but we need to get uncomfortable and allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us.
I will never be able to understand exactly what racism feels like to my dark skinned brothers and sisters. But I don’t have to. I can listen to them, empathize with them, love them, and walk along side them to take action.
It is something each of us must do on an individual basis working with our brothers and sisters to stop and fight racism.
Thank you for speaking out about this. Yes, I believe that racism in America is alive and well, unfortunately. I have lived in the northeast my whole life, so the type of blatant racism you described from the deep south (segregated prom in 1995!!!) is foreign to me. But I still see subtle signs of it. It blows my mind that a Confederate flag is flying in Charleston as we speak. Disgraceful. As far as “making this a race issue”…..no one has to make it a race issue, it already is a race issue, based on the words of the perpetrator himself.
Thank you for your comment, Claire. I was shocked when he told me his prom was segregated! As for the Confederate flag, I think this is spot on: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/19/southern-baptists-russell-moore-its-time-to-take-down-the-confederate-flag/
Thank you, Taylor!
I have always known racism even as a young child. I grew up on the east coast in a predominantly white area and experienced racial discrimination often. I had racist teachers, racist classmates etc. It led me to believe that I could not trust white people and that I had to be very careful around them or distance myself from them. I have children of my own and we are a Christian family and I teach them to love according to God’s standards not man’s. It’s hard for me to raise them in a world that says to them they are not valued and their well being, their life is not important because their skin is brown. What bothers me also is the denial that many people live in about racism. People say racism still exists as if it had disappeared or died down and is just now resurfacing. That is not the case it has always been very real many have just chosen to ignore it.
I am so very sorry that you experienced so much racism, Renee. It hurts my heart so much, and, quite frankly, it angers me. It also angers me that so many Americans are in denial that racism still exists. It will not get better until we as a nation acknowledge that it’s present. Thank you for sharing your story!
Meg, thank you for your perspective. I just ask that my compassion be met with yours as well. I’m on your “side,” friend. I’m for you. I do believe most white Americans are ignorant when it comes to issues of racism. I don’t pretend not to be. I can only speak to my personal experiences. But in order to educate us, you have to put aside your bitterness as well.
Also, Meg, in Memphis–where I experienced so-called “reverse racism” (although I am very open to reading more about it and finding out I’m wrong!)–blacks are in the majority, in both population and leadership. I did not intend to paint that blacks in America now are considered equal by racists, but, rather, there are no laws, etc. stating they cannot do what white people can–like there were in the past. On paper, all races in the U.S. have the same “rights.” But the way individuals treat the different races is a whole different story. Again, I am with you, friend. Please see that. Help me learn. Educate me and other middle-class white Americans (but if you dig on my blog for any length of time you will see that I was on a low income for several years, receiving WIC checks and Medicaid for my children…please do not judge my class based on the color of my skin either).
Meg, your judgements of my class and situation based on the color of my skin are just as racist as you project others to be. frown emoticon I am sad you see it that way. I want to keep growing, yes, but I ask that you examine your own heart to see deep-seated assumptions as well. We can all serve to learn and grow and open our minds and hearts.
As a Black Woman, I truly thank you for speaking out on this subject. I wish I could shield you from the attacks you’re getting on both sides as you share your heart while striving to be an ally to our communities that see injustices on a daily basis, MANY of which aren’t filmed. I hope that if God leads you to share again that you do. Your voice is needed, because unfortunately, mine probably won’t get heard as loud as yours. Please understand that fear is the root for all of this outrage, on both sides. But “perfect love casts out fear”, so we have hope that if love is the motivating force then fear would cease. We can pray for love to spread.
I am a wife of a wonderful, Christian, Black entrepreneur, mother of 4 amazing children, ordained minister, and business owner and I’m very active in my community. I grew up with a Mom & Dad, two amazing Christian parents, 3 siblings, in an all black community and honestly didn’t know that I was the “minority” in this country until I recieved a full academic scholarship to a prestigious majority white Catholic School, where I experienced a huge culture shock. The school was amazing because they actually prided themselves on teaching their students on diversity. The tone was set for us to have HEALTHY discussions on culture, hair, perspectives, and life in general of different races. We have to be able to get their to share our experiences with one another, to learn for one another, to listen, to be more like Christ.
Growing up, I always thought everyone got pulled over and searched regularly, and got nervous when cops pulled you over🤷🏾♀️. Always heard about them planting drugs and beating you up during arrests, but I didn’t know that they didn’t do that to white people too until I was in college. That broken taillight is the main one they use.
It confuses me how some white CHRISTIANS get so upset at hearing Black Lives Matter. Don’t they think Jesus would’ve advocated for us? I don’t get how they don’t see how that isn’t seen as offensive, and painful. The minute All Lives Matter shows up it is a harsh confirmation that Black Lives DON’T Matter to them. I believe people who do that are the same ones who shouted “crucify Him” because Jesus always had people looking at the deep recesses in people’s hearts and they hated Him for revealing it. They killed him for it. The rejoiced in the stripes on his back. They were ticked He called them out on their sin and wickedness. I don’t see any difference in those who did that to Jesus, and those who witness and see the footage of black men and women being killed by the ones who are supposed to protect them, and turn their heads. Or justify why they should’ve been killed in cold blood. It’s wrong! It’s sad! And it’s disgraceful for anyone who bears the title of a Christian to be anything short of outraged. Do we not remember that Jesus flipped the tables in rage? I’m not saying looting is ok, but the rage is there and the church should be the ones stopping this! But the division, and hate in the hearts of believers is hindering the process. Can anyone hear and reverence the nudge of the Holy Spirit anymore to change our heart, or is it more comfortable to stay in our prejudice mindsets? We all have to do the work! Whites and Blacks. But we need our white brother and sisters to see the wrong and speak up on it.
I appreciate your words and your heart in sharing. And for you and your husband allowing God to show you the uncomfortable and for the searching of your hearts. That’s where the change begins! Thanks for seeing and doing something!
Thank you Stefani. I really appreciate your words and perspective.
Carrie, I am assuming you are a new reader. The Latino culture is very important to my husband and me. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are both Hispanic. My husband and I met in Costa Rica. We want our children to experience the cultural diversity there, yes. We are going on a mission trip for most of the time there. It won’t be a tropical “vacation” for much of it. Please be respectful. Your comments and judgements are not compassionate.
Erin, no disrespect intended. I suppose I just see too much of my former self in your words, which is why I am repulsed. Is it possible for you to seek out relationships with people of color outside of the mission field? In your own community? To become a true ally means to integrate diversity into our lives, not just when it feels good but when it is out of our comfort zones. With all due respect, it’s a lot easier to “volunteer” in Costa Rica for a fun Summer filled with feel good highs and some great looking blog posts than it is to step outside of your comfort zone and have hard conversations with People of color as to why “reverse racism” is not a real thing and why it’s offensive to suggest that you understand the Black experience because you got WIC. No offense, but I get WIC, and yeah it’s hard to make ends meet, but it’s not the same as fearing for my childrens’ lives. It’s not the same as worrying about your entire race being judged because you get WIC. You can write that publicly on your blog because you are white and because you are privileged. There is a lot to learn. It’s great that you are open to learning. Keep going. It’s a hard road if you do choose to pursue it.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Carrie. But, again, you do not know me. You have seen a snapshot. Yet, you judge. Who says my husband and I do not already have relationships with those of a different race in our own town? We are not going to Costa Rica for “blog fodder.” I actually lived in Costa Rica for a year, and my husband lived there for two years. Again, you have seen a snapshot. I have NEVER claimed to understand the black experience. But it is important for Meg to know that I am not just another middle-class white American who has never understood need. I do not want to judge others based on skin color, but I also asked for people not to judge and assume my class based on the color of my skin. That is just as prejudice.
There are two forms of racism. The obvious, vicious, outward form you describe is the only one most people classify as racism. And because the majority of “good folks” never think or utter such vile things, it is alarming to discover this form of racism still exists.
However, listen to any person of colour, living anywhere in the country and you will hear plenty of stories of the other kind of racism. The kind that is literally woven into the very fabric of our culture. The kind that white kids can be sheltered from and white adults never experience (and are therefore tempted to believe doesn’t exist). Assumptions about your ability to care for your child, or your ability to hold your liquor or a job, or your likelihood to have a college education, and the differential treatment that follows, based only on the colour of your skin. The knowledge that being the only black kid in an all white school means you better do good because you are always either breaking or reinforcing stereotypes, you are never just a kid going to school. The deeply ingrained racism that sees a 13 year old black boy with a toy gun as a bigger threat than a white mass murderer.
If you want to change the way your kids think about race, don’t just “expose” them to other cultures so they’ll see that we’re all the same. Find out what’s different about being the only black kid in class and teach your kids to value that too. Yes, we are all the human race, but our experiences are vastly different based on the colour of our skin. Racism ignores that experience, love honours it.
I love this. Yes, we want to celebrate the differences as well!
How old are you?!
I am 34. Or did you mean Meg or Carrie?
Well said! Thank you
Tell The Whole Truth
I have to say I am disappointed in a publication that calls itself Christian to publish such a biased article. I would like to invite you to disguise yourself as white and send you walking through “certain” neighborhoods in any number of cities in the South. Or just drive through and see who throws bricks at your car. See who steals from you. Who sticks a gun in your face. Who guns down old white people that can’t defend themselves. Better yet, why don’t you look at FBI statistics. Guess who is the most racist, who commits the most crimes against the other race. It seems you are like most liberals. You don’t believe enough white people can be killed to atone for slavery. You obviously don’t care that white people are beaten, set on fire, old white people are pumped full of bullets by black gang members. There are Christians of all races who try to get along, but the Marxist media knows they cannot create revolution without creating enmity between the races. Yes, there are racist whites just like racist blacks, but people like you love to see whites hated and will ignore their side. You need to look at your own racism. Next time you hear of a white person being set on fire by a black you might claim some of the blame yourself. A whole white family was recently invaded in their own home, beaten, slashed with knives and set on fire while still alive. By a black man. A little white child slashed with a knife, gasoline poured on him and set afire while alive. But no problem. It happens far too often. Setting white people on fire is the new amusement just like the knockout game. But you ignore that. Just another white person. A white teenage girl, with lighter fluid poured down her throat and set afire. Running screaming down a highway. Yes, she died. But that is no problem to you. Maybe it is time to deal with your own racism. How many white deaths would it take to make you happy. No one in my family history ever owned a slave or mistreated a black person, yet you are all too happy to drive hatred towards us because of the color of our skin. I don’t know your Jesus. Maybe your jesus is your little idol that hates white people too. He certainly isn’t the Jesus of the Bible. My Bible says He loves all races… I am sorry to tell you… yes, He loves white, too. (And fortunately all people of color don’t hate white people, and a lot of them confess that there is just as much racism in the black community towards whites. I could tell stories of white racists but there is no need on this post as you have already put targets on their backs Just pointing out your bigotry.
I’m a bit confused. I AM white. You can’t get much whiter than me. 😉 I can’t even tan. I did mention “reverse racism,” although some people deny that, and I need to look into it more. And I’m actually not a liberal. I have never once voted liberal. I simply tell the truth.
YES!! Couldn’t agree more! Stereotypes are not pulled out of thin air, there is usually a lot of truth to them. Also, I live in the south and I grew up scared (and still am) of black people because it seems like any thing I do/say will be construed as “racism” which, next to “intolerance” is the worst crime you can commit these days! Where are the “racism still exists” posts when white people are the victims?
we are a white family that has adopted 3 black boys we were blessed to have placed in our home as foster children. I knew racism was still there but had no idea how strong a hold it still had. Our biological son and our oldest adopted son are 9 months apart in age. Once at the Drs office when young the nurse ask their ages and when I said 7 my son said “don’t think we are twins we have different birthdays” he did not see the color of his brother. The world quickly pointed it out to him. Once they got stopped driving in a very nice neighborhood for “a check as to what they were doing” my white son got questioned, my black son got searched. I have watch story after story of how the two boys of the same age with the same last name and same address have been treated differently. Please America wake up
Thank you for this perspective, Lisa! I am so sorry you and your sons have experienced this. I love that your white son was color blind! That is so awesome. I have a good friend about to adopt a black girl from Uganda into her white family. Yes, America, please wake up!
Surprised by many of these comments because it seems she is in your corner, trying to say racism does exist and we should try to end it. The fact that she’s admitting only one black girl went to her school and that she tries to integrate her children with other races, is her showing that it’s not an equal world. I mean hello I don’t think she’s trying to say these things are ok but these are things we still have to overcome.
YES! Thank you, Cailin! Thank you!!
It seems I’m getting attacked from all “sides”!
More than one ism is alive and well, and will be for some time to come. Will any of it ever end? It is doubtful in my mind.
Age-ism; Sex-ism; Race-ism; Ethnic-ism;
Geograph-ism. More I am sure.
If we could get rid of our competitive-ism, it might help. Our “better than thou,” attitude.
Somehow, we have to humble ourselves long enough to see that we all hurt and we all feel, we all love and we all hate. None of us are perfect….not a one of us….no not one.
God help us, as we go forward.