Race by definition has different meanings. See the word without “human” in front and the way you read the word will depend on who you are. If you are an sprinter, your mind may first dash to the track. If you add the word “human”, many take that to mean mankind. If you are a person of colour, you may see that word and immediately feel the sting of the stigma that has been attached to you just because you were born with a different colour skin.
RACE (THE SKIN COLOUR)
I remember the day I first saw the name “George Floyd” on someone’s Whatsapp status. I instantly knew I had missed something. I didn’t realise that the name we’ve now all come to know well and the events that followed would force me to confront something I’ve never “felt” the need to confront (to my shame!). But it seems that the time has come for me to pick a side, make a stand and put the pen to paper (or my fingers to the keys) and say where I’m at.
I’m still processing it all. And, because I’ve never been a victim of racism, I am in the position to do that. Others have been victims from the time they opened their eyes in this world and have had to “confront” it before they could talk.
I don’t know that I can honestly tell you anything at all because I’m not sure. I’m not a reader and this requires a lot of reading. But, not being a reader, I realise, is not an excuse I can hide behind. However, like everyone else, when the #blacklivesmatter movement came to the forefront again after the death of George Floyd, I’ve had to do a reality check, like everyone should be doing! And I have learnt a few things.
1. I am a product of white privilege.
Google defines white privilege as, “inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.”
It’s not something I’ve ever paid much attention to because it’s been all I’ve ever known. Reading that definition, I would not have said it were true. But when I think about the following, I realise that it is. My husband walks alone down the road and no one crosses to the other side or types a message on the road Whatsapp group about “a suspicious white man looking at all the houses.” It was highly unlikely that I would get a below-average education. It was highly likely that I would attend a reputable university. I could always find a “peach” crayon in the box. My teachers were all like me. My Barbies and my dolls looked like me. And to not have those privileges never once crossed my mind. Until now…
2. I am a product of systemic racism (A.K.A. institutional racism).
Institutional or systemic racism, according to Google, is “is a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organisation. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other issues.”
There are some things I do and think subconsciously because that’s what the culture that surrounds me expects. Looking back over the past few weeks, I realise that I’ve always had a certain expectation of where people of colour fit in within society and each time the mold was broken, I wasn’t upset but just surprised.
3. I still have racist tendencies.
There have been some things I have thought in the past that have given me a sense of unease – knowing that I was wrong – but sometimes, being unsure of how to change my thinking, especially as a child. Here, the centre of town is considered a “dodgy” area to go. Is it because there is really danger or because it’s “black”? When people speak of a residential area “going down” or being “not so nice anymore” is it because the houses are becoming derelict or because it is now more racially diverse? Do I expect whites to be more competent and people of colour to be less so in the workplace? (What happens when the opposite is true??) Am I immediately suspicious of a black male walking down the road or am I suspicious of any male walking down the road? No one can ever say that they don’t have racial expectations. Especially in a country like South Africa with a racially charged past. It’s like part of our DNA. We have all grown up in a society with stereotypical views of race. No one is exempt – we are molded and shaped by those around us whether it be family, friends, school environment, home town, social circles, peers, employers, colleagues and so forth. And as we grow, we develop ideas – whether true or untrue – of what to expect from people. We all have a subjective view filled partly with truth and mixed together with lies until it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two. And, as I have had to do, each one of us needs to take a good, hard look at the way we look at others – what we “expect”and how we actually should view them.
THE [HUMAN] RACE
If you were to take one thing away from this post, it would be this – my most astounding “light bulb moment” thus far!
“When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.” Genesis 5:1-2
He named them “Mankind” – He called all of us mankind and set us together, beside one another no matter the colour of our skin.
AND EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.OF.US was made in the image of God!
That means, in some way, we reflect God. He chose to form each one of us in the womb of our mother and each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139)
He did not pop each person out of the Barbie doll mould. He did not give everyone the same amount of freckles, the same mother tongue, the same curly hair, the same talent for singing, the same fingerprint. Likewise, He did not give us the same colour skin. Each person that has been gifted with life on this earth God has made and crafted to be uniquely who they are. Someone who shows off his glory. We are diverse, vibrant and beautiful because we were made by God!
How dare we use the mind and the tongue God has given us to “curse human beings who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9)?!?
I have realised that if we looked at every living, breathing human on this earth the way their Father and Creator sees them, racism would be a long forgotten problem. When Jesus came to save people, He didn’t only pick the white skinny blondes. He picked the prostitute and the repentant religious leader, the adulteress and the circumcised self-righteous Jew, the devout man and the “dirty” Samaritan the fisherman, the leper, the woman, the child, the Roman – the godly and the ungodly. He didn’t pick them based on what they looked like, on what they “deserved”, on their merits or demerits, their social standing, their race, etc. No one was more deserving than another, no one was any less a sinner than another. Each one was precious in the sight of His Saviour. Each one belonged to Jesus. And each one was LOVED!
We’re happy to teach “Jesus loves the little children” to our kids, but do we really believe and treat “red and yellow, black and white” like Jesus really does love each one?? How do you think it makes people of a different skin colour feel to be treated as less despite God stating clearly in His Word that He loves everyone? Ask yourself, are you really showing God’s love (which we are commanded to show) to others? Imagine how it must sting for us to sit as “Christians” teaching about God’s love and honouring others above ourselves in church on a Sunday but to see a very different reality lived out the moment those high-heels hits the tarmac outside!
I wonder, if we take off the dark glasses of racism that colour our logic and compassion, if we would see each life of as much value as another? I wonder if we saw the oppressed and suffered with them how different the world would be? I wonder if we loved those marginalised, those hurting, those self-righteous, those hard-hearted, the slave, the free as Jesus does because each was made in the likeness of God, if each man would feel more loved, more valued and more worthy? There are many hurting in our world because the love of God is not being shown and “the created” thinks he knows better about the value of human life than “the Creator” Who is he (note the lowercase “h”!) to get to decide who is of value and who is not?!?
I’m asking you to sit with this. To chew over it. And to really ask yourself if you have done this. If your answer, like mine, is a “no” then it’s time to dust off your humility, swallow your pride, offer a genuine “sorry” and ask for their forgiveness – not just for the part you have played, but also the part played by your forefathers.
“But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” Leviticus 26:40-42 (emphasis added)
You have not only caused hurt to others but to God as well! You are scoffing at what He has made! You need to repent to Him too. Then, with a contrite heart, hold out your hand to the person who God also created, ask them to take your hand and show you the way to restoration.
We are all on the road. Some of us are taking the lead; some of us are running in circles around others trying to keep up; some of us are jogging at a slow, steady pace; some of us have stopped to tie our shoelace or admire the view; some of us took a look at the route and gave up and went home; some of us didn’t bother to enter because it was “a waste of time” and there are even some who are standing on the sidelines mocking those in the race.
For those who gave up and went home; for those who didn’t bother to enter and especially for those who are standing jeering at those in the race, their negative behaviour needs to be addressed! It’s unhelpful to the human race! Racism is sin! The end!
But for those who are on the road, they need encouragement to press on, not criticism. Some will get tired, lose their way and need redirecting back to the route ahead. It is the job of those further along to help those who are struggling but still on the road. They showed up, they are willing and they are there. That matters for something. We need to remember that we were all at the beginning of the race once. Let’s have a spirit of comaradery and help those who are still lagging behind and cheer them along on the road to restoration.
It’s time. It’s time to pick a side. Will you see others around you as equally loved and equally valued by the same Father who created you? Will you accept responsibility for the part you have played, passively or actively, consciously or subconsciously in your prejudice and racism? Will you come in humble repentance, not only before God but before those you have wronged? It’s not going to be easy! It will be a difficult and uncomfortable! But, necessary! And what do you look like as part of the solution? Don’t pass on the systemic racism to the next generation. Teach your children about the value of all human life! Celebrate diversity. Have and invite over friends of all colour and language. Make it a commonplace interaction. Be deliberate in confronting your attitudes and stereotypical thoughts head-on. Be careful of the words you say in front of them that could lead them to sideline people of colour or put them into a box. And show them the love Christ has for each of His children by modelling it for them in your behaviour!
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
And because we are all one under our Saviour (who went to the cross for every man of every tongue and skin tone) We are told to,
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
Until we learn to see others through the eyes of the One who formed them, knitted them together and breathed His breath into them, we will always see colour as a problem. It is time to hold hands and love as Christ loved.
(If I have ever made a racist comment that has hurt you or angered you, I am truly sorry! Please reach out to me so I can apologise to you personally.)
Photo Credit: Life MattersTags: anger, Apartheid, black, colour, colour blind, coloured, compassion, defensiveness, diverse, diversity, exclusion, God, hate, hostility, inclusion, Jesus, love, race, racism, skin, skin colour, south african, stereotype, white, white fragility, white privilege, white tears