- I am coming at this as a typical white American. I cannot speak to KKK, hate groups, etc. because I simply do not understand that stuff.
- I am only addressing black and white issues because of what happened over the past couple of weeks. There is certainly racism towards refugees, immigrants, Latinos, Native Americans, etc.
- Not everyone is going to agree with me. That’s ok. I ask that this be a learning place. Certain white people are not going to like what I say and certain black people are not going to like what I say. I am unintentionally going to say something that might not be true or maybe make a wrong observation, but my intent is to create a learning place where we can learn from one another.
Again and again we are faced with troubling news about racism in the United States that ignites passion from white and black people alike. For a few years now after incident after incident, I have wanted to write something, but I knew in my heart I wasn’t ready. It took me this long because I desperately needed to look at my own heart and learn from the perspective from others. I’ll be honest, it took years of learning from my African American brothers and sisters to change my heart. Even as someone who runs a Christian ministry, I had many blind spots that needed to be pointed out. Just listening to my white brothers and sisters (even pastors) was not the answer. I really had to learn from black people, and so, I listened and learned. Please whoever is reading this; no matter where you stand, don’t just run off and stand on your opinion. Take some time to prayerfully examine your own heart. The biggest question I want to address is not whether there is racism coming from white Americans (and Christians), but why? When I meet with black American friends the main question I get is why? So, I wanted to share my story that will hopefully shed some light on this issue.
There are three issues that I want to address:
- Lack of compassion
Here is my story:
I grew up in a middle to upper class neighborhood and school. Usually we had one or two African American students in our elementary school so I really didn’t have any black friends until I started playing football. I think I got along great with the black kids on our team. Sports kind of does that to you. It bonds you. I don’t really remember if I looked down on people in elementary school but I probably did. I didn’t even know what racism was back then, but I know that just being a kid I probably did look down on people that were different from me, which a lot of us struggle with when we are young. I also wasn’t afraid of black people simply because I had no reason to be scared of black people. I was just a kid who had many black friends on my football team.
By the time I got to jr. high a lot of things changed. Going from an all-white school (it was a bubble) to jr. high was shocking. There were many other races at the school and many other kids who were at a different economic level than me. This included mostly black, white, and hispanic kids. What I observed in jr. high was craziness. Please hear me, the craziness wasn’t about race to me, it was about all races, including my own, acting differently than how I had grown up in elementary school. All of the sudden, not everyone was well behaved like it was in elementary. Daily there were fights breaking out. I heard words that I have never heard before. Fighting, sex, drugs, among other things were all around me and that sure was shocking to say the least to a 13-year-old kid. I went from a little shy kid who never got into trouble, to a kid who had to learn how to survive in this crazy world. The sad thing for me personally, was that I started to change and I became part of that craziness and got into a lot of trouble and even dangerous situations.
I loved my black friends (although I am sure at times I treated them different or unintentionally said something to them that was racist out of ignorance.) We hung out together outside of school; they came to my house and sometimes I went to theirs. The people I had problems with were the people I didn’t know. Was I scared of certain black people, white people, and hispanic people? Yes! There were black gangs (Crips and Bloods) in our school back in that day. I remember being scared to go into the restrooms because that’s where the gangs would get you. There were also certain white and hispanic people who would get into some crazy fights. Again, here it wasn’t about race, it was about seeing people act out in a way I just wasn’t used to.
I do have personal experience with being on the receiving end of violence in numerous situations. Before I share, I have also been on the other side which saddens me greatly, so some were my own fault but some were not. I got jumped by black guys on a few occasions inside and outside of school, but I also got jumped by a white gang too and got into fights with other white people in highschool. Even in ministry while doing outreach, I came close to being jumped by some hispanic guys, was threatened by black people who did not like a white guy in their community, had a gun pulled on me by a black kid, but I have also been yelled at and threatened by white people. Why am I telling you all of this? It is because I did start to fear certain people, and yes some of those people were black, but some were people of other races including my own. It wasn’t so much race, it was people who looked like they were trouble. Now this is one key isn’t it? FEAR! This is one issue that my black brothers and sisters want to know about. In conversations about race with some of my black brothers and sisters, they have stated that they too fear certain people, even among their own race, so this fear of “troubled” individuals is real. The problem is, FEAR is obviously UNPROPORTIONATE towards the black community. Before, I would blame gangster movies like Boyz in the Hood and gangster rap for being a part of the problem (which maybe it is), but then I quickly realized that movies portray white people with violence too (all the time!!). Again, no matter the reason, it’s not right to fear black people. It’s wrong and it’s sinful.
I’m a history buff. Generally white people didn’t fear black people in the 1800s and even in the 1960s. That was just pure prejudice and hate. Something happened in the 1980s and 1990s that changed and it wasn’t just gangster movies, gangster rap, gang life, or whatever. Yes, certain black culture was involved in that lifestyle (which we should have compassion and understanding about this, and we will address later in this post), but a majority of black people started being portrayed differently in the media. But here is the thing. It is ignorant to fear black people in general because of this for two reasons. There are certain people in all cultures who commit crimes, get into trouble, etc.., and two, that’s like saying I am going to fear all Muslims because of terrorism. Most black people are good people. Most Muslim people are good people. And most white and hispanic people are good people.
This week I asked my wife about the question of fear. I said, “Isn’t there some truth to needing to be cautious with certain people that just look scary?” I said, “If Alfonso Ribeiro (Fresh Prince of Bell-Air; America’s Funniest Home video host) was walking down the road, would people be scared of him?” She said, “Yes in certain circumstances there are people to avoid, but you as a white guy don’t have to worry about someone being scared of you for wearing a hoodie. The difference between you and him is that if you wear a hoodie, you don’t have to worry about getting shot.” Ouch! (for those who know me I wear a hoodie pretty much every day). Why can I wear a hoodie but a black person can’t? Why can I walk through a neighborhood and not have to worry about getting shot or having someone call the cops on me? The fact is and whatever the reason is, a lot of white people simply fear black people. Is it wrong?? Absolutely! For black people and white people alike, this has to be talked about. White people need to take ownership that we fear black people, but black people also need to address the issue. Black people talking about prejudice (which is absolutely real!), is not the only issue, but that is always the main issue that is talked about. An issue that needs to be talked about is why do we fear? Where did it come from? How have both black and white people contributed to the problem? How can the problem be addressed? A lot of white people do fear black people and it needs to be talked about!
Black people want to know if white people consider themselves better than black people. Well there are a few answers to that. In my 20 years of ministry, I have worked with pretty much every race you can imagine and I have never met a race or people group who doesn’t look down on another people group. If you think white and black people have issues, immerse yourself into another culture and it will shock you! For example, Hindu Caste systems, Muslims vs Christians, Hindus vs Muslims, Hindus vs Christians, Buddhist vs Christians, tribe’s vs tribes, Shia vs Sunni, Iranians and Afghans, Indians and Pakistanis, hatred of Jews. Ever hear of the Tutsi and the Hutu genocide? I could go on and on and on. Yes, it’s a crazy world out there. I say that to just open your eyes a little to the world, that it’s not just a black and white issue. But to answer your question about do a majority of white people look down on black people in my opinion, I would say the answer is absolutely yes and other races too that are not our own. I apologize to my white brothers and sisters if that offends you. Please hear me, I could be wrong or off, but that is my experience as a white guy who has racism in my own heart and with interacting with white culture all of my life. I would also say it depends on where you come from, how old you are, your upbringing, and of course, just your world view. Now here is the tricky thing, there are obviously examples of people treating black people with pure hate and disrespect, but there is also the issue of blind spots. Again, here me say this: Some of the most loving and generous white people I know think they don’t look down on black people but they really do, and honestly me, my wife, evangelical pastors and Christians are all guilty of this. To this day I have to catch myself. Some of us look down on people and don’t even realize it. I know it’s confusing, but it’s just something hidden and ingrained in us deep down inside and some of our well-intended thoughts or comments are really just hidden prejudices that are disrespectful and hurtful. Many white people have a bad problem of looking down on people who are different from them. History clearly shows that and nothing much has changed. Why? I have no idea! That’s another history lesson. It’s ridiculous and crazy at the same time, but it is still there to this day. Call it ignorance, call it racism, call it whatever it is, it’s sin and it’s evil!
LACK OF COMPASSION
Again, I love learning about history. I am kind of obsessed with it because I want to do know why we are the way we are and how we got here. A majority of white people I know have very little idea and often very little compassion about what black people have been through in American history. Yes, slavery was an atrocity, but the white attitude seems to say, “Get over it. That was over 100 years ago. Let’s move on.” Even if white people know it or not, there needs to be compassion and understanding about what black people have gone through, not only with slavery but after. It wasn’t all of the sudden peaches and cream after the Civil War. From then until now has been a mess of injustice and prejudice on the highest levels. Things were not equal by any means and African Americas were not given the same equal opportunities. Most of us know about the Civil Rights movements, but what people need to realize, and especially young people, is that that happened only a generation ago! Most young people can’t even imagine a world with white and black restrooms, water fountains, black people sitting on the back of buses, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. White people also cannot imagine that happening to them! I have lived in a neighborhood with a large African American population for most of my marriage right next to Hamilton Park in Dallas; a community that came to be because black people were being harassed, and in many cases houses were even bombed, because some white people didn’t want them in their neighborhoods. Many black families could not find homes in white neighborhoods and many were forced out of their homes because of the extension of Love Field. Drive around Hamilton Park, it’s still all black people who grew up there. (I love Hamilton Park and Stults by the way and love living here!). Do we not realize that there are so many people still alive from all of that mess? Do we not realize that children even now are born into the repercussions of that time? Do we not realize that white people have had so many more opportunities to succeed and prosper in life? White people just want black people to step up and just achieve. Well, if it was you on the other side, you would have had a difficult time “achieving” under those circumstances as well.
My wife and I have run a ministry for almost 20 years now. We have worked with so many cultures, but also in lower income black communities. To simply say, “why can’t you just be good, well-behaved, look nice, and get a good job” is near sighted and ignorant. I love my family and what my parents did for me, but I had everything behind me to achieve anything I wanted to do in life. Certain people, especially in low income communities simply don’t have that access. Again, this is difficult to imagine for many middle to upper class white people.
We also need to give grace to people who do not act as “good” as us. People of all races grow up in really difficult situations, difficult families, and difficult communities. If we do not realize this and just look down on people because they don’t act like us, then we are certainly lacking compassion and understanding. The point here is let’s have some compassion and understanding. Instead of pointing out what is wrong, ask yourself, “how can I be a part of the solution?” and go help and love someone. Realize that certain people have it good and certain people do not. I honestly believe if you were “blessed” with more, than you have a responsibility to give and help others. Whether this scripture is contextually right or wrong, I still live by it. “To much is given, much is to be expected.” (Luke 12:48)
I want to take this time to apologize for not addressing all of the issues. I couldn’t in reality address all of the issues here such as the criminal justice system (which is a huge problem!) among other things. Please give me grace. That would take me writing a book. I am writing this to start a discussion, whether in your mind or with somebody.
As a white person and even a white Christian I apologize for my actions in the past and even currently. I confess I have evil in my heart. I confess I have I blind spots even now. Confession and acknowledgment is where we all should start.
I apologize to my black brothers and sisters for how so many white people have racism towards the black community. It’s an indescribable pain inside me. But I do want people to know that there are a lot of great white people out there and there has always been throughout history. White people were involved in ending slavery and even helping slaves escape from slave owners (read Harriet Tubman’s book). Many white people lost their lives for it. There were white people beaten on buses in the 1960s and killed for joining protests, although too many were silent. And there are great white people now, but far too many continue to remain silent. Of course, not every white person is a racist, but every white person can always and should continue to examine their own heart. As should black people examine their hearts. God calls all of us to examine ourselves and we all (both black and white) have the responsibility to forgive and love each other. Be a part of loving all people…the ones you love, the ones you hate, the ones who are different from you, and even your enemies.
Let’s talk. Let’s connect. Let’s love each other. Let’s build friendships with each other. I love you, all of you, white and black, from the bottom of my heart.