Me being a racist is a realization I came to a few years back. I am a racist. Now, I'm not a card-carrying, hood-wearing, out-right racist. Instead I'm your run of the mill unintentional racist. I do racist things without realizing them. I perform micro aggressions without meaning to. In fact, the very definition of a micro aggression is the unintentional act of racism in small ways. I'm still coming to terms with my whiteness and privilege in the world.
Many, many white people don't want to be called racist. They are good people. They are nice people. They are people who choose to be colorblind, marking the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech, "I have a Dream." And stating that they don't judge on the color of skin but on character. The problem is that our idea of character stems from our whiteness and how we view culture all together. As part of the dominant culture, we don't see how we control the concept of culture nor the idea of what makes good character. We just kinda do it.
To tell the truth, I'm not "woke." Honestly, I don't even know what that means half the time. What I do know is that I grapple with my own white identity and what it means to be a racist when I don't intend to be. Many whites have this issue. They don't want to be labeled a racist. And when they are, they get defensive. I'm not racist, I'm Italian. I'm not racist, I'm Irish. I have Black friends. My family never owned slaves. I'm third generation Dutch, I wasn't even here for that stuff. Me? I got a whole lotta German in me so I can't say much.
I remember when my mind changed on being color blind and not being a racist. I was in a play back in the spring of 2000 when cast mates started discussing gender and race. I thought I knew it all (what 20-something doesn't?) and said I was colorblind. A cast mate took one look at me and said, "No. Don't be. I want you to see my blackness. I am a proud black man and I want you to see it." That knocked me back. I never thought of it that way. I was always told that we are the same under our skin. That skin color is just that, color. I never knew that someone would be angry for not being seen by the color of their skin and allowed to be proud to do so. That changed me.
Again, I'm still struggling with this. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this. But in all honesty, if you're white, you're probably a racist too and just don't know it. And that's fine. We don't like being called racist. We are good people. We are nice people. We don't burn crosses or discriminate. . . or do we?
This is a hard tough topic to write on. I've been mulling it over in my mind for a while. Friday, as I was doing my devotions, I came across Paul's words in Colossians:
"Here there is no Gentile (a non Jewish person) or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all." Colossians 3:11
It is interesting that Paul mentions Scythian. The Scythians were seen as the barbarians of the barbarians. The barbarians were of the northern German tribes and were mocked by the Greeks for having an indistinguishable language and just said "Bar bar bar" all the time, hence barbarian. A Scythian was worse. Way worse. They were seen as even more disgusting as a common barbarian. The Scythians were nomadic warriors who mastered mountain warfare. They lived in the Carpathian Mountains and along the Pontic Steppes. They were fierce and strong and scary. They weren't liked. Yet even Scythians were becoming Christians.
Scary. Them? Christians? Yes.
If Paul had to make this list to the church in Colosse, there was a reason to. He makes a list like this in Galatians as well. People back then were a lot like they are now—racist. They didn't like each other because of different ethnicities. They didn't like each other because of their past religious affiliations. Yet Paul says that they are all one in Christ because they were all made through Christ.
Now this is the kicker. The Apostle John sees a vision of heaven in the book of Revelation. And he sees what heaven is supposed to be like. He sees thousands upon thousands of people who are from every nation, tribe, and language. Even in heaven, though we are one in Christ, we are still distinct enough to be noticed as different. Our differences make us together as one. Our differences make us united as the people of God, made in His image.
Yes, I am a racist. I try hard not to be but I still keep stumbling into it. I try hard not to be but I do a new micro aggression when I least suspect it. So what am I to do? Take in the the fact that I'm a racist. Take in the fact that I will mess up and step forward by the grace of God in the understanding of forgiveness but also trying to do my best to point to Christ, to be Christ, and to be more and more aware of who I am in Christ in order to understand how I too will be distinct in that great multitude which John saw. And when Kingdom come, I won't be a racist anymore.