Hello, I Am a Racist

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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. 

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Thanks for your reflections Joshua. I also believe it is critical to acknowledge my own prejudice as well as the ways in which I benefit from participation in a racist society. Therefore, I too acknowledge my sin of racism. I also think that it is possible to strive in as much as God gives me the grace to be an anti-racist, working against these internal and external forces and systems that diminish and dehumanize people based on their skin color. May God continue to open my blind eyes and give me courage to strive for justice and racial righteousness. Blessings on your journey and thank you for your bravery to share these reflections.

I am perplexed by the argument set out in the article above. I’m left with the feeling that the author’s stance is either tongue-in-cheek, or disingenuous regarding their “wokeness.” The argument that “racist” equals “white,” i.e. European lays out the underbelly of identity politics vis-à-vis the author’s statement, “I'm still coming to terms with my whiteness and privilege in the world.”

1. The article not only supposes that all “whites” are “privileged” which may come as a shock to the working poor;

2. Secondly, if “colour” is the marker for racism, then logically any other colour is also a signifier of “racism” – not just being “white” which raises the spectre of “tribalism” run amok. 

3. Thirdly, appropriating the guilt of “racism” on behalf all “whites” is not only presumptive but judgmental. 

Where is scriptural justice and mercy when privilege and racism are indiscriminately assigned to the Body of Christ?

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Hi...author here. This post originally came from my personal blog Spiritual Musclehead (spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com) and not from The Network. In fact, I don't remember giving permission or I forgot I did to have it posted here. I in no way represent the CRC or their stance on anything. Things are all just my own hair-brain ideas. I'm not being tongue-in-cheek here nor disingenuous by saying that I'm not "woke." I'm being honest actually. Because of my skin color and place in the dominant culture, I have privilege and blind spots. Please let me address your three statements. 

1. Believe it or not, the "working poor" who are white do have privilege. Study after study shows this. We just don't like hearing it. To let you know a little bit about me, I myself come from a working poor background and realize just how privileged I was growing up. For example, a young white male at age 15 when arrested by police is more likely going to be treated fairly than a young black male at the same age. Evidence has shown this. I've been there as well and seen it with my own eyes.  

2. Color (note the lack of the "u") is not the only standard for race but is a major one. You can be proud to be Irish, Dutch, German, French, or even Canadian. When it comes to judging people based upon their ethnicity and race then it is racism. I note the "u" because it automatically shows that you are not from the US portion of the CRC. This makes me judge you differently based upon spelling alone. That is not racism. That is tribalism. Tribalism is different. Racism is when you say things like "If you're not Dutch, you're not much." 

3. If you are white, you are part of the dominant culture. Therefore, you have racist tendencies and just don't realize it and that's okay. That's where microagressions come in. It is not being judgmental but instead trying to wrestle with a fact of the matter at hand. 

As for justice and mercy with the body of Christ, then why did Paul have to mention ethnicities when he made his lists of people who are part of the Body of Christ. This has been an issue from the very start. And is an issue today we have to deal with. When things happen that we don't like, it hits us in ways that make us want to defend ourselves. That's okay. It's part of being human. I do it too. 

Feel free to look at my personal blog and comment there. I have other things you'll probably disagree with. 

Respectfully, we must agree to disagree on this matter.

The author pivoted quickly from "I'm a racist" to "you are a racist", which seems to be a popular thing to do nowadays.  Interestingly, the type of judgment that we are told by the Bible to do (judging works of unrighteousness, false teaching, etc.) is tut-tutted nowadays while the practice of judging peoples hearts and motivations seems to be gaining popularity.  This author gives great illustration to the latter, and not to his credit.  You want to declare yourself a racist and confess your sins publicly?  Go ahead, but leave me out of your broad pronunciations based on skin color.  Ironically, Mark praises the author for the article, yet denounces things that "diminish and dehumanize people based on skin color", which is exactly the practice that the author engages in.  Racism is nothing more than a form or hatred, and it knows no cultural or racial boundary.  The antidote to hatred is not more grouping of people and pitting various factions against each other.  The author is unwittingly engaging in the exact practice that leads to hatred and division.  This is the way of the world found in critical race theory and similar pagan worldviews.  Shame on the CRC and the Office of Racial Reconciliation for peddling these worldly philosophies and making them acceptable in the church.

Eric, I appreciate the opportunity to digitally dialogue about this. I hear you saying that you are feeling judged by Joshua's statement "if you're white, you're probably a racist too and just don't know it." And your feeling is that his statement actually "diminishes and dehumanizes" you as a white person. So the hatred that has been initiated towards our black brothers and sisters is now being reciprocated and is causing more division. Is that an accurate assessment of your post?

 

Hi Mark, I'm glad to dialogue as well.  You read me somewhat correctly.  My concern is not really about me, though.  When I said "leave me out" I was speaking illustratively.   I am glad to be called all sorts of things and will also gladly own with Paul that I am the greatest of sinners, because I have the greatest of saviors.  I don't usually get too hung up on feeling judged, as I am rightly judged all the time in the manner of Psalm 51:3 - that is my confession too.  

What I have consistently objected to is the one-sided view of racialization, where some racialization is bad and other racialization is good if the perceived recipients of said racialization are perceived to be deserving as a class of being racialized.  That is neither philosophically consistent nor biblically tenable.  By treating whites as a monolith and assigning various traits of racism, privilege, fragility, etc. to whites as a group, the author indeed diminishes and dehumanizes a group (again, my concern is not for me).  This is the thought process that lead to hateful practices against any number of people groups over time, and it is not sanctified by being applied to one's own people group or to a people group that is seen as deserving.  Yes, I do assert that grouping people by skin color  (as oppressors vs. oppressed, such as in CRT) and pitting people against each other in a quest for power (which is the basis of CRT and intersectionality) is divisive and unbiblical.  I generally agree with Neil Shenvi's analysis here: https://shenviapologetics.com/critical-theory-all-content/ 

Beyond that, my first point is simple: The author is misleading in his title to the extend that he spends his much of his time accusing others of racism.  Additionally, the author makes the mistake of equating privilege with racism, or at least implies that at the end of his first paragraph.  There are all sorts of privileges in this world which we understand as God's grace to us, not as sin.  I was raised in a two parent home by devout Christian parents.  This gives me rank privilege over the vast majority of people in the world and a substantial majority of people in NA. This is biblically commendable and not to be despised.  As a matter of fact, I am promised that in passages such as Deut. 4, Deut. 5, Eph. 6, etc.  The popular focus on privilege misses the point: If I am treated justly, that is not the problem.  The problem arises when someone is treated unjustly.  Take for example the oft-used example of two shoppers.  A certain store owner follows a black customer in his store while leaving the white customer to shop unimpeded.  An unrighteous judgment has taken place.  The white customer can be said to be privileged, but the injustice lies in an unrighteous judgment made by the store owner that the black person is suspect because of the color of his skin.  Therein lies the sin.  Now, pivot back to our author, who makes the exact same unrighteous judgment of whites.  It matters not that he judges his motives to be righteous. He seeks to place a burden of sin on people based soley on their skin color.  That is not a judgment of righteousness, and actually runs contrary to the Galations passage that he references.  Much more could be said, but I've rambled enough for now.  Thanks again for dialoguing.

Thanks for these thoughts. It is helpful in understanding your perspective and the errors you desire for the Church to avoid.

My desire is not at all to encourage hatred or generalizations of any people group. But I desire that we as a Church would be mindful of the ways in which prejudice has been embedded in our own thinking as well as in the ways that our society is not yet providing equitable opportunities for all people.

I affirm the ways in which Joshua is pursuing this in his life and his desire for others to do so as well. While I understand the language of labeling another person as "racist" is not generally helpful, I hope that his invitation for all of us to consider our own hearts and the ways in which our organizations function is not completely lost.

Mark, I would offer that it is not enough for the church to hope to offer articles and advice with mixed evil and righteousness and hope that people sort through, holding that which is righteous and rejecting that which is evil.  At it's core, Joshua approach is as you say "not generally helpful".  But it's worse than that - it's unrighteous, and it is not what the church should be promoting.  Unfortunately, there are at least two church agencies that speak this same language consistently and with impunity.  I wonder why giving to the denomination is down?

Mark, I'll offer one further thought to ponder.  According to what we confess in Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 112, part of the aim of the ninth commandment is that "I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name."  It's a part of the positive implication of the commandment not to bear false witness that gets ignored quite often, yet we do well to take it to heart. There is no reasonable way that we can understand blanket condemnation of a people group based on skin color as heeding the ninth commandment.  In no way does such action seek to guard and advance our neighbor's good name.  

Good point. I love that teaching from the Catechism.

I want to make sure that I am honoring the ninth commandment in that spirit for my brothers and sisters who have darker skin tones than I as well. From my experience, too often in our world, both historically and currently, the good name of people of African descent is denigrated. I should not denigrate others in response, but I do desire to speak truth regarding historic and current expressions of racism.

 

Mark, absolutely. 

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Hi...author here. This was written on my personal blog Spiritual Musclehead (spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com) back March. I either didn't know it was published on The Network or forgot it was. I just saw your comment tonight. I am not a representative of the CRC or office of Racial Reconciliation. I'm just me. So please don't say "shame on them" for my words. My intention wasn't on judging righteousness or unrighteousness here but on pointing out that as being part of the dominant culture, there are things we can't see. One thing I would like to point out that the CRC is getting better at is the whole "Dutch" thing. When I first came into the CRC back in the 1990's I was teased because I wasn't Dutch. It hurt, big time. Yet I stayed. I learned something about not being part of the dominant culture. If you get a chance, take a moment and try to look at things with different eyes. Oh...and check out my personal blog and feel free to make comments there too. 

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Thank you for sharing some of your story. I am with you on this journey to uncover blind spots and misguided assumptions and humbly listen to the experiences of others. 

The comment “I hear you saying that you are feeling judged by Joshua's statement ‘if you're white, you're probably a racist too and just don't know it.’ And your feeling is that his statement actually ‘diminishes and dehumanizes’ you as a white person” misses the point by asking one to go down the same rabbit hole of secular identity politics and tribalism as the author. The blanket attribution of “privilege” and “racism” to one part of the Body of Christ based on skin colour assumes: 

1. all white people are “privileged” which they are not, e.g. the working poor, the homeless, mothers on social security, etc.; and that all white people are “racists” when not all are even in a position to either geographically or socially relate to others of another colour; etc.; and

2. secondly, the statement attempts to place the author in the position of God by looking into the heart of another, and appropriating that which properly belongs to the Father.

My intention was to try to understand the ways in which my original comment was perceived. 

You are correct that our definitions of words like racism and privilege are critical in conversations like these. I believe that I am operating out of different definitions than you have indicated here.

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Sorry, but this article uses racist arguments to attack racism.  Either race is a core component or who people are or not.  Count me on the "not" side, consistently, unlike this article which laments racism on the one hand but then embraces it (even demands or at least encourages it) on the other.