How Christlike will we dialogue about racism?

The events of the past 2 weeks are tremendously heartbreaking to me. Nevertheless, I am actually simultaneously very encouraged. For the first time that I can recall in my lifetime, evaluating racism in America is an acceptable topic of conversation in my white circles. More than that, it often seems to be an expected part of dialogue at the moment.

While I am grateful dialogue about racism has skyrocketed, I realize this could lead to even more division. Over the last three years, I have educated myself a great deal on African American history. During my studies, one of the first things that surprised me was that not all Blacks wanted the schools integrated. But upon reflection, when does any group of people all agree? During this crazy pandemic, what church has members all agreeing on wearing masks to church or even that we should be in church yet or that we should be singing while we are in church? Why would I expect all African Americans to agree on school integration? We are at another juncture in history where not all African Americans will agree. Not all whites will agree. And therein lies my concern. How Christlike will we dialogue over racism and all the other topics that will surely surface in the process?

We will not all agree on the topic of racism in America. Ever. But will we commit to be loving, patient, gracious, and compassionate in our dialogue? Or will we dig in our heals, defend our position with harshness, confident beyond all doubt that we are right? Will we crush one another in our pursuit to persuade? Or will we humbly listen and share and consider opposing viewpoints? Will we respectfully allow people to disagree with us? Will we seek to understand or will we scoff? Will we tear others down on social media or will we privately ask to discuss and gain clarity?

In addition to pursuing a Christlike attitude in dialogue over racism, I recommend the following three pieces of advice as we move forward.

Listen to many voices: Most likely you can find someone who will say exactly what you want them to say on the topic. So, I challenge you to listen to many voices. Contradicting voices. Listen, listen, listen. Books. Podcasts. Now is the time to research African American history in earnest if you haven’t already done so.

Understand the impact of experience: Based on statistics should I fear a pedestrian walking in front of my car? No. Nevertheless, by experience, do I fear a pedestrian walking in front of my car? Very much so. Based on statistics alone, should a Black person fear being killed by a policeman? No. However, by experience, do numerous African Americans fear injustice at the hands of a policeman? Yes.

Talk to your African American friends and hear their experiences: Consider the impact of this true life story from a couple years ago that will never make the news. A six year old girl very dear to me was in a private, Christian kindergarten class in metro-Atlanta. One day she approached two of the handful of other girls in her class and asked if she could play with them. They responded, “No, we don’t want to play with you because your skin is brown.” The other female classmates were all white. This precious African American girl made in the image of God is now clearly aware that she is different and that she can be rejected and hurt for that God-ordained difference. All in a Christian environment by people that look like me.

May God help us truly learn during this pivotal historic moment to reflect His image by lovingly and patiently discussing the topic of racism. May each of us search our own hearts for our attitudes towards those with a different skin color. May we truly pray Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”

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