Monday, April 2, 2012

I'm not a racist ... am I?

The shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month has ignited a maelstrom of fear, accusation, innuendo and suspicion. The "R" word — racism — has re-entered the news.

Racism is an ugly word, one we in America like to relegate to our "ancient" history (from the last century). Since the ugliness of  the "Jim Crow" laws and the civil rights demonstrations of the '60s to nasty reactions to immigrants (the Irish, the Italians, the Vietnamese, the Cubans, or the Mexicans) to the Rodney King debacle in the 1990s.

Living in an area of limited racial diversity (Caucasian or Hispanic) doesn't mean we're immune to racism. Wherever there is a cultural divide of any kind, the opportunity for racism exists.

According to the dictionary, racism is a "prejudice against certain peoples." Prejudice, by definition, is "an opinion, often unfavorable, formed with adequate reasons." Prejudice is to "pre-judge."

As more facts surface, it's becoming apparent that George Zimmerman judged Trayvon Martin as a threat based primarily on his appearance. It's possible Martin viewed Zimmerman the same way.

That's the trouble with prejudice ... by the time the pre-judging has occurred, it's too late to repair the damage that has occurred. In the Martin-Zimmerman case, the damage was fatal, a life lost.

For the average person, prejudice rears its ugly head in relationships. We prejudge the people we come in contact with based on skin tone, sex, age, language, dress, hairstyle, tattoos, piercings ... or some other criteria. And in so doing, we cut ourselves out of opportunities to witness to the lost, chances to be ministered to by others, and the riches of diversity God put in His creation.

The root of racism, I believe, is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the unfamiliar, and fear of what we do not understand. Fear can cause us to reject the very thing that would save us...

"Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid."
(Mark 5:15)
According to our standard, the Word of God, fear doesn't come from God at all ... fear is the offspring of the enemy:
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Tim 1:7)
As members of the Body of Christ, we need to remind ourselves that the resurrection of Christ removed the barriers that separate one segment of humanity from another.
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Creek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 
(Galatians 3:26-28)
RACISIM Pictures, Images and Photos
As questions about race and prejudice are stirred up in the media, it's important for us as Christians to remember there's no such thing as race in the eyes of God. May we be the catalysts for peace.

About the Author: Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.



  1. Our brains are hardwired to make snap judgments based on limited info. In most situations this is considered a good thing because it increases our odds of survival. Whatever filters were applied in childhood--i.e. such and such is bad or scary, will be very difficult to overcome later in life.

    But when it comes to people it is so important to make the effort!

  2. I guess racism is the enhanced reaction to what is normal - making snap judgements as we all 'eye' each other. We do it with all people - that one is _________, that one over there is _____________.

    I look at Asian people and often consider they are likely better at math than I am. Racist!
    Would I be uncomfortable if a group of hooded young black men followed me down a dark street. You betcha.
    Because it represents what I;ve heard in the news for 50 years. I think if I was a black woman of the same age I would feel the same way. I might be wrong, but it's more to do with teenagers.

    I grew up with riots in my own city during the 60s. THe media made it frightening. That's not racist, that's understanding the power of mob and fear. that's ancient history regardless of skin color.

  3. Very true, Lisa. We have to remember that we operate in limited knowledge. Pride and self-righteousness is another aspect of racism.

  4. snap judgements. hard not to allow ourselves to be led by them. there are times my pre-judged thoughts color my thinking - but I do know that I also need to allow the Lord to lead my thoughts and perhaps change them if the situation warrants.
    i'd like to think i'm not racist, but sometimes i do act the part. i guess it boils down to how much i allow the Lord to act through me and how much it's the selfish part of me that is in control.

    i do very much want to be a catalyst for peace.

  5. LOL. It's funny to me how as soon as I wasn't a teenager anymore, teenagers became very scary creatures. Of course, now that my own kids are teenagers (all in black hoodies, all the time, *sigh*) with their piercings and mohawks and so forth, teenagers don't seem nearly as frightening.

    It's interesting how our locales affect our assumptions, too. Around here we get nervous if a bunch of Hispanic young men start following us around. And yet, you think about Ted Bundy and all those "ordinary" looking serial killers and realize if we aren't listening to the Holy Spirit, we're blind to where real danger lies.

    As to the mob/riot mentality... I completely agree. Whether it's the craziness we see going on in the Middle East, or the "Occupy" movement here in the States, or people being trampled underfoot while everyone races into Walmart to buy something for Christmas... mob mentality is truly terrifying.

  6. Amen to that, DebH.

    As Debra said, too, many times we aren't even aware of those snap judgments... like assuming Asians are better at math, or white men can't dance (Channing Tatum kind of blew that one out of the water for me) or that women can't drive, or...

    Makes me wish God could just rinse out my brain.

  7. Yes, very interesting subject. I think we all do "pre-judge" to some degree, but that doesn't necessarily mean racist or prejudice unless it is unfavorable or we have an attitude of superiority.

    I feel pretty confident in saying I'm not racist. In fact, one of my struggles right now in my writing career is that I have a real heart for race relations, and that's coming through to a degree that isn't "commercial" enough.

    That being said, there are differences between races, just like there are differences between sexes. Is it unreasonable or insulting to think an Asian person will be good at math as Deb mentioned? I don't think so. It's a reasonable assumption based on the facts. And actually quite complimentary. But if we cling to that in light of an Asian person who is actually artistic and funny and doesn't like math, now we have a problem.

    I think we should appreciate all people for their own gifts, talents, and special qualities. I know my love for African-American literature comes from my appreciation of soulful rhythms and deep emotion, two key components of African-American culture.

    As for the Trayvon Martin situation, it's just too too sad. I can't help but think the man who shot him must be a little off in the head. Sounds like it went beyond prejudice straight to paranoia.

  8. Not "commercial" enough? *sigh* One would think that would be a huge attraction, not a detriment.

    Ah, wouldn't it be lovely if we all just accepted and appreciated one another as individuals? Sounds like heaven.

  9. Thoughtful post, Niki. What a sad, important, topic we all need to consider and pray through.

    Your last line is sticking with me: may we be catalysts for peace. Made me think of St. Francis and a song we used to sing: Let me be an instrument of Thy peace that the world might see the Love of God in me.

    I hope that song stays in my ear all day today!

  10. I think I've heard that song, Susie!

  11. This is so powerful, Niki. I read this before I went to bed last night, and thought about it all day. This subject repeatedly breaks my heart. Sometimes I think if we could rid the world of all forms of racism, we would be at least 90% closer to world peace than we've ever been. And it goes beyond skin color or eye shape or native language. So many people claim to be "tolerant" and then turn around and blast someone for their religious or political way of thinking, which proves they aren't as tolerant as they thought. That's something we each need to examine deep down within, and definitely turn over to God.

    Oh - PS - when I was reading this last night...

    I knew it was you! :-)

  12. This is post rather reminds me of those people who brand the Chonicles of Narnia 'racist' on the basis that a few Asian-like characters in some of the novels are cast in something of a negative light.

    For instance the Calormenes are slace traders and owners. Yet these same people seem to be unaware of the fact that there were as many good Calormenes/Telmarines and others in the Chronicles of Narnia as there were bad ones.

    All they see is a negative depiction, and think it is 'racist'. I think in particular the fact of the assoication between Arab-like people and slavery bothers some people, and I myself noticed this in the Narnia books, but it was never an issue for me, because it is simply a reflection of historical facts.

    Throughout the Middle Ages people in the Near and Middle East and North Africa were actively involved in the buying, selling and kidnapping of European slaves. The so called 'babary pirates' were notorius for this, and the feared Islamic warriors of the Crusading era known as the Mamluks were, in fact, of Eastern European and Russian stock.

    I think professor C.S Lewis was simply putting something of history into his books, but tried to be balanced at the same time. Yet despite his best efforts, his work stil offends modern sensibilites.

  13. I know this may be controversial on this particular forum, but I personally have an issue with exclusively negative and stereotypical depiction of English people in American some American books and movies.

    By that I do not mean simply criticising the English or having some bad English characters, but the consistent demonisation and vilification of the English, or typecasting them as evil villains and nothing else.

    I'm suggesting that the above is 'racist' but I do find that it is frequently based on prejudice, misonformation, misunderstanding and distorition of facts.

  14. Amen, Suzie. I find that I believe myself to be tolerant until I am inconvenienced in some way, and then I have to step back and pray. For the most part we understand very little of cultures outside our own experience, and so what seems perfectly normal to some other culture we find offensive, annoying, or, at worst, threatening!

  15. Anna,
    I never noticed that in the Narnia stories...I'm always amazed by what people take umbrage to!

    And to a certain degree, I think you're correct about the poor characterization of the English people in American media. Although I believe it extends to the French and the Germans and the Italians, etc., as well.

    Although, I think the same could be said about the characterization of Americans in the literature and media of other countries.

    At the root of it, as I said in the post, we have fear of the unknown and the misunderstood!

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  16. Yes, I rather dislike the way that German people are often characterised or associated with Nazis or nazism.

    I suppose it is borne from ignorance as fear.

    As to the Narnia thing, you can find info looking on some Amazon reviews and google. 'The Horse and His Boy' is the novel that people focus on in particular.
    There is an article on this here

    Good to know people find my little insights interesting.


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