I genuinely believe that every person, deep down, has a desire for justice. We all want to be treated fairly and justly. We want the things that are wrong in this world to be made right. Our hearts break for how people of color have been treated unjustly in our society for over 400 years. We watch in sadness as we see peaceful protests turn violent because of a few people intent on being destructive. If you are like me and want justice to prevail, and racism to end in our country, we need to stop believing the half-truths and lies we tell ourselves.
1) “Racism is just a sin issue of the heart.” This statement is a half-truth, which means the other half is a lie. Yes, our sin causes a lot of damage in the world, but racism is different. The sin of racism finds its victim on someone, a specific person of color. Racism in our country isn’t just in the heart; it is also systemic and cultural. It is in our criminal justice system, hiring and housing practices, to name a few places where racism exists. Saying that racism is just a “sin issue of the heart” is refusing to see that racism is deeply entrenched in our society. It is also an unwillingness to do the hard work of changing the systems that keep people oppressed. We must do the hard work of eradicating it and work to change the system to be fair and just, holding people responsible for their racist actions. Though we cannot change people’s hearts through legislation or laws, or as Dr. King once said, “that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” The sin of racism is both in our hearts and in our culture and both need to be eradicated.
2) “I don’t see color.” Racism is an uncomfortable issue for many. This statement is a way to help us resolve the tension we feel inside ourselves. When we believe that we don’t see color, it is a way for us not to have to live in the tension of what we know deep down to be true, we do see color. Recent events have proved this true. It doesn’t take much to see that in the enforcement of our laws do see color. As a result, people of color suffer unjust consequences. Personally, if you are like me, “white,” we have implicit biases against people of color. These are biases we are not aware of until someone points it out to us. These implicit biases are evidence that we do see color, and it is not good. I hate it, and I am working on destroying it in my own life. We must be humble and allow others to correct us when we are wrong. I am grateful that God sees color because he created us this way. So let us celebrate our diversity and work to rid ourselves of implicit biases.
3) “All lives matter.” Yes, we want all lives to matter, but the reality of our black brothers and sisters’ lived experiences is that this is also a lie. As a white person, I do not have the right to tell another person, especially a person of color, if their experience is real or not. If we haven’t seen that all lives do not matter by now, then we have been in the mountains void of human contact or willfully ignorant. As we have seen on the news, social media, and even what happens right in front of us, our country’s reality is that all lives don’t matter. If all lives mattered, then people of color would not be suffering injustice. So when that day finally does happen when all lives matter, Black Lives Matter, Immigrant Lives Matter, Refugee Lives Matter…
4) “I have a similar experience.” Let me be direct on this one, no, we don’t. There is not one moment of racism I have ever experienced in my life that I can relate to my black brothers and sisters. None. Do I know the fear people of color feel when they are pulled over by a police officer for no apparent reason? Do I know about the everyday conversations black parents have with their children about what to do if confronted by racist people? Do I know what it’s like to be skipped over for a job because my name sounds black? Do I know what it’s like not to be unable to purchase a house because of my skin color? Do I know what it is like to be followed in a store because someone believes I am going to shoplift because of my skin color? No.I. Don’t. Instead of looking for a similar experience, let us listen carefully to the stories of our brothers and sisters of color and affirm their experiences and not try to diminish them or explain it away.
As I started, I genuinely believe that most people want justice and peace for our country. We want everyone to be able to live without fear of racism or violence and be treated equally. If we do want this, we need to stop believing the lies or half-truths we tell ourselves and work towards reconciliation.
I am not naive enough to believe that there are other lies, implicit lies that I still believe, but I want to name those lies and repent of them. I also know I still have work to do in my own life around this issue. But more importantly than my own comfort is that I want truth and justice to prevail.