releaseRelease. Relinquish. Give up.

A furor on the campus of a small Christian university has brought home, once again, the power of ignorance to hurt and shame others. The scenario? Five students with facial masks (apparently charcoal masks), had their photo snapped. The owner of the phone posted the photo on Snapchat and added the university’s logo filter and the hashtag #PrettyHurts as well as the word Wakanda.

Racist or ignorant? Overt racism or an innocent moment wrongly interpreted by the phone owner? Who bears the blame?

I’ll expose my ignorance right now and confess that I thought the movie Black Panther had to do with Huey Newton and Bobby Seale and the political party. No wonder I felt bewildered when I asked a student about the movie and the garbled explanation included the country of Wakanda.

In my mind, I questioned whether or not the student had actually seen the movie. After all, I KNEW that Black Panther highlighted a political movement in the 60s and the fight against police brutality and racism in America. I held tight to my beliefs and refused to release them because I thought I knew all about it. After all, I’d sped-read through posts by persons of color about the power of the movie.

I had no idea that Black Panther had anything to do with Marvel Comics and superheroes. After all, I don’t read comics, I don’t watch a lot of movies and only have a vague understanding of pop culture references. Don’t ask me if Batman belongs to Marvel or some other franchise. I couldn’t tell you.

Innocent Confusion

Four steps (I won't call them simple) for releasing #racism from your life. #socialjusticeMy confusion, although innocent, highlights what happens when we ‘think’ we know things. I thought I knew the history of our country (in reality I knew the male-white-aggressor version of history). We settle on theories of history and world views that make us feel comfortable and complacent about our world.

The danger in a one-dimensional world view lies in what happens when our innocent (or not so innocent) actions cause pain to others. If a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program chooses an ‘Indian’ theme and greets each child at the door with the supplies to make a headband and ‘feathers,’ do they act out of ignorance, or racism?

It depends on what the VBS program leaders do when someone brings to their attention that not all Native Americans wore feathers and headbands. And gently explains that the stereotype only furthers prejudice and racism.

If a Native parent brings his or her child to an ‘Indian-themed’ VBS, will the child feel included or excluded? Empowered or diminished? Disappointingly, the VBS program leaders decided to continue with their chosen theme, claiming it wasn’t meant to offend. Given the evidence that it DID offend, they chose to continue to give offense. We wouldn’t hang a swastika in our church because we know of the pain that symbol brings to a segment of our population. Nor should we willingly use offensive symbols and words that marginalize another segment of our population.

Think of it this way. If you’ve put on an additional 30 or 40 pounds since your teens, and you show up at a church full of skinny people wearing pillows under their shirts, how would you feel? Furthermore, if the programming at church highlighted the ‘history’ of not-so-fit-people as a matter of curiosity, would you want to stick around? What if they perpetrated stereotypes that all overweight people never exercise, eat only fast food, and watch TV all day. Would you feel uncomfortable? Ashamed? Outraged? Infringed upon? Misunderstood? Hurt?

You get the point. I hope.

The Release of Racism

Racism hides in the closets of our psyche, jumping out and mortifying us at unexpected moments. When someone has the grace to call our thoughts or actions racist, we should thank them. We should reevaluate our beliefs, seek new information, and release the racism that lurks within.

Racism hides in the closets of our psyche, jumping out and mortifying us at unexpected moments. #racism #eracism #Christianity Click To Tweet

Satan loves it when we fight each other, it distracts us. If he can make us believe that someone else (other than him) is the enemy, he has won the fight (and probably the war).

Yesterday a student (a Native American), pointed out a snippet of dialog in a non-fiction book. A character had called someone a bad name, combined with a reference to that person’s religion. “Is that ok to use that word?” I asked my student.

“Of course,” he said, “he’s the enemy.”

“Just because we don’t agree with someone else, doesn’t give us the right to call them names, nor identify them as the enemy,” I explained.

My student shook his head in disbelief. I moved on, hoping that the seed I planted will one day grow and release him from the it’s-ok-to-bash-the-enemy mentality that others have used against him and his people. The irony.

As Christians, we need to inventory our closets and identify the hidden racist beliefs that lurk within. Before we plan a program, post a photo, or release an opinion, we need to filter ourselves and evaluate if our actions have the potential to misrepresent the all-encompassing love of Jesus.

Christians have a responsibility to represent Jesus and his love for everyone--even people who aren't like you. #racism Click To Tweet

How to Release Racism

1. Acknowledge that EVERYONE (including you) harbors racism and prejudice.

2. When someone points out that a belief or action of yours is racist or prejudiced, humbly listen to their point of view.

3. Enter into a conversation of reconciliation. Reconciliation conversations don’t include name-calling, absolutes, or refusals to admit that the other person has a valid opinion. Saying, “I didn’t mean to be racist,” isn’t an excuse. If you accidentally slam a door in someone’s face, you apologize.

4. Remember that the real enemy lurks about causing dissent and hate among us (1 Peter 5:8). Our fellow travelers on earth are NOT the enemy. Sure, they may do stupid, evil, sinful, hateful, horrible, really bad things, but Jesus died for them, too. He wants to see them in heaven just as much as he wants to see you in heaven.

5. Pray. Pray for forgiveness for your self and corporate forgiveness for all Christians who have perpetrated racism by thoughtless words, acts, or ignorance (not to mention deliberate actions).

Q4U: Have you ever been the victim of prejudice or racism? Has it made you more sensitive to how you treat other people?