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FIRST-PERSON (Jeremy R. Haskins): Confessions of a former racist

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day provided a significant moment for me as a dad. As I threw baseball with three of my four sons, I stopped for a moment to consider with amazement the scene before me. There stood three boys, two white and one black, and they all with equal rights share my last name.

I have often thought like Brad Paisley, “If I could write a letter to me and send it back in time to myself at 17….” If possible, the first thing I would do is rebuke every bit of the residue of racism that was alive in my life at that time.

I grew up in the rural south and as a teenager racism was still very much ingrained in my culture. It was subtle, selective and for the most part behind the scenes. However, when it reared its head it often directed its venom at two things that I now value most in life: family and missions. It was a racism that allowed us to distinguish between those we claimed to love and pray for in Africa and those we neglected in our neighborhoods.

It breaks my heart to say that “the way I was raised” often trumped the Gospel on certain issues of race. I’m very proud of where I am from, but this is one root I’ve had to dig up, burn and destroy. In doing so, I’ve realized that racism isn’t just cultural — it is satanic.

As I watched my oldest son teach his little brother the right way to hold his glove when fielding a ground ball it brought me to tears. I immediately thanked God that I was literally seeing the sin of their father pass over them. I praised Him for the way my family is a repudiation of the anti-Jesus prejudices I once subtly embraced.

The truth is, at 17, I already had a letter that had been written to me. I held it in my lap every Sunday morning. I just wasn’t really paying much attention to it. If I had, maybe I would have repented of my sin of racism, understanding that, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth having determined their allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places” (Acts 17:26).
Jeremy R. Haskins is associate pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

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  • Jeremy R. Haskins