The horrors of racism stormed through my heart as I listened to my mother recount stories of her youth. These were stories I had never heard, piercing dramas that I could hardly fathom. You can imagine that my dark brown eyes became as wide as saucers as I heard the stories of human pride which led to the devaluation of so many lives.
Raised in the deep-south, in Mississippi, my mom was victim to the racist manifestations of this pride. When she went to the grocery store, white people were allowed to cut in line and shove her to the back. A trip to the movie theater meant she could expect that the white people in the balcony would pour coke and popcorn on her head. Most shocking of all perhaps, is the fact that the first conversation my mom ever had with a white person didn't take place until she was in her mid-twenties.
Although I've never experienced racism like my mom did, I have experienced some of the effects of this kind of hatred. As a young child, I couldn't help but notice that my skin wasn't like everyone else's. It was an unavoidable reality growing up in the suburbs of predominantly white middle class America. In my mind I would change my black skin into white skin. Truth be told, I thought white skin was better than black skin. The sad thing is I didn't come up with that idea on my own. The underlying currents of racism in America overshadowed much of my belief that God had made me precisely the way that I was and that I was beautiful in His sight.
I remember vividly the words of a so-called friend during high school who peered into my eyes and said, "Some black people are just n******." To me, this was her crass way of saying white people are better than black people, and she probably didn't come up with that framework of thinking on her own. It was most likely taught in her home; racial slurs and name-calling had probably been uttered in her home, perhaps from well-meaning people who actually believed that the statement was true.
At the time I was shocked into silence, and I actually pondered whether or not it was true. This same message continued into my college years, as I listened to a white male friend say, "I could never date someone of another race." Albeit this statement was milder perhaps, it was just as hurtful to me. While my friends may have never intended their remarks to hurt me, their words had a way of sinking down to the innermost places and recesses of my heart.
Without the power of God's Word, we are tempted to believe that such lies are true. The writer of Proverbs said it best, Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Today, I know that the ignorance of such statements reflects a deceived mind and heart. It is natural in our sin-ridden humanity to create idealistic images of everything. Not only are we prone to create a god in our own image, but also to make others conform to that image. We feel it necessary to put a stamp of approval on everything, from the types of clothing a person wears, to the kind of body shape that person has, to the kind of car one drives, even to the number of children a family has. It's ironic that a culture that hails diversity to the extreme generally exalts only one particular image of beauty, success, and happiness.
The issue of racism runs deep in a country where personal stories of segregation and racial discrimination are still retold by grandparents and parents. However, as Christ-followers, it falls to us to uphold Scripture's principles over the culture's philosophy and teachings. We are those who get to change the message. Believers are the ones who in Christ can say that God doesn't look at people like man does. God created all people in His image, and He wasn't looking for them to be identical in appearance. When Samuel was looking for the future king of God's people, God said to him, Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Racism is not just a white and black thing; it affects every race. Every race has experienced racism to some varying degree. Black supremacy is just as devastating to community as white supremacy. Racism, regardless of the race, is equally horrific and sinful in the eyes of God. Embedded in racism are many deeper issues, including the need to be valued, to possess worth, and to feel beautiful. Oftentimes, one desires to fulfill these needs by comparing themselves to others; however, exalting oneself will never lead to finding the true worth, value, and beauty which is found in Christ.
God has a way of healing all our hurts and our delusions according to His Word and according to His will. My husband is a handsome man with blue eyes, blond hair, and white creamy skin. Yet even today, I can see in the eyes of others at times the question, "What is he doing with her?" or "What is she doing with him?" My husband and I always smile back at them with grace to let them know that we have a secret they know little about, but one we are willing to share — we have learned that in Christ Jesus we are one.
Christ died for the sins of the world; His death and resurrection wasn't just for His own race, praise God, but for all people for all time who would believe on Him. With a right understanding of the Gospel, it is easier to navigate through a world system that insists on worshipping its own man-made images. What relationships, what community, what sweet fellowship has been lost, even in the church, because we are preoccupied with outward things? There is nothing inherently wrong with taking pride in our heritage. However, we need to take pride in the right heritage — a heritage that has its origin in Christ Jesus.
Peter speaks to the church in 1 Peter 2:9 declaring, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. The Lord is making each one of us beautiful, and it runs much deeper than the color of our skin.
Everybody Sees and Lives Life Through a Set of Lenses
Those lenses are formed through a lifetime of cultural experience, relationships, religious affiliation, and more. And having been formed, those lenses color everything we see.
In much of the world, the body of Christ is not living out the unity of the Gospel, choosing instead to separate ourselves according to our individual lenses. But imagine how different the world would be if Christ followers started to see themselves, each other, and the world through the lens of Christ?
Red Revolution is a call to look past our cultural differences and start embracing what we have in common — to begin to see Christianity as our primary culture and be united under that banner.
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