In the late seventies, I became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and began attending church regularly. My brothers and sisters in Christ were all white, but then race wasn’t relevant to me. I was just happy to have new friends. There’s one thing I didn’t know about my new church: Racist ideology existed alongside their theology and led them to actions that were contrary to the Word they taught. We must understand this important truth: racism is systemic and it shapes the policies that govern every institution, including the Church. I was unaware of all of this at the time I accepted Christ. I was new to faith and spiritual things, and I believe God shielded me from the worst of it so I could grow in my faith. I was naive and trusting, longing to please God. For the most part, I received a strong foundation of biblical teaching about the Person and work of Christ, the inerrant Word of God, and the basic truths of evangelical Christianity. But not all they taught me was biblical. The following story is a case in point.
Bob H. and I were seniors at Northwest High in Omaha, NE. Bob introduced me to the gospel and invited me to his church, Omaha Gospel Hall. Since I didn’t know anyone else, I sat by him during the services and he gave me a ride home. I wasn’t in love with him, but I wondered what it would be like to marry a white man. He even talked about taking me to dinner. That was the first and last time I sat near him and got a ride home from him. Our coming and going didn’t go unnoticed by the congregation, especially the leadership. That very week I was taken aside by a couple at their home and they read a bible verse in Genesis 1:11-12 “Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.” They pointed out that God created everything “after its kind” and since Bob and I were two different kinds of human beings because of our skin color, we were supposed to stay with our own “kind”. After that talk, we prayed and I went on my way. That was racism embedded in the fabric of a Christian Church, fueled by the centuries-long conflict between the races. This conflict still exists today because the erroneous ideology of white domination is kept securely in place.
In her book White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo. deep dives into what racism means. I won’t go into detail here, so I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are white. It opened my understanding, as a person of color. She details the difference between racism and prejudice: “Prejudice is pre-judgment about another person based on the social groups that person belongs. Prejudice consists of thoughts and feelings, including stereotypes, attitudes, and generalizations that are based on little or no experience and then are projected onto everyone from that group”. She goes on to say that we all have prejudices. It is when those prejudices are “backed by legal authority and institutional control, that it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.” It is so deeply entrenched in our society that it is more difficult and complex to fight against. Racial Reconciliation is the key to standing up against racism at the deepest level: the hearts of human beings.