Are We Racists?

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I wrote the following after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson last year, but in light of the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, felt led to re-post it.

Of course we are. We’re all a little bit racist.  And sexist. And speciesist. And dozens of other-things-ist. So I’m not writing to this say what “they” should do, but what I think I should do. And to explain why I say we’re all a little bit racist.

First, an ist is simply a bias or leaning either away from or toward something. Hence Botanists lean toward botany, not away from it. So don’t worry, if you’re a botanist, I’m not going to ask you to renounce botany (though you may want to lighten up on those anti-biologist jokes). We lean away from what we do not understand. We lean toward what we understand. And we all understand our own race better than anyone else’s. Still, the way it is isn’t the way it has to be. Or should be.

The church I attend is trying to become multiracial. To that end, our leaders visited another church that is much further down this road, and asked, “What’s the key?”

“Intentionality,” they answered. Two former congregations, one black, one white, merged into one. The former pastors became co-pastors, the black choir and white worship band became one worship team. Sound inspiring? It was. Eventually. But initially—for the first two or three years—it was frustrating, jarring, and for many simply too much to bear.

The word “they” was used with sickening regularity. More than half of the members of both former congregations left, uncomfortable over the loss of their style, their traditions. What remained was a reduced body of dogged believers who were willing to sacrifice what was for what could be.

The real change came not from policies or preaching, or even multicolored pew sitting, but from small groups. Groups intentionally made up of black and white members began meeting in homes. They shared and prayed. It was awkward at first, so they shared and prayed about that.

Eventually they began to weep and rejoice over each other’s tragedies and triumphs. They became part of one another’s lives, attending weddings, funerals, birthday parties, grill-outs. The need for intentionality didn’t go away—it never does. But now they are an us, and when they have issues they are “us issues.” In other words, they are family.

Fear, not hate, is the opposite of love. 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Of course, fear, left untreated, can fester into hate. But the cure is still the same: love. The more you know someone, the more invested you become in them, and the more invested you become, the more you love them.

So this is what I intend to do: I intend to become more deeply invested in the lives of those who are not of my own race. How? I’m not certain. To join or start a small group like the ones described above? Probably. My wife and I are also looking into a local mentoring program that walks with kids all the way through graduation. Whatever we do, it will be an intentional effort…

To become part of a new us.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Are We Racists?

  1. Heather says:

    Good point about “ists”.
    We all tend to gravitate toward thinking which favors our own narrow perspective on things.
    I like the emphasis on intentionality, as it is a great reminder that we are able through Christ to overcome our selfish, fearful inclinations.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Kelly Anne Liberto says:

    Thank you Mitch- what a great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. mitchteemley says:

    Thank you, Kelly!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Matilda Novak says:

    This is really Good, Mitch.
    I went to your FB page hoping to be able to re-post, but didn’t see it there.
    Have to leave the house now, but may try again tomorrow.
    Thank you, for sharing your thoughts the way you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mitchteemley says:

    Thank you, Matilda! No, I didn’t post it on Facebook. But there’s a “Share This” button for Facebook right after the post (above). Or you can simply copy the URL, and then paste it on Facebook yourself. Have a blessed day!


  6. Thank you Mitch – for one more thought provoking message from a very gifted writer.

    What a great line… “…to weep and rejoice over each other’s tragedies and triumphs….” it is really just that simple. Maybe the word for bigotry should be ‘envy’. When the subject of prejudice or intolerance comes up I tell people about the only prejudice I ever knew my mother to have – she didn’t care what race or religion or nationality, BUT, if you could eat anything you wanted without gaining weight, boy, did she envy you!

    Don’t let the bigots win… we are all more alike than different. “…to weep and rejoice over each other’s tragedies and triumphs….” that should be the golden rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Thank You, Dr. King! | Mitch Teemley

  8. Lucie says:

    Hm…I don’t know how I missed this when you first wrote it, Mitch….Excellent piece. One that I wish I had access to when we were having this discussion among our faculty members years ago…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. VocareMentor says:

    I missed this post the first time around. “Intentionality” to make changes in my life to connect with those of a different race, different traditions, different outlook. – Thank you Mitch for again linking to this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jamila Smith says:

    I believe that a lot of racism that happens is subconscious, and therefore not noticed or thought much of. One of the main ways to change this is through being with people who we believe to be different from ourselves, like what you talk about here. This post is a really good read, like usual!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. calmkate says:

    Acknowledging and accepting diversity is what makes us stronger. I have always been curious about those of other races and am grateful for all that they have taught me.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: Are We Racists? — Mitch Teemley | Perspective

  13. Pingback: The Cure for Racism? | Mitch Teemley

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