Our church Life Group is reading “More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel” by Spencer Perkins (black man) and Chris Rice (white man).
I’ve been trying for so long to wrap my head around how racism perpetuates. And who am I to speak on this issue now? The more I read, learn, and experience, the more confused I become.
Before we met last week, I thought my experience living in a black neighborhood, joining a black church, and signing my son up for sports with black teams had educated me about a portion of the black experience. I know how it feels to be surrounded buy people who look alike, but different from me. They were all so beautiful with their rich chocolate skin, magnificent curly/kinky hair, glamorous full lips and high cheekbones. And I was so pasty with my chalky caucasian skin, boring flat hair, skinny fish lips and pointy nose. I thought I understood the worry of trying to “pass” in order to fit in and keep my social standing so that my son could have black friends and grow up within black culture.
But then our group engaged in a mind-blowingly open discussion leaving me with the conclusion that I have absolutely no idea. The basic sentiment was similar to this…
When I was 15, my best friend was killed in a car accident. His mother and I found comfort in spending time together, and we grew close over time. I remember innocently, but horribly naively telling her that I thought I could understand a piece of her pain because my cat had died of cancer a few months before Trey died. She patiently explained that there was really no comparison between those losses. Now that I am a mother, I feel embarrassed that I made such a foolish comment. And, last week I felt equally foolish about thinking I could ever begin to comprehend the challenges of being a black person in a white man’s society.
In Chapter 3, Chris Rice spoke to this type of revelation and to the white person’s situation in the issue of racial reconciliation. He remembers (as I do with a cringe) thinking and saying ignorant things like: “I didn’t cause it, and I shouldn’t have to suffer for it.” And those people who don’t yet understand why that is an wrong way of thinking need to dig until they find the answer. “One of the character traits of a reconciler is a willingness to confront conflict…” and to learn how “vital it is to get everyone’s honest thoughts on the table. If they aren’t brought into the open and dealt with decisively, as (their) experience began to prove, they eventually boil over…”*
“Given the fact that white European culture is dominant in this country; given the legacy of racial discrimination that puts whites at an advantage in our society, even in the church; unless we make an intentional effort to affirm black leadership, culture and style, whiteness will always dominate.”*
“It was hard to accept the fact that if we left things as they were, with no emphasis on color, whites would eventually end up in most leadership positions. Yet we had learned that this was indeed the case.”
“Whites could go anywhere and find no doors closed. Here they needed to step aside, while blacks needed to step forward.”
I think one of the answers was stated really well by Dr. Ivory Phillips: “We will not begin to deemphasize white, we will just begin to value the qualities that blackness brings to the body.”*
“Whites often ask me, ‘How do I know when I’m really dealing with the race issue?’ ‘When you begin to feel uncomfortable.’”*
* These quotes are from “More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel” by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. I can’t give a page number, b/c I have the Kindle version. All I know is that I read them in Chapter 3.