We have begun a study on racial reconciliation and repentance. Before you click to close this post, I ask that you stick with me a little longer. You see, I have had to take a closer look at myself and a family legacy of prejudice that I thought had nothing to do with me. I have pulled back the curtain and seen that I do indeed have elements of unintentional and inappropriate thoughts about non-white people because of the era and family in which I was raised. And it saddens me to realize this about myself.
I grew up in a military community in the 60s and 70s. Our neighborhood was integrated more than most white communities at the time. By that I mean, there was one black family in our stairwell of six families. We were friends. We played together and our families shared meals together. I thought nothing of it but I can still remember my father bragging that he “had black friends” and therefore we couldn’t call him a bigot. Forget the terms he used if someone cut him off in traffic or didn’t give him correct change- words that click on in my mind without invitation.
Yet all around me were signs. Relatives who talked about “dark neighborhoods” outside the sphere of their white neighborhoods. My aunt who called my Pilipino brother-in-law a “darkie” because she thought he was black and didn’t know what he was doing with my sister. We laughed at that because she had dementia and we thought she was confused. About him yes, but not about her feelings toward African Americans. In our family that extended at times to Asians or Hispanics. Anyone whom they believed was less a person because of the color of their skin.
As I became a young adult I dated a few black men. It wasn’t until I met their families that I realized how different we were. How different our social-economic structure was despite making nearly the same amount of money. One of my future husbands almost broke up with me when he found out until I promised that we had never had sex. That made it alright for him because I wasn’t “tainted” but I never forgot how it made me feel. It made me think differently about men of color then I had before.
Over time I have had good friends who were white adoptive parents of black children. I witnessed their struggles as they came to realize that even though we treated their children as lovely beautiful children, the world did not always see them that way. Subtle messages were everywhere. Society taught me to fear if a black man approached me on the street or as I sat in my car. Television taught me that most criminals were black or Hispanic because that was their nature, not because they were targeted more than whites committing the same minor crimes.
I have so much more I need to learn.
There are many more scenes that I remember as I work my way through our study from the Repentance Project. It grieves me to think that my memory and mind and even my heart are filled with the negative connotations that I want no part of. I pray I have not passed along any of them to my daughter.
For me the first step in healing was to ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind those negative generational thoughts, words, and beliefs. I prayed that they would not be mine and that God would send them back to those who spoke them and break that influence on me. And then I asked that he give me new words. Words like human, equal, created in God’s image, beautiful, worthy, trustworthy, and friend. I will continue to pray that God will transform me and give me a boldness to change the story and to correct any injustices I see.
This is hard work. It is painful to admit that in the recesses of my brain I have thought less of non-white persons. I seek God’s forgiveness and pray for a transformation that influences others to do the same. This is where healing and change can begin. With me.
I hope you will walk this pathway of transformation with me. I hope I can encourage you to look at yourself and ask God to reveal the truth and remove any strongholds of prejudice in any area of your life. I pray God leads us all toward reconciliation in the name of Jesus.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.