Racism: A Continuing Dilemma

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On Tuesday, I woke up excited because I submitted the final grades for my spring semester classes and it was my first day of summer vacation. I dropped the kids off at school and was planning to spend my day at Starbucks with my laptop. As I was driving to my destination, thoughts were oozing from my head and whenever I reached a traffic light, I busily scribbling my thoughts down, so they could not be forgotten.  I was so inspired and could not stop giggling to myself as I was singing with the radio.

Few moments into writing an introduction for my next blog post, a car speed toward me and had two passengers who were yelling words that I could not understand. As I stared at them to see what was wrong, they came closer to my car and threw garbage at my windshield. When I tried to speed away, they continued to chase me and threw more things out the window. As I turned to look at their faces, I was able to clearly understand their spirited words of “chink” spoken over and over.

I was stunned. Were they talking to me? Had I done something to cause such anger? As I sat in my car and was digesting the events that may have lead up to this event, it suddenly dawned on me that I am who others perceive me to be. No matter how much education, skills, or how I try to form a new identity, I will always be labeled by my group identity.

Growing up, I have had encounters that demonstrated how people viewed me as a racial type. When I had my first job at a college, my co-workers, who felt they knew me well, would try to genuinely connect with me by saying, “it reminded me of you,” and then talking about Karate Kid movies or a recent trip to the Asian portion of a museum. When I was in college, a good friend of mine who just finished Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, said she understood me and the Asian people better from reading the book. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to be judged by his character rather than the color of his skin, but in these incidents, I was not judged by my character because it was only about the color of my skin or my image.

Some people believe skin color does not matter or they do not see color when they look at a person. Yet, look at churches that are heavily segregated or studies that show children perform better academically when they are taught by individuals of the same race. To shut one’s eyes to these truths is to ignore how minorities are the fastest growing group in America.

When the issue of race is involved, people will often shape their information from their own experiences, family, culture, values, and beliefs. If one ever felt racism, he may believe that an individual, who comes off a certain way, is a particular type of person. Because of this, it may cause him to avoid or to make assumptions about a person and his situation.

It can even be a seed of bitterness because he is so wounded by an offense. When this occurs, it takes root in the heart and can turn one of two ways. It can be acknowledged and forgiven, in which case the heart heals and becomes stronger than it was before, or it can go the other way, where the offense is unforgiven and grows into bitterness. This is dangerous because it can lead a person to become what wounded him.

Michael Morris, a professor at Columbia University’s graduate school of business, has conducted fascinating research on culture and how others view different races. Professor Morris and his colleagues have found that people’s views operate like Transitions lenses: They activate, automatically, whenever they encounter triggers like pressure and stress. For this reason, they cannot be controlled, but can be managed through learning and asking questions that will help lead to the truth.

When Morris showed a photo of a person standing in front of a group, the Asian executives concluded that the person standing alone was an outcast. This is because in Asian cultures, community is widely viewed as the key to success. When the same photo was shown to American executives, they concluded that the person standing alone was the leader. To Americans, individual effort is the key to achievement.

Answers cannot be found until people acknowledge that various views exist when looking at race and culture. By doing this, hidden biases can be confronted and racial knowledge can be expanded.  On the same note, since race is a controversial topic even if one is careful, someone can get offended from the discussion.

In a culture where many do not consider the Bible, a moral compass, it is difficult to find agreement in what is right and wrong. Yet, instead of being guided by “Political Correctness,” Christians need to take a stand and be the salt of the world (Matt. 5:13) by preserving values and moral principles and making a contribution to the development of life. We are also to be the light of the world (Matt. 5: 14-16) by being torch bearers in this dark human race. Shining not to make ourselves look good in front of others, but so others will see our bearing of fruit, good deeds, and praise God.

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About JulieJK

After Julie had her first child in 2004, she felt God was calling her into ministry to be a Children's Minister. She feels blessed to be part of such a supportive church community that not only financially supported her education as a seminary student at Moody Theological Seminary, but has also provided endless discipleship, counseling, and encouragement. Julie has been married for eleven years and has two beautiful children. She considers both children a gift from God and acknowledges that parenting takes a lot of prayer and wisdom. When she is not sweating out pages for her book, she enjoys spending time with friends, reading a good book, and drinking lots of coffee.

9 responses »

  1. Julie, I am SO sorry (and angry!) to hear about that awful experience, in part because I’ve been on the receiving end of the same racial slur. Minus the garbage throwing, though… wow. And you live in the Chicago suburbs, correct? For any readers who may dismiss your experience as an anomaly, check out the following quote from a 2009 Time Magazine article about NBA star Jeremy Lin, then a Harvard basketball standout:

    “Everywhere he plays, Lin is the target of cruel taunts. ‘It’s everything you can imagine,’ he says. ‘Racial slurs, racial jokes, all having to do with being Asian.’ Even at the Ivy League gyms? ‘I’ve heard it at most of the Ivies if not all of them,’ he says… In the face of such foolishness, Lin doesn’t seem to lose it on the court. ‘Honestly, now, I don’t react to it,’ he says. ‘I expect it, I’m used to it, it is what it is.’ Postgame, Lin will release some frustration. ‘He gets pissed about it afterwards,’ says [Harvard teammate Oliver] McNally. ‘I have to tip my hat to him. I don’t know how I’d react. The type of dude I am, I might not be as mature as Jeremy.’”
    (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article)

    I agree wholeheartedly that we need to have more open, honest dialogue about race in this country. But you’re right, it’s often avoided because it’s such a touchy subject! I confess that I’ve chickened out about speaking up in the past, but I’ve realized that our voices can’t be heard if we (meaning me, not you!) don’t speak up. So kudos to you for speaking up!

    I pray that God’s love will penetrate and transform the hearts of the racial slur hurling, garbage throwing people in that car. And I also pray that your heart and mind will be like teflon, resistant to any emotional slime from that event sticking with you. Looking forward to meeting you! : )

    • Marlene,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was going to include Jeremy Lin and even the recent Northwestern University incident concerning two Indian students who were egged on the tennis court, but thought that I would save it all for another post=)
      Slavery, segregation, and discrimination are all things that people believe happened LONG time ago in history, but it is still going on in 2012. I know it can be difficult to talk about these things, but ignoring the issues will not make it go away. It never has. It never will. If history teaches us anything, it demonstrates when hurtful things are ignored, they will eventually return with a vengeance on others and society. We can’t ignore by sweeping painful words or events under a rug because it will eventually accumulate until there is too much to be contained.

      Thanks for your comments! I love the way you write and think!

  2. Hi Julie! Tragic topic, great article. Write on!

    I do a series on my own blog called “One Tribe” each Monday. It’s an open forum about racial healing and reconciliation. My desire for it is to have many contributors about the all-too-many manifestations of racism so that we can keep the conversation open. Would you be interested in sharing this post on it? The next opening I have is the week of Memorial Day. I’ll take Memorial Day off beause not many people will be online that day. How about Tuesday, May 29 to post this?

    Many blessings!
    Angie Mabry-Nauta

    • Hi!
      I am glad that you liked my blog entry. I am new to the blogging world, so I never know how my thoughts would be received by others.

      Thanks for the invitation to post during the week of Memorial Day. I am interested in taking part, but I will need instructions on how to do this. I am new to this area of writing.

      Warmly,
      Julie

      • Wonderful! Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging…you are a great addition, I assure you! 🙂 Please email me at revmabrynauta@gmail.com, and we can discuss details that way. I am so pleased that you’re open to sharing yourself and your experience. Just to get an idea of what my vision for “One Tribe” is, you make want to check out the two posts I’ve published for it. Many blessings to you!

  3. I found you through twitter 🙂

    I understand too well what you go through with racism as I am from Mexico. Once people know when I am from, all of a sudden I become a stereotype and my skin color even changes in their mind (I am not very dark at all…until they know where I am from. I know I have an accent, but all of a sudden it become “thick”). My mother told me once that God had used those experiences to prepare me to have my girls (one of my girls has down syndrome) and in some ways it has.

    Funny story. When I was pregnant with my first child people would say, “I cannot wait to meet her, she will be so beautiful with her dark skin, thick black hair and black eyes!” Jokingly I would answer back if they were suggesting I had cheated on my husband (who is of german decent and has blue eyes). Often times I would see surprised looks. When Ellie was born she had no hair, and her eyes were as blue as they come, she did get the “dark skin” comment though.

    • Ellen,
      Thanks for reading my blog and sharing your story. It is still surprising to me that racism still exists and people make such odd comments about skin color! When my daughter went in the sun last weekend, a group of women at church circled around her and kept commenting about her “black” skin. It was shocking!

      Thanks for sharing about your daughter with down syndrome. I really believe God gives special parents special children. You are truly blessed because I have found that down syndrome kids are the most loving and gifted. A writer friend of mine named Amy Julia Becker, wrote about her down syndrome daughter in “Good and Perfect Gift.” Have you read it? If not, you should consider putting it on your list of things to read because it is really good!

      Thanks for writing!
      Julie

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