How I Recognized And Repented Of My Own Racial Prejudice

Over the last few years, there have been numerous articles, books, sermons, and conferences on racial reconciliation from a Christian worldview. And they’ve called to my mind some of the things that God has taught me personally about the issue of racial prejudice. Earlier in my life, it wasn’t on my radar. There were other things that I was wrestling through, and racism just wasn’t one of them.

My understanding of racism began at an early age. Sparing the details, my great-grandfather was known for his dislike (maybe even hatred) for people who were not white. I was only 5 when he died, but I have vague memories of horrible conversations where racial slurs were thrown out without thought to their destruction. My grandfather wasn’t a Christ-follower, and he grew up in a home that didn’t value or see people as image-bearers of God. However, he, in his own way, pushed back on the seemingly complete hatred his father (my great-grandfather) showed. With each generation, there has been a deeper understanding of the pain and destruction caused by the sin of racism. In this article, I’d like to share my journey concerning this important issue.

Here are some of the lessons I’m learning:

First, in order to combat any sin, you must first name it (1 Jn 1:9).

In overcoming sin – especially generational sin – you must first be willing to name it. Because of my family’s history, to say I wasn’t affected by racism would be false. My parents strived to teach my siblings and me that all people are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), and therefore worthy of respect, honor, and equal treatment. But, I, to a large part, lived in a solely white world. I went to a private school that had very few students of other ethnicities. I went to a white church that only had three black families. And, I played on sports teams that included no diversity. It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally had non-white friends.

Living in a white world with very little exposure to cultures unlike mine caused me to become partial. Without realizing it, I had grown to think that my way (the white way) was the best way. My style of worship was the only way God received worship. My style of preaching, teaching, and talking was the only “correct” way in order for people to understand spiritual truths.

I had spent so much time resisting the generational sin of racism (which, to me, meant merely that I treated everyone the same) that I lost the understanding that racism is really seeing your race as superior to another.

It took God taking me to another country to get me to the place where I could look at my own racial prejudice, call it what it is: Sin. And then, I could seek His forgiveness for it.

Second, understanding should always come before seeking to be understood (Jms 1:19-20).  

After college, the Lord led me to spend two years serving, living, and playing in another country. Suddenly, I went from being the majority to the {extreme} minority. I was often referred to as the “white devil” (on a bad day) and a “foreigner” (on a good day). My human nature was to demand to be understood before I sought to understand. Slowly, I realized that I had spent most of my life doing the same. I wanted others to listen to me without hearing them first. I desired for them to understand my point of view and conform to my perceived “norms” without thinking of how that would affect them. But growing up in a predominately white society, I never stopped to think about my culture.

Actually, I didn’t realize I even had a culture!

Most everyone I knew did life the way my family did. We played the same. We worshipped Jesus the same. We entertained the same. And, we thought the same. It wasn’t until I was left alone, without my white culture to “protect” me, that I realized the world was indeed beautifully multi-dimensional. There was so much I didn’t know about the world, and therefore, so much I didn’t know about God.

I learned that other cultures emphasize certain characteristics of God that my own culture does not emphasize. I learned other cultures parent their children differently than mine. I learned that cultures have social norms that are acceptable to them, but are offensive to others.

But, more importantly, I learned there is a unique and beautiful commonality for all of us who claim Jesus as Lord.

When I stopped long enough to listen instead of speak, God showed me that He alone is the One who can bring unity and understanding to a place and people that have only known conformity.

Finally, understanding others is a lifelong process that requires much patience and persistence (Eph 4:1-6).

After living as a minority in another country, I came to understand a little of what my non-white friends often experience every day. The suspicion, distrust, uncertainty, weird looks, and, at times, flat-out meanness was a norm for me while I lived there…and it is a norm for so many others. No one wants to be seen as suspect just because of their skin color. No one wants to be the “token friend” in order to prove a point. And, no one wants to be counted as inferior because they don’t share the same culture.

Being friends and living life with people unlike you can be difficult, take a lot of work, and require humility for everyone. But, that is exactly what God wants from His people and designed for our lives. When I was young, I was rarely stretched to see life from a different viewpoint. Now, I know the blessings I missed from seeing how different cultures and different people think about the same topic. I missed seeing all of God’s character reflected in the way an issue was handled. And, I certainly missed out on some amazing friendships and meaningful conversations.

But, now, I am the parent. And, I’m purposefully seeking to help my children grow up around people who don’t look, think, talk, or experience life the way they do. My prayer for them is they will embrace all people as God’s image-bearers, see others for the unique way they were created, and celebrate what makes us different.

Will I (or they) always get it right? Probably not. After all, we still live under the curse of sin. But, by God’s grace, my children will love and embrace all ethnicities and fully break the cycle of sin that was predominant in my family. Lord, may it be so!

One thought on “How I Recognized And Repented Of My Own Racial Prejudice”

  1. A says:

    Thank you. It is hard to hear from friends they never thought of racism growing up bc I could never not think about it bc of my color. I appreciate your understanding. I think it all boils down to pride thinking of ourselves first before others that we are so smart. But God can use anything or anyone He chooses. And as easy as I am the first today I can be the last tomorrow, and how I treat those I perceive as last matters bc God doesn’t see things as we do. Those we may feel better than maybe have things figured out that we don’t. So I have to check myself on the regular.