Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Racism - it's not just black and white anymore

I've heard alot of talk lately about race. Many of the pundits are saying that this election wasn't about race, but I don't believe that to be true. In the weeks leading up to the election, my support for John McCain was sometimes sneered at as if it was a vote for racism. I heard black people say how it was time for a black president, listened to the Howard Stern interview of black people in Harlem who swore allegiance to Obama without knowing what he stood for, and even had some of my white friends say that it was time to "stick it to" the white people by electing a black man. Now, people are pointing to this election and saying that we've come so far in race relations in this country. I hope it's true, but I don't see it. I feel like we're more polarized than ever.

Let me make it clear from the beginning - racism is WRONG. Hating or discriminating against someone for the color of their skin is ignorant and has no place in our country. Unfortunately, it is alive and well and maybe especially here in the South. And, it is so sad. I've been wrestling with my response to all I see and hear around me. I stand in a complex place as a white girl raised here in the South. By my writing this blog, I in no way mean to condone racism because it is a very ugly part of our culture here and across the country.

I grew up in a home where racism was NOT ok. But, I must say that my parents are the first generation (that I can see) in their families who think this way. Some older members of my family have expressed racist views, although often in sugar-coated "Southern-Speak". Others have not been so cautious but have spoken horrible things that spring from deep-seated hatred. I am also a 7th generation descendant of Robert E. Lee and the conflict of conscious he wrestled with has worked it's way through to my generation.

In some cases, the anger on the part of my family members is understandable. My Grandmother worked hard for many years and had worked her way to a coveted position. But, as she sat poised to take the next step in her career path, her job was given to a black woman in order to fill a quota. So, the reward of her hard work was taken from her, not by someone with more experience or who was better qualified, but by someone who's skin color was different. I understand that something had to be done to help equalize our society. But, I wonder if things like Affirmative Action haven't divided us even farther.

In the South, the issue of race runs deep. It's been a part of our culture for so long. There is a certain Southern Pride that is misunderstood by the rest of the country. We are labeled as racists, rednecks, Bible-beaters, and hillbillies because we take pride in being from the South. Racism is alive and well, but it's not only felt by those of African American descent.

Just because white Americans are currently the majority, doesn't mean they don't experience discrimination. Many would argue that it doesn't compare to what is faced by other races, but that is becoming a less valid argument with each passing year. No one would argue that anyone of color (Hispanic, Asian, Black, etc) faces certain discrimination. But, what about women? I find the treatment of Sarah Palin to be appalling. For the life of me, I can not understand how it was ok for someone to hang an effigy of her from a tree in California and not face censure. But, that is our first amendment right, isn't it? But, what if it had been an effigy of Barack Obama swinging from that tree? Would the reaction have been the same? Of course not. The nation would have been up in arms over it and someone would have likely paid with their liberty. Is that ok? Of course not. And, what of the white male? He has become a hunted species. The next time you sit down to watch TV, take notice of how the white male is portrayed. Often in commercials, he is ignorant and unaware. Often in sitcoms, he is weak, stupid, and made a fool. And, we laugh at it. We have slowly let it creep into our consciousness.

The problem of racism comes from all directions. Perhaps we shouldn't say "racism" - but, call a spade a spade and just talk about hate. Because, all across the country people are hated, now more than ever it seems, for a variety of things. There's hate among the races. There's hate between political parties. There's hate between denominations. It's become an oxymoron in many circles to say you are Pro-Woman and Pro-Life. There's more than enough hate to go around.

So, what do we do about it? What is the church's role in all of this? It should be different in the church. Sadly, it's not. And, that's where "The Change We Need" needs to start...in the hearts of God's people. As we see things going on around us that don't reflect the love of Christ, it's our job to gently correct - not judge - our neighbor. When we see someone lash out, we need to ask for grace to see the reason. That hate comes from somewhere. For some, it is what they were taught and they just need to be re-education. For others, it comes from wounds that have been inflicted, sometimes over and over, by representatives of another race. And for others, they are tired of not having a voice for fear that they will be seen as racist when all they really want is true equality and they see the balance of power shifting. (And, by balance of power, I mean the "pass" that is given to black, etc, organizations. Could we ever have the White Music Awards, White Miss America, or any number of equivalent groups without being called racist or even possibly have our rights or liberty taken from us?).

I would encourage you to sift through the comments, many of which are truly ignorant and offensive, and look to the heart of the person and address the root. This is how we are to love, challenge, and sharpen each other as the Body of Christ. We need to set an example for those around us. Because, in Christ, there is no seperation of race or gender, only unity as children of God. Let's come together and get up and start making a difference in our communities by loving one another no matter our differences. The change we need is within our grasp if we only put others first and love like Jesus loved us.

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