Friday, May 18, 2007

What's In A Color?

There was a special on 20/20 tonight regarding "taboos" in America. The first item discussed was the usage of various racial terms considered politically incorrect. Specifically the "N" word was an object of dialogue. One question posed was why the "N" word could be used by Blacks but not by Whites. According to some of the interviewees either everyone should be able to use the term or no one.

Now, I'm not particularly interested in whether the "N" word should become part of the American vernacular. Rather, my interest was piqued concerning racial tension in general. I am often dumbfounded by the latent racism which rears its rather forceful head in some of my fellow white folk. I wouldn't consider myself racist by any means. In fact one of the most exciting things about going to Duke next year is the racial diversity of the campus (something sorely missing at IWU). But, sometimes I am confronted with the ugly racism in me. It's one thing to say you're not racist. It's another thing to maintain that position when contemplating living in an apartment complex with only one or two other white residents. As with many other beliefs we hold, the extent to which we actually believe what we say we do is tested by the practical implications of those beliefs.

It can be easy at times to detect a racist. When someone responds to allegations of racism with supreme defensiveness this can be a clue to the actual beliefs of that person. What we must do when we recognize our own racist speech, feelings, or thoughts is work to correct such attitudes with solidarity with those whom we feel ill towards. It doesn't matter that you didn't personally enslave a black person; the Christ-like response is not indignation that we are associated with heinous acts but is instead association with those against whom those heinous acts were committed. This means we must recognize that attempts to disentangle ourselves from association with white slave-owners is less effective (and more racist) than attempts to create solidarity with blacks. If we are busy thinking about our black brother and sisters we will completely forget the "need" to defend ourselves.

Granted, this is not only a "white" "black" dilemma. White Americans have a sad history of racial bigotry and have inflicted acts of hate on more racial groups than Blacks alone. But the content of the 20/20 was particular to "black" and "white" tension, hence so has the content of this post. May we see in Christ's association with the dejected and humiliated of society our call to associate with those who have been so as well. May we in Christ receive sight, and in receiving sight become blind to bigotry and illumined to diversity. May our latent racism be confronted.

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