Racist or Privileged
This past week was heavy and weighty due to current events, the sadness of George Floyd’s wrongful death, the peaceful protests, the outbreak of riots, and violent outbursts causing my son to temporarily flee the city he lives in.
As peaceful protestors have brought submerged issues to the forefront, I have reflected, ‘Was I/Am I racist in my thoughts and/or actions?’ I was born of white European descent – those frequently referred to as privileged in the US.
Growing up in a small rural Midwest town, the first person of color I met and knew was in college. I lived with my grandparents during that time and have a vivid memory of learning my grandparents were racist.
A black family lived next door to them. I had witnessed my grandmother have brief neighborly chitchat when she and the neighbor were simultaneously in their respective back yards or driveways. I also felt Grandma’s polite but urgent need to quickly disengage and retreat to the house, for some mysterious pressing thing. This was confusing to me – grandmother was social, why not fuel the conversation, let it blossom?
Unfortunately, the answer became clear to me one day. A classmate and I arranged to study for an exam, and I had presumed it would be ok to do so at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, at the kitchen table. They forbade me to study with a black male in their home.
My classmate and I changed plans and met at the public library. On my return home, I discovered my grandparents had locked me out of the house. I was mortified by their attitude and their actions. What was wrong with meeting to study? What was rational about locking me out of the house? What were they imagining was going to happen? What were they so fearful of? It hurt. I could not understand why the color of one’s skin would determine if a person were worthy to enter the house or study with. Shouldn’t it be an individual’s moral character that mattered? Is the person honest, trustworthy, patient, kind, etc.?
30 Years Later
I have four family members that are black. The color of their skin is not the focal point of my mind – they are my grandchildren whatever skin tone they were assigned at birth. Therefore, I have not thought about remarks, degrading looks or condemning actions they may have endured just because their skin is a darker shade than mine. So, I realize I have experienced white privilege. Anyone being treated or regarded different because of their biological features is flat-out unjust!
On a short-term mission trip to Haiti, I had another disconcerting experience. Strangers would reach out and touch my hair. I understood they were curious, they were saying, “blanch, blanch,” which is the word “white” in Haitian Creole language. I’m certain they meant no harm. Nonetheless, it was uncomfortable and made me feel anxious walking crowded streets or markets.
My episode was brief, not for a life-time as many blacks endure. When people live through offense after offense for years, without Christ, there is going to be a boiling point, the volatile moment where years of suppressed anger explode.
Unfortunately, there are no broad sweeping quick-fix answers. We live in a world of broken, hurting people. All of us need/want to be loved, respected, heard and treated justly.
As Christians we have good news – we have a role model through the life of Jesus Christ. We are given power through the presence of the Holy Spirit. As we examine our own lives through the teachings of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, we will become people who treat others with justice and defend those who are vulnerable.
For Further Study
Review a dictionary definition for “justice.” Read Isaiah 1:15-20. Meditate on verse 17. How do you pursue justice? Ask the Father what He would have you do. He will direct you.
Holy Father, thank You for the awakening You are bringing about in our nation and around the world. Forgive us of our bigotry. Open our eyes to see all people as You see them. Cause us to see other humans as people of dignity, worthy of respect because they are Your creations, made in Your image.
Lord, have mercy on us as we navigate through the anger, grief, sadness and pain of injustice. Bring Your peace to this world. Fill our hearts with compassion and understanding. Make us people who are quick to listen and slow to speak. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us hear the heart of other individuals with new insight that moves humanity toward unity.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, grandmother, great-grandmother, foster care parent, and trauma survivor. I enjoy sipping tea, writing devotionals, prayers, short stories, and unburdening my heart to the Lord. Check the About section if you want to read more of my story.
Copyright © 2020 Musings of Manette Kay™ All rights reserved. Requests to the author and publisher, Manette Kay, for permission.
Fish in water photo image from Pixabay.
Modifications and text added by Manette Kay.