A great challenge for white people is to try to put ourselves in the shoes of a minority in America. I think this act of walking a mile in one’s shoes, which is a very Christ-like, loving, and incarnational thing to do, comes very unnaturally to us. It’s an act I’ve been trying hard to do, and in doing so, has softened and opened my heart in so many ways.
Many times, whites honestly don’t believe the stories we hear from black people about their experiences, or we roll our eyes. Sadly, I’ve been guilty of this. When a black person tells about their experience as a black person, more often than not, we simply don’t listen. What’s ironic is how popular the 1961 book Black Like Me was and still is. The international best-seller is the account of John Howard Griffin, a white man who artificially changes his skin color to black and chronicles the six weeks he spent living in the deep South of 1959. Would a 6-week diary from a black man living in the deep South in 1959 (or today) have become an international bestseller?
The irony of this simply shows a very real truth: the experience of minorities in America is real and is different than what we as whites assume it to be. To not listen, or to invalidate what we do hear, is simply unloving. I’m saddened that so many whites put up defenses (and assumptions) whenever the issue of race is brought up, rather than putting ourselves in the position of a learner and humbly just listening to the experiences of our brothers and sisters of color.
There are of course big things that make up these experiences, yet there are also little things that most white people would never even think of, I know I hadn’t until recently. The fact that most bandages are made in a “flesh” color that matches white people’s skin as a way of not drawing attention, but if you’re black, you end up looking like this:
The same goes for “flesh” colored makeup and underwear. To call something “flesh” colored that only matches white people’s skin is a subtle way of reminding someone that white skin is normal and that you don’t really belong if you don’t have it. If you are rolling your eyes at this as a white person, ask a few black people their opinion of this seemingly small thing and listen to what you hear from them.
Speaking of “normal”, what about shampoo? Micah Bournes, a black spoken word artist, does a great poem entitled “Normal Hair”…
Would you be called a racist if you went around telling black people they aren’t normal? Or that they are abnormal?
So why can shampoo get away with it?
I’m not going on a crusade to boycott Garnier shampoo or the Band-Aid brand (yes, I know darker colors are made now–though obviously the Celtics athletic trainer didn’t have room in his budget for them…), I’m simply asking that white people, like myself, become listeners and learners. If we want to overcome the black/white racial divide in our country, this is the only position to proceed with.
Would you want to be in community with someone who doesn’t listen and who invalidates your experience?
If you are white, I challenge you to try to put yourself in an American situation where you are the minority. This is difficult to do because we are the majority and dominate most social spheres. Visit an all-black church this Sunday and take careful note of the anxieties and insecurities you feel. This is exactly how minorities feel when they visit your all-white church, or attend your all-white school, or live in a majority-white culture.
- Ep. 55: Conversation with Co-Host Chase Stancle about Gentrification and Redlining - September 23, 2021
- Ep. 54: What has God put on your heart to do? - September 12, 2021
- Psalm 45 Devotional – Jesus the King and Husband - September 12, 2021