I am a white woman from the Deep South. As a kid, I heard white people use racist slurs, I was taught a white-washed version of history in school, and I walked by a store that sold Confederate memorabilia which included KKK gear and caricatures of African American people.
Though many of these things made me uncomfortable as a kid, I did not attribute the word sinful to my experience.
But I do now.
As I thought about all I want to say about racism, prejudice, injustice, and the world’s response to George Floyd’s murder, I felt conflicted. There was so much I could say about how “you” are wrong and how “that guy” is ignorant or how “she is part of the problem.” A simple glance at social media revealed deep divisions even among friends, and I could feel my desire to fight for justice rise up in my throat. Yet I did not simply want to add to the noise without seeking real and meaningful solutions.
I desire to speak meaningfully and carefully in this moment, and this is my attempt.
I know that racism, prejudice, and injustice are real and current sins in our world.
How do I know?
Because they are and have been real and current sins inside me. I wouldn’t dare try to examine the nuances of racial reconciliation in a simple blog post. There are far more qualified people in the world to do that anyways. But I am responsible for my own heart, my own sin, my own struggles.
I could never ask my African American brothers and sisters to trust that I will fight against systemic racism if I don’t first confess that I have sinned against them, and ultimately against the Lord.
For there to be substantial change in our world against racism, it must start with individuals owning their sins.
Somewhere along the way, I began to believe that people of color commit more crimes than white people. At some point in my life, avoiding eye-contact with men whose skin was darker than mine became my default. I learned to lock my car doors at red lights in mostly black neighborhoods. No one sat down and told me to my face to believe these things or behave this way. I did it all blindly, believing that it was normal and right.
Though I never really believed that white people were fundamentally better than African Americans or any other people of color, my prejudices told a different story, even if unintended. Prejudice is a belief formed without fact. Just take one as an example: “Black people have a greater propensity toward criminal behavior than white people – or any other people group for that matter.” Sure, a crime-stat report might seemingly affirm this. But is it really true or just a prejudice?
I was taught to research the context, historical background, authorial intent, and language of the Bible so that verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) are not used to convince people that they can run a 2-minute mile. I now confess and lament that I have, at times, changed my tune and took statements like “Black people have a greater propensity toward criminal behavior” at face value. I have not always done the hard work to research and educate myself to understand the real meaning of a phrase like that.
Well, I’ve started the hard work, and I know why my impulse is to avoid the challenge. It is because when I began the work, I started to see my prejudice for what it really is: sin. With great sorrow and shame, I lament my sin, knowing the wickedness of my heart and knowing how I've sinned against my fellow image-bearers, and against God.
I avoided calling my prejudices by their name because I do not want to be associated with sin. I do not want to admit I’ve entertained racist thoughts.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” – 1 John 1:8-10.
I have a lot of work to do. Calling prejudice against my fellow image-bearers by its God-given name (Sin) is necessary. I haven’t overcome every sinful thought or action. I will continue to confess and continue to ask for help to not be blind toward my sin. Fellow Christians, we are so often blind. We must, like David, ask God to search the parts of our heart hidden to us and reveal any sin that we may not even know about (Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 19:12-13).
I am broken clay, begging to be mended and molded by my merciful Savior.
By the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, I can confess my sin and trust the Spirit will sanctify me. I long to see and love my black brothers and sisters as God does. Our Lord infused His image in humanity; we all breathe His air and we all were knitted together by His hands. One day, all my sin will be no more, all the world will know that Christ is Lord, and all the believers of the earth from every skin color, tribe, tongue, and nation will stand before the throne (Revelation 5:9). We will look at Jesus’ face and be overwhelmed by His love for us. We will sing together forever because though we were sinners, all prejudice, bias, injustice, and hatred were paid for on the cross (Romans 5:8).
And I know that this is true.
How do I know?
Because God has promised, and He is and has been and will always keep his promises.
“Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” – Revelation 21:3-4.
So let us confess our sins, bear with one another in love, and pray for one another, that we may be healed (Ephesians 4:2, James 5:16).