“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” — Nelson Mandela.
Racism has many layers. It continues to exist with us despite good intentions. The question is where do we go from here? What do we need to look at that we haven’t noticed? What are possible subtle ways of perpetuating racism, layers that might not enter our minds, or stay in the shadows as we struggle to understand why we think and act the way we do? Sometimes we don’t think deeply enough about the issues for which we stand. Some of the layers (or symptoms) of racism include:
Employment: Let’s say you are an employer and you’ve solicited resumes. There are no pictures on them, just their education and experience, accomplishments, and credentials. You have four in front of you that have been vetted and are virtually identical in quality. You look at their names: two sound black, two sound white. Who are you going to call for the interview? Do you privately make an assessment of worth, value, capability, or likability based on names—even though the resumes are the same?
Dating and Marriage: You see a black man with a white woman on a date. Or they are married. How do you viscerally feel about it? Good or bad, neutral or biased, positive or negative? In God’s eyes, it’s not an interracial thing at all. It’s just two human beings whom He created for relationship with Him and with each other.
Assumptions: Four black high school students were going door-to-door to raise money for their football team in Wynne, Arkansas. One minute they were laughing and talking to each other, and the next minute they were on the ground in a stranger’s front yard with their hands behind their backs, while a white woman with a handgun ordered them to stay put. Before she even went out with her gun, she had already called the police. He had the children stand up, and they explained they were selling discount cards for their school athletic program. When she was asked why she pulled the gun on them, she said it was because all four boys were black and that area was white.
Pseudo-Acceptance: Another way of demonstrating shadow racism is through pseudo-acceptance. As one woman from Africa said to me, “Racism is if you invite me to a party but don’t invite me to dance with you.” Meaning, you didn’t truly invite me in to be involved or engaged. It is as hurtful to be in a room as the only black person and be shut out or not engaged.
Family Life: One last area where shadow racism can manifest itself is in our home life. What do your children hear you say? What do they see you do? How are you shaping their thinking, their perspectives? Does a viewpoint toward people of color come out as you drive, walk through a mall, or watch the news?
- Which of the five do you think is easiest to fall into doing?
- What do we need to this week to eliminate the shadows (Symptoms) of racism?