We’re Asking the Wrong Question About Racism

Too many of us are getting hung up on the wrong question.

It’s easy to understand why. Harder to ask the right questions. I may have it wrong but here goes.

The question of the day is, of course, am I racist?

All of us are challenged to reflect on this, to confess to it if we realize it’s true, and to repent, to change, to progress.

There are a couple of problems with this question.

First, it’s begs a yes or no answer. We tend to grade ourselves on a curve and so often, compared to Nazis or the KKK, we score better so we give ourselves a no. No, I’m not even tempted by the KKK therefore, I’m not a racist.

This is problematic logic.

Second, even if we’ve prayerfully wrestled with this question and risen from prayer with the understanding that we aren’t essentially racist, someone will likely tell us we just aren’t woke enough or aware enough or authoritative enough on the topic to draw that conclusion.

Or, we’re blind to our own condition. Or we didn’t truly understand the question. Or we didn’t appreciate the full definition of racism as determined by today’s standard.

Any of that may hold shades of truth, so the ambiguity leaves us likely to become victims of a vague false guilt and nagging doubt from the evil one but with no effective action steps to address the issue. We flail about trying to bat this phantom racism away like an annoying gnat, but it keeps buzzing about distracting us from what may be actual areas of needed growth. (This is a common tactic of our enemy. Phantom guilt distracts us from true conviction.)

It’s a frustrating exercise to be told that on this particular topic, we can’t possibly be trusted to come to an informed decision through prayerful discussion with God. This fruitless cycle leaves Christians who are sincerely trying not to be racist frustrated and in despair. While those who do harbor hatred of others based on skin color are probably not losing sleep. (I hesitate to call these people Christians, though they may use the term for themselves because to hate is antithetical to following Jesus.)

Third, the notion that there are different “races” is problematic for most Bible believers who understand that there is one human race, designed thoughtfully and creatively by God with a variety of skin colors, cultures, and ethnicities. Am I racist? I believe there’s only one race and since God is for it, so am I.

Of course, I don’t consider myself racist. I’ve grown up believing people are created equal and that all humans deserve respect, dignity, and love. I accept the idea that I have blind spots and am open to correction, but I am open. Ergo, I respond, no, I’m not racist. Still, after hearing the cries of my brothers and sisters of color, I’m not comfortable just leaving it at that. And so I conclude that maybe I’ve started with the wrong question.

I go to God’s Word, as is my practice for all of life’s major quandaries, and I find myself thinking there are more productive questions to ask that actually lead me to places where I can change and take action. These questions inspire repentance, continued growth, and kingdom work:

Do I love the way Jesus loves? (John 5:13)

Do I love everyone Jesus considers my neighbor? Are there ways I could love them better or communicate that love clearer? (Luke 10:25-37)

How can I show love to those who are expressing anger, pain, and desperation at a system they’ve experienced as unfair? (1 Corinthians 12:26)

Am I engaging with people in my community who look different from me? Why not? (James 2)

Do the demographics of my church reflect the demographics of my community? Of the world? Why not? Is there room for improvement? (Mark 6:15)

Am I willing to be uncomfortable to help people who don’t feel included or accepted in God’s family feel more at home? (1 Peter 4:9)

Am I quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger? (James 1)

Do I care enough about Christians of color to forget about myself and listen to them talk about their experiences and their parents’ experiences without judgment or defensiveness? (1 John 3)

If I’m a Christian of color, am I willing to see my beyond the skin of my Caucasian brothers and sisters and see them the way I want to be seen, as individuals worthy of respect and acceptance? (1 John 3)

God loves justice. Are there actions I can take that would further the cause of justice in my community? Or have I given up on justice this side of glory? Have I stopped trying because it’s hard? Have I lost hope and if so, can I repent of my own hopelessness and return to the work in faith? (Micah 6:8)

Jonah was blind to his own racism when he ran in the opposite direction of God’s call on his life to speak truth to the Ninevites. Am I living in obedience to God’s full call on my life? Are there ways I’ve placed my own comfort first over delivering the good news of Jesus or of engaging in the ministry of reconciliation to people who are from different cultures or ethnicities? (Jonah)

Am I growing spiritually, in ever-increasing measure, in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love so that I am effective and fruitful in my faith? (2 Peter 1:1-10)

Would others say my life is marked by truth and love, both spoken and lived? Is the legacy I leave likely to be one of reconciliation, sacrificial living, and bringing glory to Jesus’ name? (Romans 12)

Can we imagine, for a moment, that if we worked with some of these questions that we might make a dent in reducing racism, deepening Christian community, and spreading the gospel at the same time?

If the question your asking yourself in this time in our generation leads you to change nothing, then you’re asking the wrong question.

And if you’re not asking any questions, then loved one, you’re not even paying attention.

You’re not racist? Good for you. But that’s a pretty low bar to clear for a son or daughter of the Most High God. Aim higher.

Jesus has set us free. We don’t live under threat of punishment. We live free from fear of condemnation.

Why NOT ask the hard questions and continue to grow up in Christ? 

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    The Conversation

  1. Pam Halter says:

    Thank you for this, Lori! You’ve expressed what I am feeling but didn’t have the words to say. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good word. Thank you for your thoughtful biblical exhortation.
    May God bless you abundantly as you continue to stand for truth.

  3. Tim says:

    Thanks, Lori! Great questions to ask ourselves.

  4. Charla says:

    Yes and amen, Lori. I absolutely love how God helps us see the world from His perspective.

  5. J.D. Wininger says:

    Well said author! I’ve been troubled of late by so many wonderful, earnest Christian people who have been “guilted” into believing they are racist simply because they are Caucasian. As you pointed out, the only “race” is the human race. All the other words, created by man, to differentiate, divide, and stir our emotions are simply that. Words. I might humbly add that there is a difference between prejudice and racism. Each of us carry certain prejudices in our hearts. It is part of the “human condition” resulting from the fall and it is also a learned response, based on the environments we are exposed to. Example. The Irish immigrants to America were despised by other Americans. Not because they were truly inferior, but because people were told they were. Same with Italian, Latino, and other immigrants. Some black children are taught to be prejudiced against the police because their parents tell them “You can’t trust cops, especially those white devils. You must keep your hands visible and on the steering wheel. They’ll shoot you just because you’re black.” Instead, why aren’t parents teaching their children (all children) to respect authority, have a strong sense of right and wrong, and to love other in accordance with the “golden rule.” We are naturally prejudiced against that which we cannot or choose not to understand. Racism, on the other hand, is acting upon those inherent prejudices we have developed. One fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control, and for me personally is the one I struggle with the most. Not because I don’t want to be “like Christ”, but because I am still in the process of becoming “like Christ”/attaining the attributes and traits of His character. All people, in my opinion, are prejudiced in some way or another. Sadly, people must CHOOSE to be racist. Loved this post ma’am. You shared God’s truth with a compassionate heart and earnest desire to bring God glory. God’s blessings Ms. Lori.

    • JD, I agree with some of your points but I will say, I believe many black children are taught to “keep your hands visible and on the steering wheel” because there’s sufficient statistical evidence that they are at higher risk of being treated differently by some police, especially in some areas of the country. I completely believe that some children of all colors are taught to hate, but many black children are taught right and wrong, love in accordance with the golden rule, AND be cautious and put your hands on the steering wheel when you’re pulled over because your life might depend on it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I could not agree with you more Ms. Lori. Children of all creeds, color, races, etc. are taught to hate. That’s the root of what must change if we are to ever live in peace. There are good and bad examples of people in every walk of life. I’ve lived a lot of life and seen far too many examples of both. If, however, we learn trust, peace, harmony, and self-worth, we exhibit those traits my friend. Let us each learn God’s love, not satan’s hatred.

  6. DaLee Kicker says:

    Hi Lori,
    Your words are exactly what I have been feeling and wrestling with, but couldn’t verbalize. I do think we are asking the wrong questions. I look forward to meditating on the scripture you cited. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Joann Biewer says:

    I agree it’s not enough to say we love everyone, we need the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and expose any faulty thinking that can gum up our words and actions.

  8. Scott B Bellair says:

    This so clearly speaks to me. Being 65 and from Southeast Texas where race was a factor in every decision from where you lived to what position you held in a company, it is hard for me to see the things I need to change. As a Christian, I want to live in this world as Jesus would for my own sake as well as being an example to my children and grandchildren. Thank you for pointing me in the path of the right questions with biblical references. At this time in my life, it is painful to realize that I have grown no further than placating my conscience.

  9. victor croissant says:

    i was taut to treat people the way they treat me. so fare i find that this workes for me so fare. i have frienďs of many races. but i may be racest because i do nòt go out of my wayto find any friends.

  10. Norma Gail says:

    Wise questions and great challenges, as always, Lori! Keep up with the hard questions!

  11. Barbara says:

    Thank you Lori. I would not consider myself racist but I also never considered that the only race is the human race. This is Such a better perspective on all the people I see every day. I pray that God is changing in me all that needs to be changed. I am so thankful for His word and how clearly he uses his servants to lead me. God’s richest blessings on you