The Race Discussion We Need to Have
I’ve thought much about this discussion Sen. Obama thinks we need to have about race in our country. To be perfectly honest, I’ve struggled with racism for much of my life. I remember my white friends using racist words on occasion as I grew up.
I also recall the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, and how some in my high school joked about it, saying King “had gotten what he deserved.”
I never voiced such thoughts. Nonetheless, the n-word and a multitude of others often coursed through my mind as I saw those people in the walk of life. I didn’t understand it at all. No black person had ever done anything to me. Blacks on our high school championship football team, some of whom were the best players we’d ever had, were heroes.
And yet, this internal bigotry persisted. If it wasn’t really pounded into me by my family, school, or culture, how was it that a few oblique and stupid references had such an impact on me?
In 1972 I converted to a robust faith in God and Christ. In a matter of weeks, everything changed. I saw racism as an innate part of our humanity that we had to fight tooth and nail to excise. Because of what the Bible called our “lost state” and “fallenness,” I discovered I had a natural tendency to bigotry. One person said, “If God made us all the same color, sex, and creed, within fifteen minutes we would have divided up into groups with racist words for everyone not quite like us.”
As a believer, I saw that every kind of evil thought inhabited my heart. One of Christ’s greatest goals was to unite Jews, some of the greatest racists of his time, and Gentiles into one church. It’s been a difficult goal to achieve.
As I studied the Bible I came across verses where Jesus pointed out the real problem. He said at one point, “For from within, out of the human heart, come the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness”(Mark 21-22). Why do we read about these things happening every day in our world? For a simple reason: it’s the human heart that’s the problem.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick”(Jeremiah 17:9).
Our problem is not Rev. Wright’s bigoted words against whites, Mel Gibson’s nasty statements about Jews, or the average suicide bomber’s hatred for Americans, Jews, and just about everyone else. No, it’s the human heart. It’s desperately sick.
The truth is that all of us struggle with such evil internally. I think it’s time for us all – black, white, Jew, Muslim, and Christian – to admit we all experience racist thoughts and feelings. In most cases, we are appalled when they arrive. We may even cringe in frustration and anguish that they exist at all. The vast majority do not act on them, or even admit them. But they’re there.
That’s the discussion we ought to have about race in this country. Our hearts have serious problems, all of our hearts, from President Bush and Sens. Clinton and Obama, down to the dishwasher in the local McDonald’s. Until we can own up to this reality, we will never realistically deal with the problem of racism, or any other kind of evil in this world.