Friday, November 20, 2009

Your Racism Is Your Responsibility

So, after a couple of weeks of blog posts, emails and conference calls, Zondervan has made the decision to pull Deadly Viper Character Assassins out of stores and take down the website. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can find the announcement on Dr. Soong-Chan Rah's website here and if you keep going back through the posts you'll get a good feel for the whole story. The comments sections have plenty of representation from both sides of the debate.

Some people are applauding this, but a lot of other people are decrying this as a tragedy as folks will not be benefitting from the content of the books and the site. They see the objections from those on the other side of the fence as much ado about nothing and a victory for political correctness.

And this is what I have to say to those people: You are racists.

And so am I.

And so is everybody.

Which excuses absolutely NONE of us from the responsibility to work against it and to repent when we see our racism hurting others.

I remember very well the feelings of rage I had when I entered a mostly African-American high school and realized that I was regularly being judged by the color of my skin. Why, I LOVED black people!! I cried tears of remorse and anger every time I heard stories of slavery, and I did love me some blues. More specifically, I didn't hold anger at any particular black person based on the color of their skin. Why would *anyone* have a problem with me??

Obviously, I didn't get it.

The truth is, I was blind. I'd been raised to lock my car door when I entered the predominately black sections of town. My shoulders clenched when I had to pass a black man on the sidewalk and I involuntarily held my purse closer to me. I stared openly when I saw someone who appeared Asian, since we just didn't have that many Asians in my city. I waited for them to say something in their funny language so I could remark at how *interesting* it was and giggle at the "unnatural" tonality of their voices. And Mexicans? I kept my distance. God only knows what they might do.

My white privilege blinded me to a racism that was in the very marrow of my bones and ran in my blood. It took being the minority, and being enraged that ANYONE could label me a racist when *clearly* I wasn't, to begin to recognize what was achingly obvious to anyone around me who didn't identify as white. It started me down what has become a long and sometimes extremely painful path of identifying my privilege and my assumptions, and how they killed possible beautiful relationships with folks around me... and I have a long, long way to go. I expect I'll be working through this for my entire life.

The rage that folks are feeling right now about Zondervan's decision to pull Deadly Viper is a GOOD THING. If people will get good and pissed and wrestle with what they're feeling and talk and think and process their attitudes towards the topic of race and towards those of other races, good things will result. If they do these in an attitude of prayer and a desire to really understand one another, EVEN BETTER. The Spirit will get right in the middle of that and life will come out of it.

The action Zondervan took is a VERY good thing. I don't know that they or the authors of Deadly Viper totally "get it" even now, but they repented of the wounds they caused or reopened through how their book and website were packaged, regardless of whether they totally got it or not. THAT, folks, is leadership... to repent when you've wronged someone and take action towards reconciliation, even if you still don't quite understand what you did... to say "my relationship with you is important enough to me that I will repent and work to repair it no matter what"? That takes serious courage and moral strength. THIS is leadership lived out, and it is a beautiful, difficult, complicated thing.

Your racism is *your* responsibility, as mine is *my* responsibility. If you're white, chances are you can choose to ignore the subject. Most other folks don't have that option. My challenge to all that are really pissed off about this is to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves how they'd feel if that face looking back at them had a different color, eyes of a different shape, hair a different color and texture. What would the world look like through those eyes? Then ask what you really, really, in your heart of hearts think of those of another race. and repent. because I promise you that we ALL need to repent for this on some level.


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Moff said...

Thanks, guys, for the kind comments and for reading the blog!!

Craig said...

I've always thought that centuries of racial separation has just caused different cultures to emerge which now don't always relate well. Add a lot of complicated reasons to resist assimilation and then you get what we have today. It seems straight up racism, although it is still around, has been largely replaced by more identity based psychological problems and nobody wants to give an inch.