This post originally appeared on The Culture Blend.com

 

“I AM NOT A RACIST!”

The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan

Donald Trump

Bill Clinton

Malcolm X 

(and practically everyone who has ever been accused of racism)

This post is hard for me. Here’s why. 

I’m not that kind of blogger. I’m not an activist. I write about culture and raising kids abroad and what happens when you accidentally tell someone that their hindquarters are fragrant and delectable. I’m THAT guy. I have purposely and skillfully avoided the hard issues NOT because I don’t think they are important.

I steer clear because I have never considered my contribution valuable. I have opinions like EVERYONE ELSE in the world but bringing them into this conversation would be like bringing a squirt gun to a firestorm.

 

 

My labels don’t exactly lend credibility either. “Hey everybody! Pipe down, we’ve got a white, American, straight, Christian, male who has something to say about racism!”

“Gee. Great. We haven’t heard from one of those guys yet.”

 

But there is something rich that happens when you step away from your “home” culture and see yourself (and the world that you grew up in) through a different set of lenses. Am I right?

 

It’s challenging but it is good.

It hurts but it helps.

It’s alarming . . . but sometimes . . . it’s transformational.

 

With all of that said I think I have something to say about racists.

Ready?

 

I might be one — but I can’t tell. Here’s why.

 

The word “racist” ONLY seems to show up in two forms. As an ACCUSATION — or a DENIAL. It’s never a discovery. Never a realization. Never a confession. There is zero room for nuance. Zero range. Zero spectrum.

You either are or you’re not.

It’s used exclusively in the second and third person (positively) — “YOU ARE A RACIST AND THEY ARE TOO!!”

OR

in the first person (negatively).

“I AM NOT!!”

 

(take 2 minutes and 52 seconds to watch this video)

 

The two-sided approach produces radically different definitions.

The ACCUSER says, “Have you EVER used a term, said a word, thought a thought or acted in a way that could be considered racist? Then you must be one.”

Justin Bieber said the n-word when he was 14.

Paula Deen said it before Justin Bieber was even born.

The DENIER says, “Is any part of my life NOT racist? Then boom! I am NOT one.”

“I have Asian friends.”

“I voted for a black man.”

“I’m not as bad as that guy.”

So by the ACCUSER’S definition —  are YOU a racist?

 

I am (and I cried a little bit when I wrote that).

 

BUT as the ACCUSED I am SO quick to DENY, DENY, DENY.

My daughter is Asian.

My son is black.

Look at this picture.

 

 

How could I possibly be racist?

See how that works?

 

I’d love to have a different conversation. Here’s why.

 

“Racism” is a powerful and important word. The conversations that surround it are also important . . . in ALL of their different forms.

The venomous political debates need to happen.

The marches have changed things.

The ACCUSATIONS and the DENIALS make total sense.

AND THERE IS MORE . . . There is another side to the conversation that typically gets reduced to ashes in the firestorm.

It’s a conversation where I look at ME and not YOU.

I ask MYSELF hard questions instead of responding poorly to yours.

I come face to face with my own mess and I own it, even if I hate it.

I move forward to something better instead of being chained to my broken past.

It doesn’t start with “I AM A RACIST.” We don’t even agree on what that means. But . . .

 

It might go something like this.

 

I grew up around people who shared my labels. In my home, I was taught to love people both by instruction and example. Growing up though (although never in my family) I heard racial slurs and hateful, horrible stereotypes that formed my own prejudice. I heard banter that celebrated the misfortune of other races.

I heard “Polack jokes” before I knew that Poland was a country. I heard the term “Jewing them down” from the same people who taught me about the Jewish people in Sunday School. I heard terms like “Spick” and “Gook” and “Raghead” and “Chink” and had to ask each time which ethnicity we were talking about because I had never met any of them in real life. I listened to joke after joke that mocked the physical features, the language, the eating habits, the poverty and the crime rate of the African descended people who lived on the other side of town.

And I laughed.

I laughed because I valued the approval of people who were like me more than I valued the actual people who weren’t.

I’m sorry.

I regret all of that and it breaks me to think about it. I wish that it were not a part of my story but there is no way to untell it. Ignoring it has never made it go away.

I have grown since then. I have changed dramatically — but even now I continue to discover pieces that are packed tightly and deeply in my core that I never knew were there. Layer after layer of entitlement continue to be peeled away.

I still struggle to recognize and acknowledge the humanity of the humans around me.

But I am ready to have that conversation.

What about you?

{ 0 comments }

Embracing Life From the Second Row

by Editor June 20, 2018

by Kris Gnuse I was not just upset;  I was upset with myself for being upset. After years of “maybe someday,” I had finally auditioned for worship choir. Kick your thoughts of robes and high sopranos to the curb. This group was cool. I stepped onto the risers that first Sunday, trembly with nerves. My heart was full […]

Read the full article →

Third Culture Kids, College, and Culture Shock

by Rachel Pieh Jones June 18, 2018

This year two of my three Third Culture Kids are graduating. Last year, we went on college tours in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We observed some, um, interesting cultural things. Our observations were specific to the Midwest and our perspective comes from 16 years in the Horn of Africa. But, they just might help you with […]

Read the full article →

Confusing Method with Message

by Amy Young June 15, 2018

My first summer in China was before the internet was invented. Okay, it had to have existed somewhere in the world, but it was not part of daily life and I did not know words like email, internet, Facebook, IM, DM, IG, WWW. LOL, or hashtag. I spent six weeks with other North Americans teaching oral English in […]

Read the full article →

Accompanying Spouse Job Description

by Anisha Hopkinson June 12, 2018

I used to have a job description. I had hours, and a lunch break, and yearly goals. I knew what was expected of me and someone paid me to do it. Then I moved overseas as an accompanying spouse. “What will you do when you move overseas?” people would ask. As an accompanying spouse without […]

Read the full article →

We Need Each Other

by Editor June 10, 2018

by Renette The African saying ‘Ubuntu’ never resonated with me. I knew the definition for years: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” But it wasn’t until recently that I came to realise how much truth the saying holds. We commonly ask one another to ‘tell me more about yourself’ or even ponder it ourselves: ‘who […]

Read the full article →

“So – Is that out of state?” And Other Questions We Navigate

by Marilyn June 8, 2018

I felt my face grow hot. I was in a small town shopping at a smaller store when a well-meaning woman stopped and asked me about the purse I had with me. “That’s a beautiful purse” she said brightly. “May I ask you where you got it?” “Oh” I said, a smile lighting up my […]

Read the full article →

Ask a Counselor: is it a failure, or is it a growth opportunity?

by Kay Bruner June 5, 2018

Things I used to believe: You’re supposed to “deal with all your stuff” before you go overseas. If your stuff starts to resurface while you’re overseas, that’s because you didn’t deal with it enough beforehand. Stuff resurfacing is bad and an indication of failure. You better be perfect, or close to it–or else. If you […]

Read the full article →

Forbidden Roots

by Amy Medina June 3, 2018

Moving overseas starts as an experience. When you move to a new country, the remnants of your old life stay with you for a long time. At first, keeping in touch with your friends back at home is a big priority. You get lots of packages in the mail. You grieve the loss of all that […]

Read the full article →

Death is right around the corner. So live!

by Jonathan Trotter May 31, 2018

I’ve always thought like this. I’ve always believed my life was going to be very short. Nearly every time I publish an article or preach a sermon, I think, “Well, I said it, I guess I can die now.” I don’t have a desire to die, it’s just that I live with a gut-level realization […]

Read the full article →

Risk and the Cross-Cultural Worker: An Interview with Anna Hampton, Author of “Facing Danger”

by Craig Thompson May 30, 2018

Dr. Anna Hampton, along with her husband, Neal, have lived and worked for nearly 20 years in war-torn Islamic countries. This includes almost 10 years in Afghanistan, where they started raising their three children. Their experiences led Anna to write Facing Danger: A Guide through Risk (Zendagi, 2016), which is based on her doctoral dissertation at Trinity Theological […]

Read the full article →

Two Challenges That Homeschooling Families Face on the Field

by Elizabeth Trotter May 28, 2018

In 2016 my friend Tanya Crossman published her book Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century. Tanya worked with Third Culture Kids in Beijing for over a decade before writing her book, and I greatly value her insight into the hearts of TCKs today. I’m passionate about homeschooling my four TCKs, so […]

Read the full article →