A New Racism

Anyone working in missions will come face to face with the reality of racism at some point.

Historically it has been an issue of skin color. In most nations black was wrong and white was right.

I live and work in South Africa. Perhaps there has never been a nation where racism was more evident than in the apartheid regime which Nelson Mandela led a peaceful overthrow of.

While historical racism is still alive, there is a new, more subtle form of racism which is occurring.

The new racism is Western or Non-Western.shadow pyramid

We may not make these statements out loud, but in many of our minds they ring true.

Only Western people can work with money.
Only Western people can study science.
Non Westerners are not able to think in a linear way, thereby will never grasp certain concepts.
Only the Western people write about how to be African.

I’ve seen elements of this first hand.

When dealing with cultural differences, we always say things like, “Well, in the West, we do it this way…”

Where is the West anyway?

Once when speaking, I was introduced by an African gentleman. He said, “You know he is a white man, because he wrote a book!”

As you can see, this thinking goes both ways.

Do we assume those of us from the West are more capable to do things efficiently?

We stereotype that Westerners are on time and Africans are late. I know plenty of late Westerners!

This appeared in a blog post I wrote about passing off leadership of a team. I was appalled to have someone comment that, “Most often, the role we missionaries play overseas can NEVER be filled by a national. It is completely outside of their cultural understanding.”


When we have these thoughts, I would encourage us to examine our hearts to see if we are working with a motivation of servanthood or superiority.

There is a little bit of racism in all our hearts. It is our natural, default setting of selfishness to think our view, our culture, and our perspective is the right one. I see it in my heart. Do you?

It may not be a black or white style that is what we historically define as racism.

What ways do we see a new racism at work in our nations?

If we are honest, and bold enough to say so, where do we find elements of it in our hearts?

PhotoBy By Fabio Rose

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Chris Lautsbaugh

In missions for 20+ years currently in South Africa as a teacher and leadership coach. He serves side by side with wife, Lindsey, and two boys, Garett and Thabo. Blogs at NoSuperHeroes.com on grace, leadership, and missions. Wrote Death of the Modern SuperHero:How Grace Breaks our Rules.

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