It’s strange that there is a narrative that racism only happens with Black and White people. Yet racism can happen between other ethnic communities. You would think that because both groups experience oppression they would be able to understand the challenges of the other. There is this perception that because you are a person of color, you cannot discriminate or have bias toward other communities of color. That’s so far from the truth. The reality is that bias doesn’t discriminate. We all have biases that we need to unpack and address as it relates to how we feel about those who are different than we are.
We will often lump everyone into one group as if we are monolithic and there is diversity even within all of our communities. When we don’t take the time to understand others, it’s easy to make assumptions and categorize people. If we want to build a more inclusive world, it’s more than training. It will require each of us to examine our biases and blind spots. It will require creating space to listen and learn.
Educating yourself isn’t reading one book. It’s a commitment to long-term listening and learning. It’s also ensuring that you are proximate to those who are different. You can’t listen and learn in isolation.
It will require us to listen to the lived experiences of others instead of making assumptions and relying on stereotypes. No matter how open you might think you are, there is always work to do to unlearn some of the harmful ways of thinking and behaving we’ve adopted (some without even realizing). Wendy Smooth, author of Intersectionality from Theoretical Framework to Policy Intervention encourages us to “recognize the differences that exist among groups” and consider “the differences between groups.”
Peter in the Bible allowed his tradition to affect his thinking. Just like God was teaching Peter, we are being confronted daily with the cancer of racism and discrimination. In Acts 10, Peter “became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven open and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, as well as birds of the air. Then a voice said to him: “Get up, Peter, kill and eat! “No, Lord!” Peter answered. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean. The voice spoke to him a second time: ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and all at once the sheet was taken back up into heaven.” Many of us are like Peter. We will reject what God has created because of what we’ve been taught. We see others’ differences as less than, impure, and unclean. Often, people believe because they are friends with someone who is different automatically erases any racist thoughts or actions. Understanding the components of White supremacy and its impact on us all is imperative. Otherwise, we will perpetuate harmful behavior on others that we may not realize.
Here’s how you can begin: It starts with holding yourself accountable along with your friends and family. Paul called out Peter on his behavior. You’ve got to be willing to confront in a spirit of love. Educating yourself isn’t reading one book. It’s a commitment to long-term listening and learning. It’s also ensuring that you are proximate to those who are different. You can’t listen and learn in isolation.
Check your bias. Your bias could in fact be age, gender, ability, beauty, affinity, or even weight. Just because you are Christian does not prevent you from bias. Through God’s instruction, Peter came to the realization that he was wrong. “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. He has sent this message to the people of Israel, proclaiming the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,” Acts 10:34-36. It’s time to practice what we preach. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Galatians 3:28.
(Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the vice president of community affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit <drfroswa.com>.)