At 9, I had an up-close and personal look at the racial divide.
It happened during my family’s trip to a suburban Chicago shopping mall. As we exited a large department store, another child got my attention.
He was with his family, too. I wondered if he was just as amazed by being in the 1970s megastructure.
But he was amazed by something else. He yelled, “Mommy, look at all the Black people!” I looked to see the people he saw.
Being African-American, I saw Black people all the time. As the obvious conclusion sunk in, I knew the boy was looking at my parents, my three siblings, and me.
My would-be playmate became my White audience instead. Our child-to-child connection was tainted. It felt like he was on vacation and I was on display — for all the wrong reasons.
My mother’s face grew concerned. I’d been exposed to the racism virus and it was too late to give me a vaccine. I’d have to build immunity over time. I’d need doses of truth to counteract the attempt to inject me with insignificance.
The boy’s mother made a poor attempt to hide her embarrassment. Avoiding eye contact with us, she grabbed her son’s hand and hurried away. But they left the insidious residue of an “us and them” mentality. It stuck with me and tried to mutate my thinking. I fought back hard because racism will try to confuse you, confine you or make you a carrier.
I’d seen images of the civil rights movement on television and heard snippets of my parents’ conversations about the need for racial equality.
I’d sat attentively in the classroom learning about African-American contributions to our nation as we observed what was then Black History Week (now it’s the entire month of February).
And yet, I held a naïve hope in my childhood heart. I thought any child I met could be my next friend. A lie said no. However, truth wouldn’t let things stay that way.
I’d later become best friends with a girl of biracial heritage. Her parents’ marriage reminded me love wins. A few years later, through my high school’s student exchange program, I’d become friends with white kids who weren’t startled by the appearance of black people. We shared hopes, dreams, and the common teenage longing for acceptance.
Because at its worst, racism robs a person of any chance of being accepted — as a person. Instead, it limits them to a color, a stereotype, or a statistic.
Decades later, I’m much less naïve and more infused with biblical truth. I’ve endured countless exposures to the racism virus.
Some people still look at my skin color as the first or only consideration for who I am or what I have to offer. But categorizing people solely based on our perspective can cause us to miss God’s heart. He never intended for His mosaic creation to lead to the mistreatment of others.
Historically, our nation missed God’s intentions and we remain stuck in the mire of slavery’s legacy and today’s racially tinged rhetoric. And yet, my childhood experience, or your similar experiences, reminds us we need to move forward.
Some people have.
Some people struggle with racism’s confusion or confinement.
Sadly, others have become unwitting or uncaring carriers of the divisive and hateful strain. However, improving race relations won’t matter to us, if we don’t sense God’s purpose for us.
Otherwise, at best, we’ll settle for a politically correct stance instead of a true change of heart. But if we are to walk in God’s purpose…
“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)
“For anyone wanting to receive God’s forgiveness, His perspective or His healing, it’s made possible through faith in Christ.” (see Romans 7:21-25)
His power is just a prayer away.
With a sincere heart, go ahead and ask Him. The results will surely bring hope for the heart and joy to the soul.
1. Genesis 1:26-31
2. Matthew 22:37-40
3. Acts 15:11
4. Ephesians 4:2-6 and 31
5. James 2:1, 9 and 10
6. 1 John 4:7 and 8
7. Revelation 5:8-10
Joy A. Williams is an author, blogger, and speaker. She has served as a small-group Bible study leader, Women’s Conference and Retreat speaker for over twenty years. Joy encourages sincere or sidetracked truth seekers with “joy to the soul” on her weekly blog.
You can also connect with Joy on Twitter or Facebook and on Pinterest.