I spent most of my childhood in predominately white culture as an Air Force brat. I attended integrated DOD schools, but there was still a lot of discrimination. Living six years in the Philippines and two years in Germany shielded me from many of the tragedies blacks experienced in the 1960s.
I watched on TV as the KKK burned crosses in black yards, police brutality, and dogs attacking peaceful protesters. I heard the anger in my dad's voice over these atrocities.
I wept with my parents over the assassination of President Kennedy. He was a white voice in the White House willing to speak up for African Americans. I mourned with my parents when a white man shot Dr. Martin Luther King. It seemed as if anyone speaking out about racial injustice got killed.
My dad always avoided living in the south at all costs. When he got orders to go south, he'd volunteer to go overseas instead. Unlike my husband's traumatic experiences of racism in the deep south, mine was more subtle. But let me assure you that I wasn't immune to the virus of racism.
Racism is real. You can feel it when you walk into a room, and all eyes turn to stare at you or ignored.
Years ago, I had white friends in Hawaii who experienced racism for the first time. Fortunate for them, it was subtle––not getting served at a restaurant. It was an awful feeling that made them angry. I agreed it's a terrible feeling, and no one should have to go through that. I also made the point that's what blacks in America have suffered for centuries and worse. I hoped they'd be empathetic when they see it happening to a black person.
In 1999 TP retired from the Army. We left a diverse community in northern VA and moved to Chesapeake. A year later, we started attending a small church in the Great Bridge community. Now that the other black family left, we were the only family of color. I was surprised when the pastor asked me to lead the women's ministry. I was in full-time ministry at the time.
I'll never forget the day when the worship leader announced that I would lead the women's ministry and asked me to stand. The moment I stood up, I felt a tangible sensation––a negative force. I was surprised because I had never felt it that strongly. Later, I asked the Lord about it, and the Holy Spirit said it was a spirit of racism.
Every Thursday morning, when I prayed before Bible study, I felt myself pushing against an invisible entity. A few weeks later, I shared a message on jealousy. Afterward, this lady confessed, "I was angry and upset when I heard that you were leading the women's ministry. I thought, what right do you have to come in here to lead our group. You're new here, and to top it off, you're black too."
Bam there it was exposed!
To this day, I am amazed at the grace God gave me. I have a healing ministry, and I know that each of us is broken and has vices, issues, and hurts.
My response, "I'm glad that God showed you the jealousy, and I hope that you allow Him to reveal the other stuff inside of you. She admitted the jealousy but couldn't admit the racism. It went right over her head because she couldn't "see" it.
Why do I share this story now? Because it's time. Racism isn't something that happened long ago, it is happening today. And it is alive and well in the church. It will continue to exists if we refuse to talk about the elephant in the room.
In all the years I have attended predominately white churches, I have never heard leadership talk or preach about racism. My question is, why not? They teach about everything else.
Yes, it's scary to look at what's inside our hearts. But I believe this is an opportunity for souls to change if we're willing to face the ugly truth about our past and what's happening to people of color today.
I'm praying for my white brothers and sisters who cling to racism like a close friend unaware of the darkness within. All of us are biased in some way. But if we humble ourselves and ask God to examine our hearts, not to exclude racism, he will show us. His love is vast and covers a multitude of sins.
I have white friends saying how shocked they are about the murder of George Floyd. Tragically, it took a video of a white cop murdering a black man by placing his knee on his neck for 9 minutes for whites to see that racism exists. Unfortunately, racial experiences like these happen every day in the black community. Thank God for cell phones! Now blacks can record what's been happening today.
Last week, a dear friend who is 85 years old told me that she has never "seen" racism. I was astounded! I hear similar things from other white friends. They thought these things generally happened a long time ago, in the south.
How can anyone live in America and not see racism? Well, if you claim that you don't see color and live in an isolated world of whiteness, white friends, white churches, white communities, I guess you can't see it.
Until we are willing to admit the sin of racism in the church individually and do the necessary work, it will continue to flourish. Human Trafficking is a crime hidden in plain sight. If you know what to look for, you can spot it. Racism is similar in that if your eyes are open to it, you can "see" it. God wants to open your eyes, and this is an opportunity for you to learn and grow.
My view of America is different than my white friends because of the shoes I have walked in. The peaceful protesters are trying to bring to light the injustices so change can happen. So that we can right the wrongs.
I want to challenge you to begin to have courageous conversations with your black friends. Please don't presume to know what they've gone through. Ask them how they're doing. Ask them about their experiences living in America.
If you don't have anyone of color to ask, I'm here if you want to listen and learn about what it's like being black in America. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading White Fragility. I love you.