Photos of Jesus and the Roots of Racism


I’m not surprised that a white guy born in the 1930s said a bunch of racist stuff in private. For nearly half his life it was legal to degrade and disgrace black people publicly. I was raised by a black guy born in the 1930s who spent half his life feeling disgraced and degraded. He had a similar brand of racism and passed it on to me. Yes, I have said racist stuff in private about white people, asian people, hispanic people, and black people for that matter. Have you?

  • Racism grows out of ignorance, and ignorance grows out of a homogenous pool of friends….people who look the same, think the same, grow up the same.
  • Racism grows out of bitterness…the inability to forgive, forget, and fight for your own slice of America’s goodness.
  • Racism also grows out of pride and the perpetuation of pecking order that exists across races and within them.

Children today are growing up further removed from the racism of their great-grandparents, but close enough to see and experience how ugly it can be. How can we parents be sure we aren’t contributing to the survival of racist thought and practice in our lives and in the next generation?

One thing we can consider is seeing to it that our kids have friends of all races. I’m talking about sleep-over-at-my-house-go-on-vacation-with-me-be-in-my-wedding-let’s-stop-and-take-a-photo friends. After all, it was not the association with black people that was so bothersome to Mr. Sterling, it was the image and implication of friendship that was so appalling to him. He was around black people every day. That didn’t stop him from being a racist.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day hated the fact that Christ had a diverse pool of friends and that he wasn’t ashamed to be seen with them. That’s why I know that If Jesus had owned a cell phone, it would be filled with photos of him standing shoulder to shoulder with lepers, prostitutes, beggars, Samaritans, tax collectors and other hated and marginalized folk. Jesus, the ultimate champion of diverse friendships is the only one who can change our racist hearts and steer us away from our racist talk. It’s easy to wag a finger at a guy born in the 1930s without rooting out our own negative ideas toward others.

So let’s remember:  It’s not enough to go on an occasional mission trip to a foreign country. It’s not enough to go to church and school with people of other races. It’s clearly not enough to pay people of another race or even to donate to causes that support them. That’s association. It’s not friendship.

We need to find ways to broaden our base of friends and see to it our children do the same. Hopefully, our phones and theirs will be filled with photos of people from many backgrounds.  More importantly, let’s hope our hearts and theirs will be filled with less disdain and more respect; less ignorance and more awareness; less pride and more humility.

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