I recently cropped my white son-in-law out of a photo of the men in our family. I hated to do it, but Ryan’s not black. I don’t worry about him the way I worry about the black men in my family, so I cropped him out of my Facebook post.
I consider this a good object lesson for white Christians who sincerely want to help stem the tide of racism in our country. It requires you to see black people as BLACK, the same way I saw Ryan as WHITE with a different American experience. White Christians have an opportunity right now to abandon the false notion that refusing to see color makes America better.
With COVID-19 deaths disproportionally affecting BLACK people; with cities on fire over the murder of a BLACK man by police, can you finally see what your BLACK friends have been telling you? BLACKS are constantly cropped out.
We have been cropped out of equal justice.
We have been cropped out of economic opportunity.
We have been cropped out of health equity.
We have been cropped out of educational thriving.
We have even been cropped out of the evangelical church.
Since the killing of Trayvon Martin, black Christians like me have been trying to draw attention to the sin of racism. But because white Christians want to be colorblind, they have not listened. In the name of “we stick with preaching the gospel,” black voices have been cropped out.
I wrote about being colorblind in this blog post and used the following photo to illustrate how long blacks were excluded from access to the American dream. Depicted here are the 400 years since slaves first arrived in America, 1619-2019. Each emoji represents 10 years.
It’s impossible to look at this and be colorblind. For 350 years, racial terror and discrimination dominated American life. Racist WHITE people narrated lies about BLACK inferiority in order to justify the economic and social structure that favored whites. After slavery, racists burned black churches, homes, and businesses. Police harassed, jailed, and killed black people who were guiltless. White vigilantes stalked and murdered black people at will. And all of this terror was met with zero consequences.
In the face of these atrocities, many white Christians were in denial. This is what denial looks like in emoji:
Unfortunately, shrugged shoulders and silence won’t solve racial division and injustice. Those who founded this nation chose to see color, so we don’t have the luxury of being colorblind now.
Keep in mind that cropping out black people has other subtle forms. Are black people cropped out of your every day life? Out of your predominantly white school, and predominantly white church, and predominantly white neighborhood, and predominantly white social circle? I know you may not intend to live your life with very few black people in it. But when you choose not to see color, you don’t notice its absence. Worse, you don’t see the suffering of the black people you love.
I know this is difficult for Christians who honestly treat people as equal regardless of their skin color. But being colorblind is not the cure for racism. In fact, it emboldens racists. It’s a way of pretending their actions have no impact on black people and on our nation as a whole. Our burning cities force us to think differently about these issues.
Seeing Ryan as WHITE does not diminish my love for him.
And I know that being married to a black woman brings with it a set of negative experiences, comments, and stares that make him feel targeted by white and black people alike. But even those realities for Ryan and Sara are fruit from the tree of racism planted back in 1619.
It’s time for white Christians to acknowledge that BLACK Christians experience American life differently. Stop cropping us out of what it means to live and share the gospel. Listen to us and join us in our quest for justice.
Guard my common good: Do what’s right and do it in the right way… Make sure no outsider who now follows God ever has occasion to say, God put me in second-class. I don’t really belong. Isaiah 56 (MSG)
To learn more, listen to Seeing White, an excellent podcast series that takes you through the creation and history of white supremacy:
This video also provides context to understand how racism impedes black prosperity and progress: