The Way I See It, A Pastor’s Perspective “Racism”


A frank discussion about Racism

I’ve touched on this subject before, and I apologize in advance for the length of this ‘book’, but it’s time for some transparency, some confessions, and time for me to write from a perspective you may not have considered….that of our Heavenly Father. He spoke with me years ago about my own racism, gently dragging me in a long overdue trip to the woodshed. It helped me, and it may help some of you if you struggle with that too.  Shockingly, not all of us are perfect here in the sunny Mid-South.

First, let me share some background. I grew up in the Bootheel and in the Ozarks of Missouri. My childhood friends were both black and white. It wasn’t really an issue at the time that any of us were different, as we were all just kids wanting to play and have fun. Some were poor, some had well-to-do families, some were chunky, some were skinny, some were tall and some short, some of us were white and some were black.  But as kids we didn’t really notice the differences, not as much as our parents anyway.  When I was around 11, one of my closest friends was a black kid named Herbie. He lived a block from my Dad’s Sinclair Gas Station in downtown Cape Girardeau. We rode bikes, played Army, climbed the rock walls on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, and just hung out. We did kid stuff.  We were buds. I had eaten meals in his house, shared his world, and likewise he had shared mine.  

Then I moved to Memphis. 

I began to discover racism during the summer of ’63. I went to very white schools (Colonial Junior High, then Overton), lived in a white neighborhood in fashionable East Memphis, listened to ‘white’ music, and played with white kids. I was still just a skinny Missouri kid wanting to play and have fun, but now there were unspoken rules and boundaries. Whites grouped with whites, as if cloistered together by some Religious Order, and blacks had their own neighborhoods, schools, convenience stores, etc.  It was Memphis at the time. There were borders, and you only saw each other’s worlds if you ventured into their neighborhoods. 
It was culture shock for me the first time I found myself at Airways Blvd and Park Ave, headed east on Park into the neighborhood called Orange Mound.  I was walking and I was a foreigner in a strange land. I felt the stares and I was aware I didn’t belong. The seeds of racism were being sown. 

As I grew older, I moved into the work force. I did have black friends and worked with some really good people, who just happened to be black, but still my life was one of imaginary racial borders, and blacks and whites didn’t mix their worlds together much, as I remember it anyway. The culture of Memphis in the Sixties was far different than my innocent upbringing and the hatred between blacks and whites seemingly ran deep among certain groups.  Anyone who is old enough will remember the volatile times surrounding the assassination of Doctor King. Sadly, I was becoming racist. I was taught that black people hated ‘whiteys’ and apparently we in my circle of friends weren’t that fond of blacks either.  So the older I became, the more separated I grew from their culture. I even began to make jokes and use slurs that were condescending at the very least. Not proud of that now, but back then it seemed to be the norm.  

Now fast forward to the eighties.  I had gotten saved in 1970 at the age of 19, and now as an adult with children of my own, I was becoming more serious about my walk with the Lord and I was serving faithfully in lay ministry, learning to walk in love. And I was trying to love people of other races.  But still, there were the underlying currents of racism in me. I knew it and yet I refused to deal with it.  That was all about to change dramatically. 

That particular day years ago, I was behind a rather large black women in a Kroger store. A woman who was shouting at her kids in tow as she lazily shuffled along.  And she was blocking the aisle with her cart, and using obscene language. I felt hate in my heart for this person (I told you it’s time for transparency). I was wishing to myself that she would hurry along or move so that I could get away from her!  She wasn’t well groomed or very well dressed.  I’m pretty sure I was thinking I was better than her, as I was filled with pride in those days. In truth, I looked down on her.  After all, I wasn’t obese like her, and I was a shopper who always moved along the aisles rather quickly in hunter-gatherer mode, being careful not to be in the way of others, and I was friendly to others, unlike her.  I even faked a smile and a “scuse me” as I finally squeezed by, which went unacknowledged.  I also felt I was somewhat cleaner and better groomed. To be brutally honest, I hated her because she was black. And I was sure she was blocking the aisle because she hated my lily-white honky self too!

Then the Lord spoke to me. It was time for me and Him to confront and deal with my condescending and sinful racist attitude. It was time for me to look at other races through my Father’s eyes. He spoke clearly and somewhat sternly to me that day. He said “Michael” (He always calls me Michael, never Mike as most do). He said distinctly “Those people you have such a disdain for, the ones you ridicule; they did not ask to be born. Nor did they choose to be born black. Nor did you choose to be born white.  I chose that for them and for you.  You are insulting Me when you belittle My choices”.  
His rebuke of me that day was truly a life changing experience, and that revelation has stayed with me to this day.  
We didn’t ask to be born as we are!  We were left to adjust to choices that HE made!  And they were the RIGHT choices too!
No one chose to be the race that they are!  I did not choose to be white!  How dare I then look down on someone else of another race when I had nothing to do with the selection of my own race!  Might be an obvious fact to you, but that revelation was profound to me!!  

As I listened to the Lord, I considered that woman, now several aisles away and I began to have compassion. I couldn’t shake the realization the Lord had just embedded deep in my spirit; that she did not ask to be born!   More than likely this woman had genetics which had given her a propensity for obesity. Maybe her feet hurt that day. Perhaps her husband wasn’t working and they were broke, or maybe she was feeling sick while in the store. Maybe her life just wasn’t good on any level. Maybe she was a product of the same racist environment I had been exposed to. Maybe she was really having a horrible day, but who was I to hate her?  Other people may have traits, personalities, and views that are diametrically opposed to mine, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong or lesser a person than me, or worse than me, or better than me; they’re just different.  And they are different because my Heavenly Father chose that they be different. 

I felt ashamed that day. I was SO wrong to feel as I did. I apologized over and again to the Lord. I didn’t go back and apologize to the woman because I doubt she knew I was feeling the way I did. Remember, I faked a smile and was polite. I have since tried to remind myself constantly, almost daily, that we are all His choice regarding our race. 
There are people of all races that are the worst of our society, and there are people of all races who are the best of our society!   But some have made bad choices in life, and it is those CHOICES that are the problem!  It is not their RACE that is the issue!  Some people are rude regardless of race.  Some people are lazy and refuse to work. Some are voracious readers with brilliant minds and are hard workers. Some are unfriendly or just plain mean, while others draw you in with their love. We are all different, but we’re not lesser or better than anyone around us in the Father’s eyes. He loves us all unconditionally. So, how can we look down on our neighbors?  How can we say someone is inferior just because they are of a different race?

The majority of us are just going through life, managing as best we can the hand dealt us. If you’re a different race than me, love me anyway. I did not choose my race, or my height, or my looks, or my parents, or anything else about me. I wish I were taller but I’m not. I am a short white old guy with a touch of redneck in me.  Well okay, a lot of redneck in me, but my race, height, bone structure etc., were HIS choices. Deal with it!!  And I will deal with you too!  With love!  I get somewhat amused when I hear a member of ‘Aryan Nation’ espouse their views, saying they’re superior. That’s funny to me!  So apparently you chose to be white and therefore you can look down on other races?? Simply laughable!

Galatians 3:26-29 says this….

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”

And there is Romans 12:3….
“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
We have an obligation to love others. As a matter of fact, it’s a commandment (John 13:34).  I MUST love you.  There are some of you reading this who aren’t racists toward blacks or others, and I salute you! But maybe you can’t tolerate people who have opposing political views and are very vocal about it. Or maybe you don’t like people who are extreme ‘in your face’ environmentalists. Maybe you can’t bring yourself to love bearded tattooed guys with loud motorcycles.  Or perhaps you despise people who are poor. Well, whatever our issue, it is all bigotry and that too is a sin. We ALL need to love each OTHER regardless!

As to more confessions, I work hard and I have all my life, so I don’t tolerate lazy people very well, no matter the race.  I don’t like liars. And I have issues with people who don’t groom.  And I am really agitated with someone who knows their lane in traffic is ending, but they rush ahead of a long line of cars, and then, without so much as a signal, cut in front of me as if they have a right to be there rather than me, a person who waited patiently in line. Grrrrrrrrr.  So I truly have my issues, but God is working on me continually and I try VERY hard to love everyone and try to have compassion, and at least I don’t look down on a person now because they’re a different race, thanks to the Lord. 
In summary, it doesn’t matter what color you are as a person, I love you because the Father spanked my little white heiny that day and taught me an unforgettable truth, and I know He truly loves you as deeply as He does me. 
And that’s the way I see it!
Pastor Mike, a white guy who had no say in the matter!