As a child, I didn’t think much about race. I knew I looked different from most of the kids in my elementary school but I made friends across the spectrum of faces and colors. I lived with an innocence that allowed me to be unburdened by the hue of my skin.
I entered Junior High with the same naive perspective. But three short years later, my innocence was replaced by a startling awareness that who I was, how I was received by my peers, was influenced by my skin color and the texture of my hair. Race had become an entry requirement for social groups and defined my allegiances.
My High School was predominately African-American with a sprinkling of Hispanic, Asian, and White. Just enough of a mixture to make us multicultural yet not enough to balance the population. I was the black girl with white skin, curly hair, and wire-rimmed glasses. I felt like a foreigner walking the halls.
I was frequently asked, “What are you?” A question that always seemed to cause an uncomfortable feeling to wash over me. I responded, “black,” the answer I had been conditioned to give. Yet every time I looked in the mirror, my reflection caused confusion.
Mom was an English-born white woman. My father, an African-American with Chinese ancestors. So, what do you tell a racially focused group of peers? It usually went something like this, “My mom is White, and dad is Black and Chinese.” And often the follow-up question was, “Right, what are you?”
Somehow, that lingering question left me thinking just a little less of myself. From where I stood, I didn’t fit anywhere.
Then I met Diana.
Diana’s mom was white, her father African-American. She shared my white skin and watched the world through beautiful green eyes. Her blond kinky hair enveloped her face, highlighting the freckles that graced her nose and cheeks.
There was a sense of connection when I saw her walking the corridors. A comradery when I heard kids ask her, “What are you?” I was no longer the isolated oddity.
We were sisters, finding comfort and strength in our common bond.
Yet it was funny, even having a comrade didn’t lessen the impact our peer’s comments made on my heart.
Diana’s friendship provided solace but it didn’t negate that little voice that echoed in my brain, “You’re different.” And somehow me being “different” equated to me be weird. Not the creative kind of weirdness that leads to artistic masterpieces but the awkward, uncomfortable kind that causes you to trip over your own feet.
We were not black enough to be embraced by the blacks in our school and too black to be accepted by many whites. So, we clung to each other and forged our way through our teenage years.
Fast forward, college opened doors I never knew existed. I was surrounded by people that looked like me. The racial blindness I experienced as a young child returned as racial acceptance. I began to celebrate the rich diversity that makes me the woman I am today.
I want to believe that as a society we have become more open and sensitive to racial differences. But what I’m learning is that we haven’t moved too far away from my teenage experience. We continue to deal with the wreckage resulting from cultural insensitivity, feelings of racial superiority, and a hatred of all that is different. Yet as believers, we are called to a higher theology. A belief that can only be fulfilled by God’s unconditional love.
Billy Graham, one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century, offers,
“The closer the people of all races get to Christ and His cross, the closer they will get to one another.”
Paul, in his writings to the churches in Galatia, reminds us,
“26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
There is a unity of race, socioeconomic class, and gender in Christ.
Regardless of what the world tries to tell us, we can confidently stand together, embracing our uniqueness and loving others as we’ve been loved – unconditionally, unencumbered by fear, and in deep reverence for God’s sacrifice for our unity.
Luke 10:25 – 37 (New International Version)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’”; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
For additional reading – Luke 10:25-37 NIV – The Parable of the Good Samaritan – On – Bible Gateway
Take a few minutes to consider the following.
- Take a few minutes to consider who are your neighbors? How can you increase your neighborhood?
- How can you reach out beyond your comfort level and show mercy for those different than yourself?
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: If you are interested in learning more about what the Bible says about racism, please access this link 50 Epic Bible Verses About Racism Discrimination & Prejudice (biblereasons.com)