Recently I realized I couldn’t answer this simple question: Why are some seemingly normal people racist?
I started searching. The most common answer I found had to do with the idea of upbringing. Racist people are raised by racists. But that didn't really answer my question. Why are their parents racist? I dug deeper.
Two other reasons I found are past bad experiences and low IQ. I started to connect some dots. If a you have a low IQ and a bad experience with a person of a certain race, you would probably assume that everyone of that race will give you a bad experience.
But then I started thinking of racists I know of and most of them are intelligent. For example, Paula Dean and Donald Sterling, who both went viral in the last couple of years for making racist remarks, have business savvy.
What about national leaders and Army Generals of centuries gone by who were racist? They used their ability to reason and lead the masses.
What about the folks living here in the South who still struggle with this issue? Some of them are Real Estate professionals and lawyers. We’re talking about people who can use Microsoft Excel.
So how could they be racist even if they’re high level thinkers?
One possible answer is simply that they love darkness rather than light. Hate is something that can fill the soul with a twisted happiness since it makes you feel superior.
But then I think through conversations I’ve had on this topic with friends and acquaintances who are fellow believers. Not everyone who leans towards racism is doing so out of sheer evil. They’re not using racial slurs or joining hate groups. So what the heck is it?
Finally, it hit me: Laziness. It’s much harder work to get to know someone than it is to label them.
It’s kind of like the way we treat mail. Typically, we think we can tell what’s in an envelope just by looking at it. As soon as we see a piece of mail, we make a determination on whether or not it’s important. For example, if it looks like junk mail I’ve seen before, I chuck it without even opening it.
Because of this, however, I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown away several important things, including an insurance reimbursement check. As soon as I track that down we’re going to buy something expensive. Like soap from a local craftsman.
How’d that check get tossed out?
My laziness. My determination to do as little work as possible. My assumptions became good enough evidence for me to throw things away or keep them.
I believe that’s what the majority of racism is like in 2015.
I’m not talking about the viral videos of police brutality or the shootings. I’m talking about your average guy sitting in a cubical, rolling his eyes when a co-worker of a different race asks how to use the copier. I’m talking about the way your friend reacted when you told her your date's name and she knew he had a different ethnic background. I'm talking about the first thought that came to your mind when that lady asked you if you had any change. I’m talking about you and me.
We are quick to make judgments based off of stereotypes, news articles and past experiences and slow to do the hard work of getting to know an individual. We’re too lazy to love. And thus, we throw important people and potential relationships away.
Jesus talks about this in the story of the good Samaritan. Do you remember the reason the priest and Levite passed by a fellow Jew who was laying on the side of the street? Laziness.
The Samaritan, who would have been considered "unclean" by the Jewish man on the ground, stops and picks him up, putting him on his own animal and paying for his stay at the inn.
The point Jesus was making? If you’re following me into eternity, you’ll be doing the hard work of loving your neighbor as yourself, even the neighbors that live beyond the barriers culture has set up between you and them.
How do we do that?
1. Look at our surroundings.
Who is in your faith community? Who are you connected with on social media? The last few parties that you’ve thrown, who was on the guest list?
As you think through your sphere of influence, how many people in it look just like you? I bet for many of us, the answer is 95%. That means we’re being lazy. We need to make that percentage much lower.
2. Invest in that 5%.
We do know at least a handful of people that don ’t look just like us. It’s time to make the most of those relationships. This doesn't mean you get legalistic and make this something you put on your to-do list. "Hung out with a diverse group today! Check! ”
You just need to deny yourself those lazy urges to just invite those two or three people you're super comfortable with. You need to say “ yes ” to the Holy Spirit when he illuminates to you opportunities to get involved in someone's life, even if you don't know much about their life. Say “yes” when he nudges you to show up to the dinner party, even though you're shy. Give everyone an equal chance to know you and be known by you.
3. Lead your kids by example.
Our kids will see what we do. They are listening to everything we yell back at the news anchor. They are watching which jokes we laugh at. They note our tone of voice when we talk about others. Make it count.
Our kids need to see us hug people who come from a different background. Our kids need to be in Children's Church with people who come from different places, and they need to see us worshiping in the midst of a diverse group as well. Our kids need to play on teams based in different areas of town so that they can see us make friends with other parents from all over town. Change is only a generation away if we do the hard work of loving our neighbor as ourselves and repenting of our lazy racism.
Photo Credit: xthylacine