I’ll never forget an ad I saw many years ago. The ad had a photo of a black man and a white man, asking the viewer which person was the medical professional. It was powerful, because it confronted racial issues of stereotypes, prejudice, bias, and discrimination.
When we’re talking about racism, assumptions about people play a significant role. Our view of people affects our behavior towards them. Negative stereotypes are divisive to the church and diminishes the worth of human beings created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Power of Assumptions
The news media is highlighting wrongful treatment toward black men and women by police officers. In God’s creation, there is no superior skin color or ethnic group. Violence and mistreatment should be addressed, but it can mislead some of us to believe that racism is not “my problem” or that the criminal justice system is “the problem.”
A related issue to racism is a homogenous view of people who look alike rather than recognizing each person is different. We make assumptions about people who don’t look like us and, to add to this complexity, people who do look like us! Without asking questions, we jump to conclusions about a person’s ethnicity, education, socioeconomic background, religion, or political views.
Assuming the best
We should pray for the common good of all people but let’s not stop there. As Christians, our salvation is based on our union with Christ and there is no room to boast of socioeconomic, gender, or ethnic differences (Galatians 3:28). What are we doing in our churches to promote unity and humility? At my church, for example, the pastors bring up latest news for prayers and seek feedback from church members on ways to grow. It shows that they care. I’m thankful to be a part of a church that doesn’t avoid hard or awkward topics, and yes, racism is both.
We can be a bright light in this sinful world by loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We can love our neighbors by not tolerating condescending attitudes or words toward others. Words can hurt just as much. We can love our neighbors by listening and grieving with them. Our love for others will be imperfect, but the purpose isn’t merely for good relations. Our love for God is our motivation in loving others. If we’re struggling to love someone, read about the life of Jesus in the Gospels or God’s love in 1 John. Who are the people God has placed in our churches, communities, and workplaces?
So, think about the last few people that you met who looked different from you. Maybe it was someone from church, the cashier at the supermarket, or the neighbor down the road.
What assumptions did you make about that person, whether positive or negative? How do assumptions prevent us from getting to know people? It might be beneficial to take time to think about stereotypes that we aren’t even aware of believing. Reading biographies of black men and women could open our eyes to hidden biases in our lives and better understand their experiences.
Addressing racism seems overwhelming when we hear one story after another of mistreatment, but may we never lose hope in our heavenly Father who knows all things and has power to change lives. Let’s ask God to use us to be a blessing to those who are hurting and for wisdom in understanding people.
In thinking about this blog post’s topic, I’m so glad I didn’t make assumptions about a friend from college. We lived on the same dorm floor and instantly became friends. Over time, I learned her dad was a judge and, like him, she pursued law school after college. She was my friend who cared about people. She also had a beautiful smile, dark skin, and dreadlocks.