Sunday, February 21, 2010


Recently a relative of mine had a bi-racial baby: CA/AA. One of our older relatives went to visit mom and baby in the hospital and then remarked to another relative (one whom I am closely related to) after the visit, "Well, the baby is light now, but we'll see what happens."

When I was told this by another very close family member, we launched into a conversation about prejudice and age. My relative argues that it's "generational" and that, because of age, a comment like this should essentially be excused/respectfully tolerated. Basically, older folks grew up in a different time, a time where people of color were not accepted. Of course, the whole "respect your elders" comes into play, but personally I don't equate standing up to racism as an act of disrespect.

My argument is that the woman who made this comment is a Christian, and Christians are held accountable for all their actions. I personally believe that the age of a person, where one grew up, how one was raised, etc. is not an excuse that gives them a free pass to make racist comments.

Take, for example, Ephesians 4:29,

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for
necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

And Matthew 15:7,

Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man: but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.

And Proverbs 15:3, emphasis mine,

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

And Proverbs 21:2,

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord looks at the heart.

And most powerfully, Matthew 12:36-37, spoken by Jesus,

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak they will give account of it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

I do not want my daughter, my spouse, or myself making prejudice comments against anyone based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age, disease, disability, etc. It's not that I do not have firm moral beliefs. It's just that I see, as a pastor once said, that every person we meet is a person for whom Christ died. And when the people passing judgements are supposed to be mirrors of Jesus, then God help us.

It is each person's responsibility to stand up for what is right, because, I believe, not saying something to a person who makes a prejudice remark is equally as sinful as the offender's prejudice comment. Silence, as we have all heard, speaks volumes.

Is it easy to stand up to a relative? An "elder"? Someone else? Not always. But the easy road is often the road to destruction.

I grew up in a small town, the area in which many of my relatives, including the offender, reside. There's diversity, but there's not integration. Blacks are with blacks, and some, yes, in the projects (which brings up another issue of class and race), whites are with whites, and occasionally, there's what the white people deem a "cool black person, not like the others." Some of the boys in my high school had Southern flags in the windows of their jacked-up trucks (funny thing is, Illinois was part of the North....but anyway...). Interracial couples get looks, stares, and comments. Biracial kids are called "mixed." (A term that greatly bothers me, but that's another post). When I was in grade school, there was a young black male shot a young while male; it was speculated that their argument was race-related.

But is any of this an excuse to make an inappropriate comment?

My point is this. The baby is innocent. She is just a few days old. She didn't choose to be born into the situation she is in. She didn't choose her race. And she sure didn't choose to be part of a family that includes judgemental, racist relatives.

Her value in this world and in God has nothing to do with her skin color, though that is a beautiful part of her.

And how dare someone who claims Jesus as her Savior decide that the precious baby girl is worth less than a white person? Or that hopefully, she'll stay more white than black, because that is better? And how dare those around her not respond to her words in the name of that baby girl who is too young to speak for herself?

Deep breath...

White parents with black kids combat this sort of infuriating nonsense all the time. A friend of mine recently posted on an adoption message board that a few of her relatives made a racist comment about our President, even though my friend (who is white) has five kids, two of whom are black. My friend was asking how to confront her relatives. Some posters suggested ignoring them, some said a face-to-face talk, and others, myself included, suggested writing a letter.

Is my friend's situation easy? No. When you are facing people you love, people whom you are connected to, and people who often get a "pass" for being older, it's sometimes like David facing Goliath. It's a big job. Do it wrong, and you'll end up hurting relationships and perhaps making the racism worse. Do it right, and you might make a difference, or you may not.

It's a risk to stand up for a people who perhaps don't look like you, or don't share your culture/beliefs, or don't act like you, or heck, that you don't know personally. But it's a risk worth taking. Allowing any type of prejudice to become "ok" is a slippery slope. If you keep your mouth shut friends, you not only allow the comment to stay "out there," floating around from person to person, uncontested, but you also let your silence speak loudly. Do you know what message that silence sends?

Furthermore, you allow that comment to resonate in your own heart. And perhaps it finds a little crack in you, a little place where you once had something negative done or said to you from a person of color, and those words widen that crack. Just a little.

And with each comment or joke or stereotype, that crack widens more and more. And slowly, without much threat individually, those comments congregate and create something in your heart. Something ugly, something sinful, something hurtful.

(Proverbs 18:5 says, It is not good to show partiality to the wicked...).

The comment and those that follow will impact you, just as your silence, your response, will. To choose silence is to choose sin. I stand firm in this belief.

Be accountable.

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