Is everyone a racist?

You Don't Have to Be the Same Color to Play Together

After Sunday School -- Some Friendly Teasing in the Parking Lot of Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church, Los Angeles, around 1970
After Sunday School -- Some Friendly Teasing in the Parking Lot of Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church, Los Angeles, around 1970 | Source

What is racism?

Racism is different than discrimination. If I am a teacher meeting a class for the first time, I'm trying to associate names and faces and remember who's who. At first I will look at sex, race, hair color, etc, as a way to tell one person from another until I learn the names and I will then see them as the individuals they are rather than as members of a sex or race. They will become unique personalities in my eyes, not races and genders. That initial classifying of people is discrimination -- seeing the differences between people.

Racism is thinking less of someone because of his or her race. It's believing your own race is better than someone else's. It's treating someone disrespectfully because of a racial difference. A racist, then, is someone who considers his own race superior to that of another and treats that other as not worthy to be treated with respect because of his race alone.



Breaking Bread Together at a Church Dinner

Part of a group eating in the church fellowship hall. They have selected their own seats.
Part of a group eating in the church fellowship hall. They have selected their own seats. | Source

All People Racists?

As a Christian, I believe all people are born prone to sin, and that would include racism. People are born selfish. Witness any baby concerned only with itself and its needs. Parents do their best to civilize this cute but selfish little person so that he or she will grow up to care about others -- not just self. If this person also comes to a point in his life where he yields control of himself to Jesus, he will be giving up his right to be selfish and a racist. As he begins to love God more, he will become more like God, who is the creator of all races. He will realize that God loves all his creation, and so should he. He opens his heart to all, not just those of his own race or social class, or political party. He learns from the Scriptures that if he cannot love his brother -- of any race -- whom he has seen, he cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

I wish I had a picture of an event that will always stick in my mind. Once we were one of only three, and later two, white families, who were members of the Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church in Los Angeles, from 1967-1976. Our Sunday school, in which I taught, was about half black and half Oriental. The two boys, pictured in the first module, were students in my junior department, The founding pastor had been Chinese. Some later pastors were of Dutch descent. The elders were Oriental. The church itself was in a black neighborhood. We were what might be called a diverse group. We had Sunday school teachers of all races, though most were Oriental.

The closest friends I have today are from this church, which, unfortunately, closed a few years back and morphed into another church. All the people you see in these pictures grew up or have grown old. Several years ago, a man who had once been in my Sunday School class got married. I don't remember the year, but at the time there was some racial rioting in the area where the church was located.

The wedding was in a different community, and almost everyone I'd known from the church was there, as well as a few who had come after we moved north to a different county. The man getting married was Chinese. I would say his wife was, too, but I don't honestly remember, since I hadn't met her before. The attendees were as diverse as they could get and we were all having a wonderful time, catching up with each other and those who had been unable to attend. We had worshipped and relaxed with each other for years, been in and out of each other's homes, worked together on church projects, and attended and/or counseled at camps together. We had eaten together in restaurants, partied together, and hung out together. We were and are aware of our cultural differences, but they didn't matter in our opinions of each other or our desire to be together and work together.

The contrast between our interaction at the wedding, a reflection of years of past interactions, and what was going on in the racial riots in a different part of the city, could not escape me. I thanked God that racism does not have to be part of one's interaction with others. Those at the wedding had opened their hearts to each other, just as they had opened their hearts to God. They knew they were all brothers and sisters, adopted equally into the family of God, and equally loved by him.

In the photo at the top, you see people who were all very active in the church. On the left is one who was either pastor or elder when the picture was taken. He served in both positions at different times. To his right is one of those dear saints who does a lot of work behind the scenes that no church can get along without. The woman in the middle was teaching in my junior department and her daughter was in our junior high group after being in my sixth grade Sunday School class the year before. (The daughter is in the picture in the next module.) The man closest to the right was a deacon. At the right end is the person who served as Sunday School superintendent for almost the entire time I was there, and that was only one of the things she did. You could always see her helping out. I have enjoyed watching her children grow up. (One of them is in the picture below, front, right.) A couple of years ago she, the mother, hosted a reunion for all who wanted to come. We went. The group picture at the reunion, taken by one of the attendees, is below.

Group Photo Crenshaw CRC Reunion, 2008

These people worked, worshipped, and enjoyed each other's company for years. There was no more friction than I've experienced in any of my other churches that were not so diverse.
These people worked, worshipped, and enjoyed each other's company for years. There was no more friction than I've experienced in any of my other churches that were not so diverse. | Source

Junior High Camp, Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church

Working and Playing Together at Junior High Camp about 1970.
Working and Playing Together at Junior High Camp about 1970. | Source

Relationships Break Down Racial Barriers

In order to form bonds, people need the opportunity to be together and meet each other. If people form bonds, they begin to not think about race anymore than eye color or hair style. The people at the Crenshaw Church had formed friendships and worked together. They saw each other primarily as individuals, not people of other races or cultures. Our first identity was in Christ, not race. We cared about each other as the brothers and sisters we considered each other to be.

Take a look at the picture. It was taken at a church junior high camp in approximately 1970. I can tell you today the names of everyone in that picture, but to protect their privacy, I won't. The two adults in the middle are still friends forty years later. I went to their weddings, and we attended the memorial service for the wife of the man on the middle left about a year ago. The young lady in front on the right is the oldest daughter of the Sunday School superintendent in the picture above, and has had a successful career. The gal behind her is the daughter of the Sunday School teacher in the same picture. Not all the young people here had good things happen as they grew up, so I won't mention their later lives, again, but I do try to keep up with them.

I have stayed in contact with the two adults over the years, and the kids not as much. That shows discrimination by generation. You can only keep up with a limited amount of people and you have to make choices. Each choice involves discrimination. I actively keep up with the generation closest to my own. I also discriminate by relationship. Will I travel over 100 miles to attend a wedding or memorial service for someone I knew from this church instead of going to a social event at my local church here? I would probably chose to travel the 100 miles because of the length of relationship.

Our hearts are still bound. We still are there for each other when something big happens like the death of a child or family member. I attended a memorial service in 2006 for someone I had worked with as a fellow youth advisor. He had become head of the juvenile probation department in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Mayor spoke at his funeral. In the past 14 months I've attended two more services for people I met at the Crenshaw church. I dedicated this Squidoo lens, How to Make Mochi, to one of them, because if she had not invited me to spend part of her last Christmas with her family, I could not have written the lens. When we accepted her invitation, it was just to be with her. I didn't even know what mochi was. I only wrote the lens because I had my camera with me and the opportunity presented itself. Now the lens lives in memory to her and helps to raise money for others with cancer.

How poor my life would be today if I had decided those of other races were not worth getting to know. A standing joke at the Crenshaw Church was the reaction of visiting pastors, almost all of whom were of Dutch descent. Almost as soon as they mounted the pulpit, they would scan the faces sitting before them and exclaim how great it was to see such a diverse congregation. They noticed. We had stopped noticing, since we were just Christians and friends -- not Japanese, Dutch, Serbian, Chinese, black, Korean, multi-Euorpean mixture, or whatever. Together we were one part of the family of God.

More About the Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church

A few months after I wrote this hub, I attended the second planned reunion of the Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church in August, 2011. It was our privilege to pick up the founding pastor, George Lau, and his new wife, since at 84, George didn't feel able to drive in Los Angeles traffic anymore. His first wife, Mary Lau, died a few years ago, and his new wife's husband died recently. It's quite a love story, since George, and his new wife Marion, used to date before either of them married, and their families have been keeping in touch since then. After both were widowed, they got together again, and married in April, 2011. They are, at time of this writing, living in Simi Valley, near where we used to live, and we had to drive right past there on our own way to the reunion in Carson. It only made sense to go together, and it would have made no sense for the first pastor of the church not to be able to attend and see the fruit of his labor.

One thing that struck us at the reunion was that when a church takes it to heart that race is only a personal attribute, not a divider, people are very accepting of interracial marriage. We discovered that after we left, many of the young people had, in fact, married outside their race or culture.

At the end of the reunion I promised I would write about it and tell the story of the church's history and fellowship. This church officially disbanded in 1995 as a congregation, but the relationships formed there live on. You can read more about this and see lots more pictures, along with video interviews of people who had grown up in the church or pastored it here: The Church a Building Could Not Contain.

More by this Author

  • Enemies of the People? Life in Communist Yugoslavia
    98

    Ever wondered how it effects the life of ordinary citizens who own a business or property after the Communists take power after a revolution. My husband lived it with his family, spending some time in prison when he was...

  • EDITOR'S CHOICE
    Coyote Bush: Blessing or Curse?
    9

    Coyote brush grows all over the coastal ranges of California and up into Oregon. It plays an important part in nature's plan, but can prove to be a pest in the garden. It's a blessing or a curse, depending upon your...

  • EDITOR'S CHOICE
    Milk Thistle and Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous
    62

    These two plants are often found together in nature, but one is poisonous and the other is edible. This article helps you identify and differentiate these two, in every stage of growth. Many photos!


What are your thoughts on racism? 21 comments

aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 5 years ago from American Southwest

It's been pointed out to me that the Bible doesn't talk about racism. It condemns the broader category of favoritism, in the book of James, portraying it as making decisions based on evil motives. You can have favoritism without racism (being friendlier to the rich than the poor) and racism without favoritism (in an Easter play, it would make sense not to have Jesus played by either a dark-skinned black or a blue-eyed blonde. Of course, for an accurate portrayal of Jesus based on Isaiah 53, whoever played Jesus shouldn't be good-looking.)


Debarshi Dutta profile image

Debarshi Dutta 5 years ago from Calcutta

Wish everyone knew facts about other people the way you knew..Yours is wisdom about people of a different race..Often the ignorance as prejudice that has to be overcome is difficult, we men can blame all our lack of happiness and contentment on ignorance..and racism is a special kind of ignorance.

This particular part of your hub says it most succinctly:

''As he begins to love God more, he will become more like God, who is the creator of all races. He will realize that God loves all his creation, and so should he. He opens his heart to all, not just those of his own race or social class, or political party. He learns from the Scriptures that if he cannot love his brother -- of any race -- whom he has seen, he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. ''


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

aethelthryth, you are right that James teaches us not to play favorites, and Paul teaches us in Galatians that for those baptized into Christ"There is neither Jew nor Greek...slave not free...male nor female" for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the matter of the play, you are referring to discrimination -- telling the difference between one thing and other without using that difference to consider yourself superior on account of it. But you do remind me of something. One of the boys in the camp picture one played Jesus in an Easter play I wrote (actually a compilation of dialogue from Good News for Modern Man). I was stricken the day, a decade or two later, when I learned he was in jail, but one of the others who had been in the youth group, was visiting him there. I would not have found anyone who really looked like Jesus in my church.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Debarshi, those aren't my ideas. They are all derived from the Bible. It is a clear New Testament teaching. It's a shame that so many Christians throughout history have not been able to to see that, or didn't want to see it. Other Christians did, and fought to do away with legal slavery in both Great Britain and in the United States. Unfortunately,no one but God can change the heart.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Hmm- I used to think everyone was racist because I defined it as noticing racial differences... but I like your definition better- it's something someone can actively work to fight, which is super important! Great Hub.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Simone, impossible not to notice differences, but it's possible not to let those differences be the basis on which we judge a person's worth. Neither do we have to forget about the difference when we interact. Example -- each holiday season we know that culture and religion will probably dictate which holidays our friends observe and we try to extend the appropriate greeting for each one. We also may take into account that you will modify the most common greeting to have a happy or merry holiday when you are sending a card to someone that just lost a parent, child, or spouse. You will adjust your greeting because there is a difference in that person's ability to have a happy holiday when he or she is missing that loved one. We can embrace a person's culture or race or religion as part of him, since it is a big part of him. I don't think anyone wants to be just like everyone else. Instead he wants the same opportunities to make something of himself and worship and play and associate with others as he sees fit without having race or culture be a hindrance to it.


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

I do not judge anyone. I treat everyone as an equal and find something we have in common and go from there. Now do I like everyone no but it is not because of their race...


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Mrs. J. B. There are always people we'd rather spend time with more than others. Obviously we have to make choices based on common interests, personality, character, etc. Everyone cannot be a close friend. Most people probably prefer to pick people somewhat like themselves, and perhaps from their own race or cultural group, as friends or marriage partners. There's nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when you exclude or put someone down solely because of race or culture and refuse any opportunity to get to know that someone as a person in the normal course of life. Would you refuse to sit next to someone of a different race, or, if your office mates decide to go to lunch together and exclude the one who is different from the invitation. It's making someone who belongs in a group feel like he isn't welcome because of his race or culture.


Bumpsysmum profile image

Bumpsysmum 5 years ago from Cambridgeshire

It would be daft to imagine that we don't see the differences between races, sexes and even ages and sizes but what we have to get our heads round is the fact that all the races, sexes, ages and sizes have a place on this planet, they were put here for a reason in the same way as all the various plants, birds, bugs etc. and don't need to earn that right, it's theirs. I deplore racism in the obvious sense, all the other ism's are now so outdated, but it's not so long ago that a child at school with weight issues would be castigated most cruelly - great hub, very interesting and informative :-)


Melanie Trausch profile image

Melanie Trausch 5 years ago

This was a great hub. I wish more people truly understood that building relationships is really the key to breaking down barriers of all types. People cultivate intimate bonds with one another over time through similar interests, relatable circumstances, and shared memories. Many people nowadays are so diverse in their own cultural makeup and global in their thinking that not liking someone based solely on their skin color or racial makeup seems so primitive and outdated. Voted up! :)


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Bumpsysmum, the real issue is that we should not be respecters of persons, meaning we should see each person as made in the image of God and worthy of respect on that account alone. I don't mean that we should respect everyone's choices in life (drug addiction, dishonesty, etc.) but we should try to see each person as someone God loves and treat him accordingly. Sometimes that might mean tough love for the person's own good, but no one should be hated or belittled because of who he is or what he looks like.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Melanie, unfortunately, people don't always get the chance to form such relationships. Sometimes they may have little in common with the people they come in contact with who are of other races or cultures. Sometimes this is by choice, and sometimes there are language barriers. Relationships can develop if you go to school or work together, go to church or do volunteer work together, or something similar. Then you start with something in common -- being on the football team or set-up crew for an event, working on a project where people's strengths show, etc. OTOH, someone on the cheerleading squad is not likely to form a relationship with a gang member at her school.


Miss Info profile image

Miss Info 5 years ago from New York City

It is very unclear to me why there should be any reason at all to explore why or how the Bible says (or doesn't say, for that matter) that racism is wrong and inhumane. It isn't as if people aren't really pretending to be daft or stupid in regards to their very apparent racist behaviors. The practice of parity or unity should be a natural and simple matter of common sense and civility in the "United" States of America. I am baffled when I read about or witness other people's "moment of awakening" in regards to how sickly racist this country really is.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Miss Info, I wasn't able to follow what you really meant by this sentence. Could you rephrase it for me?

"It isn't as if people aren't really pretending to be daft or stupid in regards to their very apparent racist behaviors."

Some people, and I'm sorry to say that some Christians are among them, have been taught racism by their parents and maybe by some of their peers as well. They maybe never even questioned it. For these, it may be that the Bible is important in changing their way of thinking. They may need to be challenged in this regard. Some people who did not grow up in Christian families become Christians as adults and may have grown up with prejudices, racial or otherwise, and they need to know that racism is wrong when seen in the light of Biblical teaching. The younger people are, the more exposure many have had to other races, and they may be less likely to have racist attitudes than their parents and grandparents.


Mactypetim profile image

Mactypetim 5 years ago from California

Miss Info, first you question applying the principles of the Bible to people, and then you say this:

"The practice of parity or unity should be a natural and simple matter of common sense and civility in the "United" States of America."

Tell me, if there is no higher power governing the right or wrong to people's actions, then why should any other person's "common sense" be any better then yours? Why should people see racism as being wrong when they see it as a perfectly right and justifiable option in their own life?


jessicab profile image

jessicab 5 years ago from Alabama

Very interesting article.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thanks, jessicab. Glad you stopped by to read it.


femmeflashpoint 4 years ago

WannaB,

I loved this hub! I'm a big fan of COLOR! God must be too. He sure made a whole bunch of variations of it. :)

I'm not about to say I don't "see" color, because that'd be silly, and our color is part of who we are. I'm Anglo and Tribal, and a good amount of my family is of mixed heritage.

I'm light skinnned with light hair and green eyes. My sister is darker skinned, with dark hair, and eyes the same as mine. My nephew is so fair skinned and blue eyed, I wondered how he managed to be birthed from the same gene pool.

But, one of the proudest moments I've ever had with him was when he was a just out of his teens and not long before he joined the U.S. Army.

I asked him if it made a difference to him what color his girlfriend or wife might be.

He said, "Auntie, I don't care about her color as long as she loves God and loves me."

That was the perfect answer. :)


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

fff, I really appreciate your comments. Your second last sentence sums up what a lot of young people who grew up at this church believed, which is why I just added one more paragraph with a link to the history I just wrote of this church on Squidoo. In my lens I publish the interviews, written and video, of people who grew up in the church, had leadership positions, or pastored the church. I also took a lot of pictures of interactions so that people could see who we really were and are.


femmeflashpoint 4 years ago

WannaB - it's a really great story. I'm way happy you wrote it and put it here for us.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

fff, I did it just for you. Thanks for reading it.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working