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Is everyone a racist?
You Don't Have to Be the Same Color to Play Together
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
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
Junior High Camp, Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church
What Others Have to Say About Racsim
- Am I racist if I don't like black people in general but don't discriminate them in any way?
This is a question that was asked on Quora. It continues to receive answers that shed light on the nature of racism. By no means do those who answer the question answer it the same way. It appears racism may be come in various shades.
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.