Hi, I’m Hannah, and sometimes … I can be racist.
I don’t have a Klan hood hanging in the back of my closet. I don’t believe in any way that people of color are inferior to white people. I don’t use disparaging language or slurs when talking about people whose skin is a different color than mine.
But I still carry around with me racial biases that sometimes come out in my behavior, and that, as a result, hurt other people.
When I used to work retail, I would watch Black customers more closely than I would watch white customers. When I am out walking my dogs by myself, and a Black male is walking towards me, I find myself tensing up and expecting the worst possible behavior from that person.
I don’t do the same thing when I cross paths with a white male — unless he gives me a specific reason to be fearful or suspicious of him. I have made assumptions — that turned out to be wildly incorrect, by the way — about a Black person’s level of education and career. I have used the words “articulate” and “well-spoken” to describe a Black woman who I admire — the implication there being that she talks like a white person.
And these are just the examples that are readily coming to my mind as I write. I’m sure that there are many more examples out there of racist behaviors that I have exhibited that I just can’t think of at the moment.
Understand that I am not writing this article in hopes that a person of color will read it and forgive me, or pat me on the back and give me brownie points. That is not my goal.
People of color should not be saddled with the guilt of white people. They should not be put into positions where they are expected to forgive people who they don’t even know for their racist behaviors or worldviews.
It is also not the responsibility of people of color to give white people gold stars for recognizing that they have done wrong.
I write this article because when we sin, we cannot move forward to reconciliation unless we first confess our sins and repent.
Racism is a sin. Full stop.
When God created human beings, He created us all to bear His image into this world. The diversity of the human race is a statement about the diverse and multi-faceted nature of God.
We are all different, because God is bigger than any of us can imagine — and through our differences, we can all offer different pictures of God and His love to one another. And when we crush that — when we strip away another Image Bearer’s humanity and dignity, for any reason — that is a sin. When we abuse another Image Bearer, or use generalizations and misconceptions as a reason to snuff out their light — that is a sin.
All of the things that I have done or thought that negatively impact Black people or that help to spread negative stereotypes about them, are sins. I have sinned against God and against my fellow Image Bearers by being racist. God, have mercy on me.
I usually like to end sermons or articles about faith with an invitation. It occurs to me that concluding an article such as this with an invitation might rub some folks the wrong way, but I’m going to put on my big-girl britches and do it anyway.
Reader, if you are person with racial biases — as I am — I hope that you will join me in confession and in repentance of your sins. I hope that you will be honest with yourself, and that you will name it all.
Confession is scary, but it is good for the soul. I also hope that you will link arms with me and join me in the commitment to do better and to be better.
Ridding ourselves of these internal biases will not be easy. It will be a painful process.
Refusing to go along with a co-worker’s racist joke might get us some negative attention. Speaking up will take us out of our comfort zones.
We will make mistakes along the way, which might discourage us. But abundant life and Gospel freedom is not possible unless we choose to stop persisting in our sins. Wholeness and love as God wants it for His Creation is not possible unless we choose to stop dehumanizing our siblings of color.
So, let’s do it.
Hi, I’m Hannah, and sometimes — I can be racist. But I’m making some serious changes.
Hannah Mullikin Lutz is the Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.
Weekly columns are provided to the News Journal by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.