I’m a 30 year old bi-racial man who was born and raised in the South, which is infamous for it’s history of racial tension. My mother is white and my father is black, and even though I am mixed. I identify as black. Raised in Georgia in a black neighborhood, I went to predominantly black schools, I also attended a Historically Black College and University. I grew up hating what I looked like because my life represented what some people are still afraid of… Unity.
I grew up believing that I was never white enough nor was I ever black enough. This inner battle created tension that I didn’t realize I would still have to navigate as a man. As a result, I’ve experienced racism, prejudice and feelings of inadequacy. Some people couldn’t hear me over the tone of my skin. I remember as a child the weird stares that my mother and I received that seemed to say, “You don’t belong here.”
As I began my faith journey in my early 20’s and began my ministry career I was saved in, served at and attended a predominantly white AG church in Alabama. I now hold a pastoral position at a predominantly white AG church, and live in a predominantly white community in Mississippi. I am married to a beautiful, kind, loving, God fearing, white woman, who I now see get those same stares as we walk in rooms that cause me to ask the question, “Are we welcome here?” I ponder on what life will be like for our children. What kind of things will be said about them or to them? I remember being asked as a kid if a race riot occurred, “Which side would I choose?” And I would say, “Neither… I’ll stand in the middle.”
I’m in a dilemma. I find myself in the middle, and our young people find themselves in the middle… The place most people don’t want to be. The place that most people avoid. There’s tension in the middle because you’re not all the way on one side or all the way on the other. You’re neutral.
I believe it’s the attack of the enemy to get us to pick a side.
When the truth is, we’re called to be in the middle. As leaders, if we pick a side on matters such as race or ethnicity, then we’re not leading people, we’re leaving them. Because when you pick a side you divide.
We’re supposed to be in the middle, because I don’t believe this is a black or white issue. This is not a skin problem, this is a sin problem. This isn’t a political issue. The Government can’t fix this. There is not a law that we can pass that can change someone’s heart. Schools can’t fix this. This is a moral problem and a biblical literacy issue. This starts with us, it starts with the Church.
This starts with us, it starts with the Church.
Being in the middle means we’re supposed to bring people together, because in order to have unity “I” have to be in the middle. Unity is where “U” and “I” belong. Unity is where God commands the blessing. (See Psalm 133) I believe Jesus came to restore and bring us all back together. I believe He is in the middle.
Being in the middle means we’re supposed to bring people together, because in order to have unity “I” have to be in the middle. Unity is where “U” and “I” belong.Tweet
So what can we do?
Yes, this is hard to talk about so I imagine that it’s hard for some to listen to. Which reveals the issue with our communication. That most people listen to reply, they don’t listen to understand. But now is the time to listen. Do not judge those that are hurting because they don’t always know how to communicate their pain. But listen, empathize and pray.
We need to create safe spaces for those who are hurting or have been hurt to share. If you’re too busy judging or defending those that are hurting then you’re too busy to hear what the hurting are saying.
Racism is real. Prejudice is real. It’s not getting worse, it’s getting filmed. You’re not reading about it, thinking it was just a part of America’s dark history. No, this is a reality that we are seeing and have access to. We can’t hide from it anymore because young people have real questions, and they want to be a part of the conversation and the solution. The truth is, they should be, so talk about it. The worst conversation we could have about race with young people is no conversation at all. This needs to happen early, often and honestly. Have the hard conversations about race and offer a biblical perspective on unity. If addressed effectively, these discussions provide opportunities for learning.
Sometimes we feel hesitant to bring up these topics because they are uncomfortable, sensitive and we don’t always have enough information or background to teach on the topic well. So be creative in your communication style, offer open dialogue in small groups, host a forum, take a survey or poll your students to find out what questions they are asking. Interview people of color as opposed to traditional preaching styles. Incorporate sermon series on racial reconciliation while providing resources to further those conversations at home, in small groups, and bible studies. We should educate ourselves, our children and our people on how to have these conversations at home. We can’t help the world, if we don’t help our homes.
You can also use technology. Due to the advancements in technology we are more connected than ever. We have more access to information than ever, while young people are starving for truth. We are setup like never before to mobilize and partake in the greatest advancement of the Gospel that the world has ever seen, and faith leaders should lead that charge. So if you don’t have a voice, help raise someone else’s. Share someone else’s thoughts or viewpoints via social media.
Offer classes to help parents and/or grandparents learn to regulate how much time young people should use technology and help them to establish real meaningful connection with people that don’t look like them.
This is important because, Generation Z is the most ethnically diverse yet seen. 52% of this generation is white. 25% is Hispanic. 14% is black and 4% is Asian. Approximately 4% is multiracial, and this number has risen rapidly between 2000 and 2010. More specifically, the number of Americans who identify as mixed white and black has grown by 134%. We are one generation away from abolishing racism. Abolishing racism begins with our young people.
Practice what we preach. This is where we evaluate our circles and influences. If all of our friends look like us, talk like us, think like us, we will have a very limited perspective. Unity is not uniformity. We’re not all called to be the same, and if we can help our students realize that the more we engage with people that don’t look like us, we will realize that we have more in common than unites us than divides us. We need to encourage young people to engage with people who are different than them, not avoid them.
As Christian leaders, we need to exemplify to our young people that we’ve been given the unique opportunity and privilege to steward a ministry of reconciliation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:16-21) We must develop relationships. This is on us. We must develop and engage in right relationships with people who don’t look like us, have the same backgrounds as us or even believe like us. It’s only in relationships where people really begin to find out, not how different we are, but how much we are the same. It’s hard to talk negatively about someone that you know and understand what they’re going through. It’s hard to hate someone that you love. You cannot have relationship with somebody you’re not willing to engage with.
Now is the time for real leadership, strategy and continued conversation. We can abolish racism one person at a time. One family at a time. One neighborhood at a time. One city at a time. One nation at a time. We can do this, if we choose to be in the middle.