Racism – A Little Like Brushing Your Teeth

Photo Credit: Flag75

I posted this article from the Huffington Post on my facebook wall the other day.  A church in Kentucky has voted to say that everyone is welcome to come to their church, but interracial couples cannot become members.

One thing that jumped out at me and some of my friends who commented was this quote in the middle of the article from the man who wrote the resolution:

“I am not racist. I will tell you that. I am not prejudiced against any race of people, have never in my lifetime spoke evil”

The response that most people have when they read that quote is, “umm, if that’s not racism what is?”

And why can’t we talk about race without people getting defensive about not being racist.  I recently watched (and my husband blogged about) Jay Smooth’s TEDx talk about talking about race.

The issue Smooth says, is that racism is not an either you are a racist or you aren’t a racist thing.  It’s like being clean, like brushing your teeth.  You can’t just brush your teeth on December 1 and claim to have clean teeth until November of the next year.  You have to brush your teeth twice a day, floss, use mouthwash, visit the dentist.

We get defensive because racist=bad person, but in our self concept me=decent person.  So me cannot = racist.  We get defensive, because we’re afraid, we’re ashamed and we’re not sure how to handle not being a decent person, in fact, we think that we’re supposed to be a PERFECTLY decent person.

My former roommate Wanda talked about racism as a residue.  You work against being racist, you pray for forgiveness of your racism, you learn more about other cultures and races and ethnicities, but we live in an environment that keeps putting racist residue on us.  It’s only if we continuously learn, repent, forgive, pray and grow that we can decrease the amount of residue on us, but we have to move past the fear, defensiveness and shame before we can move forward.