My “Racist Tones”
I remember seeing an Instagram post a couple of weeks after the announcement that a grand jury had decided to not bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014.
The post was written by Andy Merrick—a white Instagram user. It said:
“There are racist tones
Hidden away in these bones
Depart from me, sin.”
I have not forgotten it since.
Racism comes in many forms and perhaps one of the most dangerous is the subtle kind—the racist tones. They’re not hostile. They’re not angry. They’re just…present.
A hint of condescension.
A wariness of someone else.
A general classification I’ve come to believe.
Thoughts that are so second nature I don’t see them coming. And then, I don’t even notice they’re there.
There is a reason that the second feeling I felt when I heard about the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile was shame. First, I felt sadness. Then, I felt shame.
Because deep down somewhere in my bones, something wondered if I was any better than those police officers, that if the horror and disgust I felt toward them could be redirected and pointed at my own self.
For there are indeed racist tones in these bones. Only, I can get away with them. Because for me, the reaction isn’t something that will sweep up the nation in a call for justice. My racism is not something I’ll be arrested for or lose my job for. My racism is almost worse, in that I could live my entire life without being called out for it.
The knee-jerk reactions I have toward someone because of what he or she looks like. The assumptions I make. The phrases that enter my mind, like “They always do that.”
They—as if an entire people group can be some certain way. I dehumanize souls with these thoughts. I take away their individual minds, hearts and character and clump them together into one. The desperate scramble to define something or someone I don’t understand for fear of my own misunderstanding.
Those are the racist tones in my bones. And I feel sickness in my stomach even now as I write about them. I’ll lose bits and pieces of my soul and my heart and my ability to empathize—racism chips away at those things—but I am free to roam the streets. And yet, am I any less dangerous?
So, we can call for peace. We can call for reconciliation. We can stand aghast in horror. But I wonder how much good we are doing—as a white and privileged people—if we don’t first stand aghast at the reflection in the mirror.
Maybe we’re not getting any better because we’re not being honest about our personal, deeply ingrained, shamefully racist tones. For how does anyone heal if she does not first admit that she is sick?
So remarkably true of us. …My heart also. May God cleanse what I cannot always see about who I am. Thank you for your transparency Andrea. …The mantel doesn’t fall far from the shoulders it was birthed on.
i applaud and respect your vulnerability. it takes true courage to write these words and post them for the world to see (and judge). i am grateful for that courage and for the examination i feel compelled to do of myself.
Wow! You nailed it right there. Powerful, convicting words. It’s true of me too…. Racist tones are in me.
I can relate to your thoughts. I have my own story and was able to share some of it last month at The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Fl.
As your Sister in Christ who happens to be wrapped in black skin, I want to say, “Thank You.” You are an answer to my prayer for the past several years, mostly since Trayvon Martin was killed. I don’t fully understand why I am crying as I write this comment except that my constant cries to white people I know personally have been met with either silence or disgust only to be then shunned and the relationship extinguished because of their inability or unwillingness to at minimum have a REAL conversation about – get this RACE. We never even made to the talk about racism because they refused to talk about point 1. So your openness is quite refreshing.
I cried as I wrote it. So we’re crying together 🙂 I’m sorry I didn’t write this sooner. I think I’ve had a blind spot for a long time that the Lord is starting to show me. I know for me to even be able to talk about it, I had to confess my own shame and my own prejudice. I think that paves the way for empathy and now my prayer is for God to grow my empathy and understanding and curiosity. I’m sorry for my silence. I now see why it’s hurtful to say nothing. Thank you for your comment and your understanding.
First I want to thank God for Andrea, because the main problem is there not enough people big enough to be trutful so we can get to the root of the problem. So I’m asking all of you who is convicted in your spirit and conscience to share these comments on your social media outlets and challenge others to post there confession. Then work in your areas of influence to start the process of reconciliation. You all have my upmost respect.
Thank you for sharing. I know the transperancy was not easy. As a person who wears black skin and who feels hate everyday, it is comforting to hear someone validate your experience. Sometimes I want to make the whole “racist” environment just go away and pretend that we are all truly living as Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Chosen One, ordained for us to live and love all humanity, as one (John 17). It would transform our nation if we could all begin with the person we see in the mirror. I will continue to love all, I will continue to advocate for the least of these and pray for all of us that we examine ourselves honestly.
Thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry for the hate you’ve felt. It’s real and I can’t imagine that being a part of my daily life. I’m sorry. Thank you for loving and pursuing Christ and being an example for us all.
Such truth and transparency. So many need to read this, and self examine. As challenging as our extremely troubled times are, I am hopeful. Thank you for sharing this deep message.
This kind of suburban bourgeois naval gazing is so tiresome – and futile.
If you are a closet racist – that’s something you have to address. But there is the none-too subtle suggestion that if someone so wonderful as yourself with such a wonderful family could feel this way – the rest of white America must be the same – or worse.
Want to see real racism? Go walking through a black neighborhood on a Saturday night missy. You’ll find out real fast what true racial hatred is. Take a look at the dead policemen in Dallas. White America has perpetrated nothing like that in a couple of generations. Look up Colin Ferguson.
We got lots of problems in this country. Our world is going to continue to be wounded by the terrible mark of original sin. But if we are to do anything to bring the light to the world, first we must face the truth, however painful.
And in this regard, black America’s main problem is not racist cops or white America. It is the utter breakdown of faith, the family, and basic morality.
Want to preach to us about your tortured white soul? Go live and work in a poor black neighborhood for a few years.
Then I’ll be very interested in your reflections. I guarantee – it won’t be about you.
Totally agree with you. The breakdown of the family and the lack of faith are the biggest threats to the black community. But most people don’t want to here that. They just want to play the victim.
While I am sometimes deeply troubled by people who sit and watch ships pass while naval gazing, I proposed to critique the shallow, self-absorbed indolence of navel gazing.
Oh Randy and John…the tone in your bones are showing. Please tell me, what did faith snd having a two parent household had to do with either shootings
Kudos to Andrea for self reflecting. You Rock.
Ms Lucado. You, as someone who has a Masters in English and writes for a living I know that you recognize words have meaning and power. I personally don’t have a Masters in English but have had a life long interest in the English language and its amazing power. Something that has bothered me for a while, I believe as far back as the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the backlash from it has been the numerous calls of Racism and all the generalizations that usually come from these labels.
Is there Racism in the US? Unfortunately there is. Is it a problem we need to address? Yes, we do. Is it something that only White people are guilty of? No, anyone can be racist. So what’s my problem? My frustration is that the words Racism and Racist are not always being used correctly and whole groups of people are being labeled Racist and certain actions are being labeled as Racism when in fact they aren’t.
Racism is a horrible thing and I’m afraid what is happening with the word being misused is that it is losing its meaning and power. It has gotten to the point recently that whenever a person disagrees with another the dissenter is immediately labeled a racist. “Well that’s because you’re a racist!” That is wrong. It is a weak argument and does nothing to help resolve whatever the real conflict happens to be.
Racism by definition is believing that one’s race is superior to other races and not diverting from that belief. That’s what brought about the Holocaust, Slavery, and Apartheid just to name a few. Racism has brought about terrible horrors. But yet the things you write about, the thoughts and assumptions, those don’t seem to fit that definition. You don’t feel that way about an entire other race do you? It sounds like your thinking of stereotypes and generalizations from limited information and jumping to conclusions. Based on your sick-to-your-stomach feelings about them I believe what you really mean in your posting above is Prejudice. Prejudice falls within Racism but is different in that the prejudice can be about anything (skin color, sex, culture, social status, education, politics, wealth, religion, body size, tattoos, etc.). People all across this country have friends, loved ones, co-workers, and neighbors who are different from them in any number of different ways and are willing to do just about anything for those others. Just because a person happened to be born and raised into a particular culture or class or socioeconomic group does not automatically make them Racist.
Prejudice is when a person makes a pre-judgment about another person without fully knowing them. Racism and bigotry take its place when those prejudices become entrenched and expand to an entire culture or race and causes the person to act hostile and intolerant and those feelings seldom if ever change. Prejudice can be wrong if we use it to make ourselves feel better or superior. It also is wrong if we are unwilling to change our mind when presented with contradicting information.
There is nothing inherently wrong about making judgments or discernments about people. Jesus told us to “not give what is holy to the dogs and not cast our pearls before swine.” He also told us to “beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” How do we do that without making some sort of evaluation about that individual?
We are to use wisdom and make judgments. We are also to love our neighbors as ourselves and have compassion on our fellow man and do our best to understand them. Having a thought that pops up in our head based on previous experience or wrong or incomplete information but later changing your mind, that’s being human, not Racism.
Thank you so much for this. I hadn’t stopped to consider the language piece of this, but you’re right, there’s a difference and it’s important to distinguish between racism and prejudice. Words lose their power when we begin to muddle what they meant in the first place. I appreciate this.
So true regardless of our race we all prejudice and have an unconscious bias. Thanks Andrea for a thought provoking article
I think John would know since i presume he is African American. And as far as faith and 2 parent household that has a lot to do with the shootings. If you have faith in God and a male parent in the house a lot of these young males would not be in trouble with the law therefore not have encounters or at least negative encounters with police. Joel P, You are totally right also.
Oh my goodness, I was just thinking about this very thing this morning. And begging God for help on it. I can relate to every part of your post!!
[…] My Racist Tones by Andrea Lucado https://andrealucado.com/2016/07/08/my-racist-tones/ […]
That was amazing, and so true. If we all, and I do mean ALL, realize that the path to freedom, the path to forgiveness, the path to everywhere starts with that person looking back at in the mirror. Thank you for sharing this
Your post reminds me of a short essay I read recently. It’s about how, as Christians, we can become aware of our racist scripts and seek to overcome them. I hope you find it enlightening! http://aleteia.org/2016/07/13/our-racial-and-sometimes-racist-scripts/
Thank you for your post!
To those who posted about problems in the black community, one of the major problems is the media perpetually portrays African Americans negatively. I grew up in a predominately black neighborhood that was not plagued with drugs, violence, nor police brutality. I know of many others with stories similar to mine. You will not read our stories in the news. Those of us who became doctors, lawyers, pastors, engineers, professors, and upstanding citizens in the world. We do not make the news. So, if all you see and hear are the negative stories and negative statistics it keeps prejudice going.
Children with brown skin are often treated differently as soon as they leave the home. People assume you will be a certain way. It saddens me as a multiethnic American how we made up races and God sees one race. Our boxes, labels, news stories are fuel for negativity. We are all varying shades of brown.
Jesus was a Jew born in the Middle East/Northern Africa. The Bible is set in those areas, yet I have met Christians who believe God is white, Jesus is white, all the Bible characters are white.
Heaven will be filled with every tribe, tongue, nation. I truly believe the main thing we need to repent of is pride. Pride causes us to judge others, hate others, and think we are better or less than others. Lord forgive us of our pride.
Thank you for your transparency. And for those making blanket statements about the black community, know you are not speaking for every black community. I grew up with two parents, in a loving/non violent area, and in a Jesus loving home. So did hundreds of others I know. You will not see us on the news and probably not a tv show about us. The media loves to portray the negative! Always.
[…] My “Racist Tones” andrealucado.com “..There is a reason that the second feeling I felt when I heard about the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile was shame. First, I felt sadness. Then, I felt shame…” EXCLUSIVE: Black man whose shooting death by police was streamed live by his girlfriend had been pulled over AT LEAST 31 times and hit with 63 traffic charges Published: 11:35 EST, 8 July 2016 dailymail.co.uk […]
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Joel p, I agree with what yo are saying. Ive realized that words like “racism” and “(fill in the blank)-phobia can be used as tools to manipulate others and even censor people. Who wants to be labeled racist or a bigot? (Other than those extreme groups). To not be associated with them many prefer to keep their mouths shut. I can disagree with someone or popular opinions because my conscience is clear, I see thaperson as someone who needs Christ