What White Folks Learning About Racism (Can) Ask

by | Dec 10, 2019

What White Folks Learning About Racism (Can) Ask? “But what can I do to fix this?”

I have heard some variation of this question asked dozens of times, often with evident and genuine pain behind it. The people asking this question are usually white, and through relationships, education, and the work of the Holy Spirit, they have come to understand the harsh realities of race in this country.

It’s a good question. Given the different experiences majority and minority culture folks can have, developing an understanding of what other people go through should produce a sense of sympathy and injustice. But I am not sure it’s the right question.

Zeal

In one sense a person who can come to understand racial disparity and not want to change things is a terrifying prospect. Zeal and motivation for change are, I trust, works of the Holy Spirit. Faith without works, after all, is dead (James 2:17). What Christian can learn about the extent of redlining and not want it gone forever? Or hear brothers and sisters recount tragic experiences and not want to help them? The desire to work out faith and the life-changing, reconciling love of God in our broken world is part of what it means to be a Christian. I would never want to discourage anyone’s zeal.

Perspective

Yet I would encourage a friend asking this question to gain more perspective. After all, “desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19:2).

Though he or she might not realize it, the question is at worst proud, and at best, naive. Racial disparity in our society took hundreds of years of deliberate action by many to get to where we are. You won’t fix it. You can’t fix it. For more on this, see this article about systemic racism.

A better question is, “what can I do to be faithful?”  There is a huge difference between thinking your racial awareness is the answer to the world’s problems and understanding yourself to have a duty to your brothers, sisters, and neighbors. Perspective settles in for the long haul and gets to work.

What’s more, zeal without perspective is hard to deal with. It builds before planning (Luke 14:28). Ironically, it can make us less likely to listen to others, especially when we think they are trying to tamp our zeal. Think of the person who rushed to be a missionary without seeking counsel. Or think of the husband who, in response to a crying wife, glibly asks “How can I fix this” when what his wife needs is a hug, not a fix. The husband doesn’t understand that when he asks how he can fix it, he cheapens his wife’s pain by making the problem not seem as severe as it is. It’s foolish to assume we know everything. Wisdom listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15).

Zeal with perspective understands more of the scope of what we are up against when dealing with racism. Perspective without zeal might give up. But these two qualities paired together lead us to ask more questions, take informed initiative, work hard, and trust God to do what we cannot.

In this way, coming to understand the significance of race and racism serves as a beginning rather than an end. There are many ways we can adorn our faith in Christ with good works as we seek the unity he prayed for (John 17:20). Those ways might not be clear to us at the beginning. And those ways will not be the final answer to all of the world’s problems. But that’s OK. God has called us to obedience, and the more time we spend focusing on obedience rather than quick fixes, the better off we and our neighbors will be.

 


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that God’s people would rightly mourn the reality of racism.
  2. Pray that we would be zealous for good works.
  3. Pray that God would do what we cannot, and bring true and lasting justice.

 

Recent POdcasts

Political Convictions: What Are They?

Political Convictions: What Are They?

Political Convictions Dan Darling joins the show once again to talk with Austin and our community. It's no secret that this is a difficult political season for a lot of Christians. Without diving into the weeds of any specific issue, Dan and Austin discuss how we...

read more
July 4th Special: Black and Patriotic with Bobby Scott

July 4th Special: Black and Patriotic with Bobby Scott

Black and Patriotic Happy fourth of July! This week we are joined by special guest, Pastor Bobby Scott. "Bible Bobby" is a friend of the ministry who has been on the podcast and has written for us several times. He has a particular interest in black history and all...

read more
Adoption, Prayer, and the Unexpected

Adoption, Prayer, and the Unexpected

Adoption, Prayer, and the Unexpected | Special Needs Adoption On today's special episode, Pastor Isaac Adams interviews one of his church members, Brittany Elmer. Brittany and her husband have adopted three special needs children, none of whom share their ethnicity....

read more

Upcoming Events

Isaac-Adams-United-We-Pray-speaking-at-an-event

Click Here to View Now

Recent Articles

Repentance Is Your Superpower

Repentance Is Your Superpower

We’ve all seen the public non-apology apology. Whether it’s a college president, corporate executive, or government official caught in a misdeed or unpleasant situation, they all look the same. They acknowledge a less than favorable outcome, express wishes that things...

read more
Gospel Hope Creates Space for Lament

Gospel Hope Creates Space for Lament

I’ve noticed some strange behavior from some friends of mine. It has come up in several different relationships over the last few years. They are all intelligent, successful, and pretty happy people. I love them dearly. But these friends are not Christians.  The thing...

read more
Confidence in the Wrong Place

Confidence in the Wrong Place

In 1908, G.K. Chesterton warned Christian readers that various influences were eroding society’s ability to learn:  But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. . . . A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this...

read more

We’d love to hear what you think about this article. Submit your feedback by clicking here to contact us.

Author

  • Austin Suter

    Austin is the executive director and editor for U?WP. He is a husband, father and seminary student at RTS Charlotte. Austin is a member at Iron City Church in Birmingham, AL. @amsuter

Related Articles

Stay Connected