Recently I was talking with my twenty-six-year-old son, Josh, about when he was growing up. Out of curiosity, I asked if there was anything he wished we’d done differently in our parenting. He paused for a minute to think about it, and then he told me, “I wish you and dad had talked with us about the problem of racism in our country. I know we went to a multi-ethnic church, and you guys had lots of friends who weren’t white. Even half of my friends were Hispanic, Indian, and Black, but I didn’t know anything about racism.”
I wasn’t expecting that answer, but I understood and valued what he was saying. I apologized to Josh and explained that we didn’t sit down and talk about it back then because we didn’t know how prevalent racism still was. Even though we had many multi-ethnic friendships and a wonderfully diverse church family, it wasn’t something that was discussed.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And honestly, I thought I was only responsible for what I knew. But a few years ago, I realized if I wanted to fully embody the life, love, and compassion of Jesus, I needed to do the honest, soul-searching, and sometimes uncomfortable work of finding out what I didn’t know about racism.
For the past five years, I have been on a journey of listening and learning from friends and others whose lived experiences have been very different from mine because of their skin color. People with layers of pain and trauma caused by unfair, unjust, and unacceptable realities they can’t choose to not know about.
And I can no longer choose to not know about it either because racism is still very real for my Asian friends deeply concerned for the elderly and others in their communities due to the extreme rise in violent anti-Asian racism. Racism is painfully real for my Black friend whose grandfather worked hard to provide for his family while trying to set his children up for a better future — only to have his home devalued and his rights dismantled when new zoning policies were put in place to allocate more power and wealth to the white man. And racism is still real for my friend of East Indian descent who was questioned by a white woman at her neighborhood pool, insisting she tell this stranger her address to prove she and her children live in that neighborhood.
There was and still is so much for me to learn, but as I became more aware, I wasn’t sure where to start. What books should I read? What online course should I take? I wanted to know what I didn’t know, but knowledge wasn’t the only thing I needed.
Jesus was inviting me to walk with Him and learn how to lean in and listen to others’ stories with His love and compassion, to sit in sadness and sorrow with them and let myself feel the weight of their grief, to take time to weep with those who weep.
As Henri Nouwen once said, “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
I think back to when I first started my journey of anti-racism, and any time I heard the term “white privilege” I would bristle inside. Or when I was in a conversation where I felt like I should know more about racism, I’d defend myself because I wanted people to know I cared. But over time, Jesus helped me see that I was making it about me. All I needed to say was: “I’m sorry I didn’t know that. I thought I didn’t need to know since it was not part of my reality, but now I can see how that is white privilege.”
Other times when I feared I might say the wrong thing and be misunderstood, I’d remind myself that my uncomfortable feelings or fear wasn’t the point. And over time I learned that the best thing I could do was to ask: How can I love you well in what you’re going through?
I wish I had known what I know now about racism when my sons were younger. Thankfully, it’s never too late to start learning and even though our older sons are on their own and married now, we are all learning about racism together. We are looking for ways to more intentionally love people who don’t look like us by leaning in to listen to and value their stories, to fight against racism and fight for their rights. And when continued acts of racial violence and inequity happen, we are learning how to simply ask, “How can I love you well in what you’re going through today?”
Last year, a few of my (in)courage sisters and I gathered for a two-part conversation about race and racism. These personal stories from our sisters who are women of color were significant in helping me gain a deeper understanding and see racism through Jesus’ eyes. I hope you’ll lean in and listen to their stories.Leave a Comment
JoAnn Alo says
Renee Swope says
Thank you, JoAnn. My hope and prayer are that we can all lean in and learn together.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I didn’t have parents that brought me up to like people with white skin or brown skin or black skin. My parents never talked about the subject at all. But I have cousin I say she is in her late 30teets now. She now brown brown sink. Her Mum is white her Mum is my Dad’s Sister. We all when small. Expect her and never thought as her any difference. Her Dad none of us have met. The relationship between my cousin Mum and Dad it never was one that was marriage type. Or staying type. As my Aunt not saved. I don’t know if my cousin see her Dad. I don’t any time I see my cousin say anything about her Dad to her or her Mum my Aunt. I just pray for them and there salvation as none of them saved. So I have never been racist. I am glad to be saved. I am the only apart from my Husband in my family saved. But I am so glad my parents sent me Sunday School. Even though not saved themselves. I did pray for my late Mum and still do for my Dad and rest of the family. But one song I learnt at Sunday School that always sticks in my mind it good for us Adults today. That is “Jesus Loves All The Children Of The World Red And Yellow Black And White”. We are to do the same. No matter what. It saddens me especially when people are in Hospital they don’t care what colour skin the Doctor or Nurse is. As long as they make them well. Or were they come from. Then they can be racist when not in Hospital. Would they like it if they were that Doctor or Nurse with coloured skin and things said to them. I don’t think so. Words do hurt. God see all we say and do. As old Follower of Jesus who is now in Glory once said. Theses words are so true. They always stick in my mind. Bidden or not Bidden God is watching. How true that is. If a true Follower of Jesus. Lets do what Jesus would want us to do. Not be rascis. Show Jesus love to all people no matter what skin colour they have our were they come from our what part of world they come from. Love today reading. Love you all incourage. Xx
Renee Swope says
Yes, Dawn. you are right. Jesus wants us to show His love to all people. Amen.
karyn j says
i love what you wrote…thank you for speaking to this and for sharing.
Renee Swope says
Thank you, Karyn. We have so far to go, but Jesus wants to use our stories to help one another learn and understand. My hope and prayer are that we will come alongside one another and move toward healing and hope together.
Catherine Scible says
It wasn’t talked about in our home either. I grew up an a ethnically diverse neighborhood, schools and church and failed to see racism. When the violence started last year and I saw posts on friends Facebook pages I became aware of the feeling of some of my friends from back in the day. I apologized for not recognizing it and that if I in any way treated them different I was so sorry. I had friends of many different backgrounds and I just knew them as friends. “Colorblind” but that is not enough. God please open my eyes.
Renee Swope says
Thank you for sharing some of your story, Catherine. I appreciate you giving an example of how you, too, were unaware of the racism that was happening even though you lived in a diverse area. I am beginning to understand that is what “privilege” we have as white people, because we have the freedom to not “have to” think about it or feel the pain of racism since it’s never been part of our lived experience in America.
I love how you reached out to friends from the past and apologized for not recognizing or “seeing” what was happening or unknowingly treating them differently. Your humility is a beautiful gift, and I am sure it meant a lot to those friends just to be seen and valued in that way.
deone bayliss says
this article irritates me. THe bible DOESNT talk about racism EVER. if you are teaching your child the bible you learn that we are to love our neighbor. treat others as we would have to be treated. plain and simple. racism is a word the WORLD uses . i will leave this page now. very disappointed in this page!
Renee, good piece of article and thanks for sharing your feelings.
Deone, what a coincidence when you mentioned the word “racism” because my husband and I were discussing if that particular word with “ism” was in the Bible. We have not found it yet… Thank you bringing it up. We are gaining some insights from Thomas Sowell for better understanding on this issue in case you like to google him. All in all, this is going to be a CONTINUOUS issue due to the media. The main thing is let us love meaning to respect one another and God is in control of this because He sees the WHOLE picture of how it began/it is continuing.
Becky Keife says
We may not find the word “racism” in the Bible, but God has a lot to say about His heart for the oppressed and how He desires for us to treat one another. James 2 is a sermon on not showing favoritism–treating others differently according to their position in society. Romans 12:15 calls us to mourn with those who mourn–if our brothers and sisters of color are lamenting, we should be too. And Isaiah 61 gives a beautiful picture of how God invites us to join Him in the ministry of healing and liberty. I could fill a whole page with other applicable scriptures that illustrate God’s design for how His people are to love and advocate for one another in the context of a broken world.
At (in)courage, we use personal stories as a framework for shining a spotlight on God’s fingerprints in our lives and pointing others to the hope of Christ. Together, we seek to build community, celebrate diversity, and become women of courage. I’m thankful for the way Renee’s article today has done that. I invite you to stay, listen, and learn with us. We’re better together.
With love and grace,
(in)courage Community Manager
Renee Swope says
You are right, God wants us to love each other and treat others the way we want to be treated. And, if we sincerely want to do that for our sisters and brother of color, there is more we need to know and understand.
Although the word “racism” may not be in the Bible, it is very much addressed. But first, I want to point out there are many words, for example, “suicide” and “child pornography” not called that in scripture, but God absolutely wants us to learn about, discuss and do what we can to end both.
Paul does address and rebuke racism caused by divisions between Jews and Gentiles. He never told Christians to ignore the discrimination. Instead, he addressed it head-on in the Church when some Jews insisted Gentile believers abide by “Jewish” religious activities to be good Christians. (Romans 10:12). And Paul called out Peter for being racist after Peter had been eating with Gentile believers but stopped when James’ friends came around because he feared criticism from those Jewish people. (Galatians 2:11-13)
My hope and prayer in sharing all of this is not to debate, but to discuss and learn together as we look for ways to apply God’s word to our own lives and love others like Jesus. To simply listen and care about what it is like to not be white, and do what we can to make a difference, right where we are.
Here are a few more verses I found about discrimination based on skin color and ethnicity (which is racism) in the Bible:
“God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35).
“We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13).”If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:9).
Also, I was sad to hear my blog post irritated you. I hope you’ll consider how that may feel to people whose stories are like the ones I shared. Sadly, racism (discrimination based on one’s race/ethnicity) is a very real and painful reality in our world. And I hope maybe some of what I shared here will be helpful in some way. Blessings and prayers over you today.
Cynthia McGarity says
Such grace from you here Becky & Renee. It’s part of the reason I love the (in)courage community. Thank you for leading with love and being an example of how to have difficult conversations with those who don’t see things the way one might. It is a good and necessary reminder to me. And thank you for your blog post, Renee. So beautifully written and conveyed. I’m looking forward to watching the conversations between our (in)courage sisters. Blessings to all!
Having conversations about racism are the hard necessary ones needed. I used to be one of those people who believed that God didn’t “see” color. I have been taught to realize yes He does see color. He created all the wonderful and amazing array of people. So now I say God created diversity in all its forms to teach us to love our neighbors as He loves all his children. Not just the neighbors who look like me.
Renee Swope says
Thank you Maura for being willing to join us in our conversations about racism. They can be uncomfortable, but as you said, so very needed and necessary. God created a beautiful mosaic of diversity and part of loving each other well is knowing each other well. Knowing the hard and painful parts of someone’s story is what it looks like to love all of our neighbors. I believe standing up for those who others have stood, and stand, against is one way to advocate against injustice and display God’s love and compassion the way Jesus did.
Lord, help us love each other the way You do.
The biggest problem I have with this article is that the term: “white priviledge” is a society term and it basically means that whites are to feel guilty for being white, and worship other races, because from what I have seen, there is no pleasing them. They hate us for being white, and yet that is okay? I agree with weep with those who weep, and not being racist but I don’t agree with putting other races on a pedestal to wipe out your own. God created us all.
Becky Keife says
I hear you, Jennifer. Terms can be tricky and heated, especially when different people assign and wield them with different meanings. My understanding of white privilege (very simply boiled down) is that being born in America with white skin affords a person inherent advantages. This isn’t something to feel guilty about, but just to recognize in order to help bridge the disparity in how non-white people are treated. While some people may approach the topic of racism and white privilege in the way you’ve described, that’s certainly not our heart at (in)courage. Thanks for being here.
(in)courage Community Manager
Renee Swope says
Jennifer, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I also used to be offended by the word “white privilege” because I heard it through through the filter of how I had always defined privilege. After being quite offended for a while, I decided to take a deep breath and ask the Lord to help me understand “white privilege” from the perspective of friends who used the term in a non-attacking way. Friends who love me. Friends who do not hate white people. Through prayer and seeking to understand, He helped me see that white people have had the “privilege” of not knowing how horrible racism still is in our country because we haven’t experienced it ourselves.
I’m praying you will not allow the enemy to hurt you and divide your heart from your sisters of color who do not use that word as a weapon but as a term of understanding. I am sorry if you have experienced misplaced guilt. I know my friends of color would say they don’t want you to feel guilty for something you never did. Like us, they desire to be seen, valued, heard, acknowledged, and for white people to realize racism is still a problem and that know we value them enough to listen to their experiences and stand against racism with them.
connie ker says
I am a senior woman who knows nothing about racism. Schools were segregated when I attended all the way through college. Sports teams were chosen from the students who attended the college. My mother said “marry a man the same race with the same faith” which I did. Times are changing away from my mother’s advice and we all began from 1 man and 1 woman, and bleed red blood. It is especially difficult for me to understand racism and may God forgive me for being unaware. Remember Jesus taught us “All Lives Matter”……….remember the song in Sunday School ………red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Renee Swope says
Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Connie.
Brenda M Russell says
Good morning everyone, “this the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I am so thankful for this answer to the hard questions of every day life.
Let’s do life through the eyes of Jesus. We used to say, “what would Jesus do?” And now we are asking hard questions once again.
When a generation has passed, so many things change and so many things are forgotten. So we need to remember what we have forgotten.
Our Churches are in our hearts first. Then we take our Churches to the buildings. Are we so naive that we truly think that we all made a decision when we were going to be Created that we said, “Jesus make me this way, make me tall, make me smart, make my hair this way, make my teeth this way, make my eyes this way and please make the tone and hue of my skin this way and please don’t let me ever have white hair and cellulite.”
No, we don’t get to ask Jesus before we are Created how to make us.
So we should accept and believe that God has a plan for all who choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
We are all God’s children. We have to teach our young children about God’s love for humanity. It does not matter what neighborhood you are residing in, what type car you own, what brand clothes you wear or the balance of your checking account. It doesn’t even matter if you attend a private school. All mothers who have healthy emotions know how to love their children and they know how to be kind to other children.
Let’s love one another, for love is of God.
Ruth B Mills says
I love the question “how can I love you well in what you are going through?” Admits we all struggle, offers hope & points to Jesus. What we all need in every struggle, racism, health, relationships, worry etc etc etc! Bless you for sharing your gift of writing!
Becky Keife says
Ruth, I want to hang on to that question, too!
“How can I love you well in what you’re going through?”
So, beautiful, Renee! Thank you for bravely sharing your journey with us and modeling how we can love one another well.
I can understand your story. I am going through the same thing. I did teach my son about racism, I made many blunders talking to black people including his dad. I too find I made it about me and people who are black I interacted must of thought I was insensitive or stupid…
I made a comment during the protests for Floyd and the riots hit our city that just opened back up that all lives mattered, and I was called a Christian racist on a now a Facebook unfriend. aim was hurt to the bone. Even though she did not mention me by name I knew for I said it on a prayer chain. I apologized and told her my story, that really I am not racist but I do have trouble speaking. I told my husband about it and he said that it is a code word and since I am pretty sheltered being disabled I did not realize and I feel bad. I know that all this is bringing back memories where I was making it about me, where I said something that may of been insensitive, or hurtful to them, and I am learning to draw on history, and letting God work by listening to people and their stories and how they would like to be treated and seeing we as a white race do miss the mark even when we love people is color our actions and words may not show it.
Thank you for sharing your story it helps me to see I am not alone here learning this.
Beth Williams says
It irritates me that people are still offended by skin color, or race. I thought racism was a thing of the past. Apparently I have a lot to learn. It saddens me that the news media makes a big deal when white & black involved in a death. They don’t share the whole story just the part about color. Praying with you that we can get back to the Christian nation we used to be. No more dealing with racism. Just loving each other as Jesus would.
Renee, “ How can I love you well in what you’re going through?” is exactly the question I need to ask friends who are different from me. My friends were and are multi-racial. I know almost nothing about racism. All my life I was taught that God made everyone and made them equal. I didn’t see that racism was so prevalent. Are there resources you would recommend for learning and understanding racism?
Renee Swope says
Donna, I have learned SO MUCH through Brownicity, which was founded and is led by Dr. Lucretia Berry, who is also a writer for inCourage as well as her husband and an amazing team. Here is a link to her book
and a link to Brownicity
Lucretia Berry says
Thank you for sharing your journey; it is truly valuable. Humbling yourself to lean in, to love like Jesus is a picture of hope and promise. I know it’s challenging to realize that we aren’t as knowledgeable as we think we are, to unlearn and learn, and to feel uncomfortable feelings. But the life is brings is well worth it.
I sincerely appreciate you! May your story be God’s glory.
Renee Swope says
Lucretia, thank you for the many ways you have modeled this journey for me with a heart of wisdom and humility while in a posture of learning, my friend. YOU have taught me so much and I am forever grateful!!
Eileen Curtis says
I know people who get defensive when the work racism comes up, and it is unfortunate. I’m a white woman. But just because some of us may not experience the pain of racism doesn’t mean that other people don’t. Or that everything would be fine if “those people” stopped complaining or if the media would just shut up about it. The phrase “walk a mile in my shoes” is pertinent here. So is Jesus’s truth: to show compassion and understanding to everyone, not just to those who look and act like we do. That takes listening and learning and opening our eyes and hearts. It takes humility.
It takes hearing without immediate judgment. When we hear someone say it’s important to end childhood hunger, do we get our backs up and huff that adults need feeding too? In the same way, saying that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that white lives don’t. Let’s pray for understanding.
Renee Swope says
I love what Patricia Raybon shared in her Monday blog post on inCourage -it relates so well to today’s post:
“Community, it turns out, is not about just hanging with perfect folks who look, walk, vote, and think like us. It’s about people who will struggle with us. It isn’t about being nice; it’s about being educated about what others are going through and then caring enough to join with them in their struggle. It’s saying no to hateful actions like anti-Asian racism and violence, and saying yes to seeing the pain of those around us and finding ways to be with people in the struggle.”
Eileen Curtis says
Your words are full of wisdom, Renee! It comes down to the golden rule: to love one another as we love ourselves. And to remember that all of us are created in God’s image.
Perhaps some of us equate the love our neighbor as ourselves phrase with “liking” our neighbors. The love I think we are to share has more to do with respect and understanding along with kindness than we might think. When I was young and living in LA, I found it quite a fun thing to do as I walked down a busy street, to smile and say hello or good morning to those I passed by. They were usually shocked that someone they didn’t know would actually speak to a total stranger. I think that what most people really want is acknowledgement of their existence and empathy as we all experience life’s difficulties at some point in life. Satan uses race and gender and any other differences to divide us. But we as individuals, are responsible for our thoughts and actions in how we treat one another. We can’t ignore the differences as that is pure folly. We actually need to embrace our differences and celebrate the mosaic that they create. How boring it would be if we all looked exactly the same. I don’t live in that world and my family is made up of many hues and shapes and personalities. My God knows that pure white is the color of our souls when we accept His love through the crimson blood of His son Christ Jesus, that He shed for our salvation. Let us all come to the knowledge that we are whosoevers Read once more John 3:16. That is how God sees us. That is the only description in that verse. Read it carefully. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that “whosoever” believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. I do not see anything about color, gender, size, or financial status, or popularity. But I do see that when we treat one another as we want to be treated that much of unneeded bias goes away and we just see people.
Love that as women of faith, daughters of the King, we are not silent against racism. I don’t live in the usa, but unfortunately racism Is everywhere, I see a lot of that here, I pray to have wisdom to teach my children about it, what it causes, and guide them in loving people and stand with/for those who are hurting because of it. Thank you for this article
Renee Swope says
Praying with you Flor, all that you said, for every one of us.