Being non-racist vs. being anti-racist

I have lots of memories of listening to my dad preach when I was a kid, but there is one message he gave that really impacted me. It was a sermon in which he talked about sins of omission vs. sins of commision. He talked about the fact that most Christians get hung up on sins of commision . . . meaning things you DO. Drinking too much, having sex outside of marriage, gossiping. We are taught a lot about sins of commision, and how to avoid them.

But we aren’t quite as passionate in our judegement about sins of omission . . . when we sin by FAILING TO DO SOMETHING. Sins of omission look like failing to help the poor as we’ve been taught, failing to forgive others, failing to show God’s love on a daily basis. Sinning by omission looks like resting on our laurels because we aren’t doing anything bad, when we aren’t really doing anything good. And a Christian who expresses their faith simply by not engaging in certain behaviors is not living out the life Christ modeled.

I think this concept of omission vs. commision is applicable to racism as well. So many people want to rest in the fact that they aren’t racists. I don’t do racist things, they tell themselves. And sure. That’s good. But is it enought?

There is a great video that explains the difference between being non-racist and being anti-racist. I hope you will take a couple minutes to watch it.

One of the comments that annoys me the most, when I blog about race, is when someone says, “Well, you are just passionate because your kids are black.” Shouldn’t we all be passionate? Are we content ignoring a problem just because it doesn’t effect us?

We can all have racist behaviors and attitudes at times. ALL. OF. US. I think we need to get over our fears of that word. We should be willing to learn when we might be biased by prejudice, or influenced by stereotypes, or insensitive to the experiences of others. Even if that puts us at risk. I think the fear of “getting it wrong” is another impediment in race talk. But again, unless we fumble a little bit, we will never move forward.

I know that another strong motivator for the “sin of omission” as it pertains to fighting racism is the belief that talking about race perpetuates racism. I would really challenge this line of thinking. Racism has caused intense hurt for many people in this country. Pretending that it has not is insanely hurtful. Not educating our kids is potentially dangerous. Empathy is never an instigator for racism. Avoiding or ignoring the reality of racism perpetuates racism.

For me, I established a few groundrules for myself a couple years ago:
1. I’m willing to talk about race
2. I’m willing to be wrong
3. I’m willing to listen to the experiences of others
4. I’m okay with people having opinions that differ from mine
5. I’m okay with this being awkward
6. I'm okay with people wishing I would shut up about it already
I am convinced from years of being a marital therapist that the old "stay silent where there is tension" plan is NOT a good one. So, at the risk of being embarrassed, chastised, or judged, I'm gonna try to dialogue about race issues. It's important, and if we talk about it more, it will be less awkward.
I hope you will join me in being not just non-racist, but anti-racist.

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