A New Prescription for Our Views on Racism

Charlottesville0817-2

Sunday, August 13th, 2017 in Charlottesville, VA, the day after a car plowed into counter-protestors. Photo by blakeschultz.org / @blakesch_

Imagine you are going to an eye appointment.

Stoplights and buildings are a bit blurry until you’re much closer to them. When you walk in the door of the eye doctor’s office, you can’t see if the receptionist is smiling or frowning until you’ve walked a few paces closer to the desk.

You’ve just assumed everyone else’s sight has the same limitations. Everyone sees the same thing, you think.

Until the doctor runs you through a (slightly uncomfortable and socially awkward) conversation as she diagnoses the performance of your eyes. You have a prescription to adjust your sight—even if you didn’t realize you needed your sight to be adjusted in the first place.

Then she sets a pair of glasses on your nose, and everything changes.

Well, not everything.

You see the things that were there before, but with more clarity, more depth, more complexity, more nuance.

Did you see the world accurately before? Well, kind of…from your limited perspective, you saw things that were in your immediate surroundings. But you didn’t see the things that were far away until you had an experience that caused you to see things that were always there with new precision.

Like Eyesight, Your Worldview is Limited—But it Can Be Improved

Whenever we’re presented with ideas that don’t fit into our current worldview, we often get more entrenched in our assumptions. We’re less likely to have an open mind and more likely to react with our already established opinions.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our brains are wired to find stability and consistency in how the world works. That’s how we survive changes, endure trauma, and don’t go into total mental breakdown every time something small happens that confronts our view of things.

But it’s also a barrier to healthy relationships.

It prevents authentic dialogue with other people.

We get defensive and fearful instead of open and loving.

Our own assumptions about how the world works can get in the way of seeing something that’s actually happening.

So experiencing different ideas and hearing stories of people who are different than you—those open up your vision to see more of the world.

Expand Your Vision of Racism and Faith

One piece of our worldview that often causes tension is the way we experience and understand race. For some, it’s just an idea that we see or hear about in the news every once in a while, like when white nationalists protest the removal of Confederate memorials in Charlottesville, Virginia. For others, racism and bias is a regular part of life experiences.

When racism and faith intersect, there’s even more tension.

In light of that tension, misunderstandings, and assumptions we all bring to these matters, I decided to learn more about people whose skin is different than mine, people who have important things to say that aren’t just opinions or isolated anecdotes.

It’s my hope that religious communities, especially the many Christians I know from decades in the evangelical tradition, can continue to improve in cultivating understanding and practices that transform individuals and systems, regarding racism and beyond.

Here’s a piece I wrote on The Huffington Post:

After Charlottesville’s Racism and Responses, Will More Evangelicals Listen and Learn?

Here’s to more listening and learning to grow more expansive vision.

***

Related: Less Arguments, More Empathy: Hear people of color on Charlottesville, white supremacy, church, and hope

 

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