I’m not much of a current events follower. I try to be informed about what’s going on in the world but truth be told, I’m not very good at keeping up. This past week however, it was nearly impossible to not know what was happening. Facebook was inundated with videos and conflict over black lives and police lives and racism and confusion and anger and hatred and fear… And my heart wanted to jump right in and start participating in all of it. I wanted my voice to be heard. I wanted to state my opinions. I wanted the world to understand me. I wanted to tell everyone what they needed to do in order to fix the problem (as if I have the answers), so that we can finally live in a peaceful world.
Then I realized, the only one I can fix is me.
Sooooo, I got quiet and asked myself an important question.
Am I racist?
On the surface I would say no. But then I started asking more questions.
Why don’t I have more friends of different backgrounds or cultures? To be honest, most of my friends have a very similar skin tone to my own. None of my close friends have heavy accents. Very few of my friends have much different lifestyles than my own.
Does this make me racist?
I’m not sure.
Since I can only fix me, I have to really dig deep and truly answer this question. So I asked more. Why isn’t my sphere of friendship more diverse? Am I afraid of people who are different from me?
If so, why?
Skin color? Lifestyle? Neighborhood? Language? Religion? Traditions? Political views? Sexual preference? Nationality?
Asking all these questions (and more) I came to a conclusion.
I don’t THINK I’m racist.
But maybe I AM part of the problem.
The Oxford definition of racism is Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
Racism is definitely a problem in our world, and although it might look like it from the outside when I don’t talk to someone of a different race or have a lot of friends of a different race I do not believe I’m superior.
I’m just afraid.
It’s not easy to admit, but I do have a fear of people who are different.
Don’t we all?
Don’t we all have an easier time relating to people that are like ourselves? People with similar backgrounds, with whom we share common interests and experiences. People who speak the same language and/or speak in a way that is easy for us to understand. People with viewpoints that agree with our own. People with whom we have some common ground.
There are SO MANY things that make us different – which creates fear.
But I have some good news.
That’s what I try to remember when I feel afraid to talk to someone who is different from me.
They may be smarter or prettier or difficult to understand, have a different skin color or any number of other things that might intimidate me but when it comes down to it, they poop too. God made us all the same in so many ways. We have two eyes and nose and a mouth. We all have to eat and we all have to get rid of the waste our bodies produce. Everybody poops.
I am part of the problem AND I am willing to do my best to make changes in my life in order to make this a better world. How might I do this?
A great way to find common ground with others is through conversation. Not just talking at but by communicating. Asking questions and listening to the answers. That’s what I want to do more.
I will start by talking with a friend who just happens to have a skin tone that is darker than my own. Perhaps she can answer some of the questions that I’ve had for a long time but have been afraid to ask. Hopefully this conversation will pave the way for many others with different people. It won’t be easy but it is possible.
I am gratefully looking forward to opening up my world to new friendships.
How about you?