Rusty Wright on Changing Racist Hearts: My Own

Racism virus. Photo: Rolande PG on Unsplash.com.

Anti-racism has become a global obsession, and rightfully so.  Racism and racial oppression are repulsive.  And, BTW, I don’t have a racist bone in my body.  Or so I thought.

Lots of people have dark sides.  Maybe everyone.

I do.

“Kramer” meltdown

Several years back, comedian Michael Richards – “Kramer” on TV’s Seinfeld – saw his racist tirade at African-American hecklers ignite a firestorm.   Richards apologized profusely.  Prominent African-American comic Paul Mooney said Richards told him privately he “didn’t know he had that ugliness in him.”

I could identify with Richards’ surprise at his darker inner impulses.  My own failing was private rather than public, differing in degree but not in kind.  It taught me valuable lessons.

Growing up in the US South, I learned from my parents and educators to be racially tolerant and accepting in a culture that often was not: segregated schools, neighborhoods, restrooms, drinking fountains, and more.  Racism still makes my blood boil.  For decades, I’ve sought to promote racial fairness.  But an important discovery early on fueled this mission.

Surprised and shocked by…myself

One summer during university, I joined several hundred students – most of us Caucasian – for a South Central Los Angeles outreach project in primarily African-American neighborhoods.  We spent a weekend living in local residents’ homes, attending their churches, and meeting people in the community.

A friend and I enjoyed generous hospitality from a wonderful couple.  Sunday morning, their breakfast table displayed a mountain of delicious food.  Our gracious hostess wanted to make sure our appetites were completely satisfied.  It was then, eying that bountiful spread, that it hit me.

I realized that for the first time in my life, I was living in a Black family’s home, sitting at “their” table, eating “their” food, using “their” utensils.  Something inside me reacted negatively.

The strange feeling was not anger or hatred, more like mild aversion.  Not powerful, not dramatic, certainly not expressed.  But neither was it rational or pleasant or honorable or at all appropriate.  It horrified and shamed me, especially since I had recently become a follower of Jesus.

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SOURCE: Assist News