Ignorant White Christians

Disclaimer: I think everyone can see from my picture that I myself am a white person. Therefore I think we can establish that I’m not putting every single white person in the same box. I’m not falsely accusing absolutely every white Christian of being guilty of these things, so if you’re white, please don’t automatically get defensive, and instead just listen.

Whether you’re white or not, if you’ve spent time around white people in America, you’ve likely encountered plenty of ignorance in your lifetime. Racism and racial ignorance is a universal problem, yes. Wherever you have broken people living together, you’re going to get bigotry and hatred of all different forms. But racism runs particularly rampant in America, and many people aren’t even subtle about it.

As I spent the first decade of my life in England, I was kind of ignorant of the racial dynamic in America for quite a few years. I was confused by the blatant nature of racism here, and I didn’t understand the social segregation that’s a reality in so many areas. I’m not claiming the same doesn’t exist in England at all, but I just wasn’t exposed to it as a child.

I’ve encountered so much ignorance amongst white Americans when it comes to racial issues. They’ll say some of the most insensitive, and often just flat out racist, things about minorities and act like they genuinely have no understanding that they’re doing anything wrong.

I’ve encountered people who genuinely thought interracial marriage was wrong and openly admitted they would only “stick to their own kind.”

I’ve encountered people who picked up stereotypical views of certain groups and carried these around as if they were reality.

I’ve encountered people who struggled to relate to certain people just because they came from different ethnic backgrounds.

I’ve encountered people who viewed Muslims and Mexican immigrants as a foreign “other” rather than other humans beings.

I’ve encountered people who thought it was fine to make racist jokes because it was “only in fun.”

What’s disturbing is that this kind of ignorance (and racism) seems to be just as prevalent among “Christians” as it is anyone else. In fact, people who claim to be “God-fearing” can often be the most bigoted people of all.

What’s kind of strange is that social justice is often considered a really liberal thing nowadays. If you talk about inequality, some people think you must be just another millennial “liberal snowflake.” But being concerned about justice and equality doesn’t make you some super far left liberal; it just makes you a Christian.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be a liberal Christian. I believe everything the Bible says, therefore I have to believe in equality and hate bigotry.

So many white Americans are just in flat out denial about the actual state of things. I think one of the most damaging things is that so many white people get incredibly uncomfortable when acknowledging racial issues, so what they often do is simply pretend these issues don’t exist. They would say that they think the things done to minority groups throughout American history are evil, but it’s better to leave them in the past. Talking about it makes them feel guilty, and they’d rather not feel guilty so they avoid the topic.

Sometimes white people even claim to be “colorblind” in order to try to solve racial issues. But this doesn’t solve anything. If you act as if acknowledging racial differences is taboo, you’re kind of just perpetuating racism in a different form. If you’ve ever been around white people who feel scared to even mention race at all, you’ve probably noticed how awkward and unnatural it feels.

America was founded on diversity, and we should happily embrace and acknowledge our differences rather than feel awkward about them. If you insist on being “colorblind,” maybe this means that you do in fact have an issue with racial differences.

Many people think that so long as they’re not actively doing and saying racist things then they’re fine and don’t have to take any responsibility for the messed up racial dynamic in this country. People are quick to say, Oh, racism is so terrible, or, I’m not racist at all. Yet these proclamations are often so empty.

It’s often only extreme examples of racism, like the Charlottesville rally, that cause people to stop and acknowledge that racism is an issue. But often racism is much subtler and therefore more insidious. The alt-right people were honest about their hatred and bigotry, whereas the majority of racist people masquerade as people who aren’t racist at all.

What white Americans need to understand is that you don’t have to do and say blatantly racist things to be reinforcing a culture of racism. It’s often what we don’t do that makes a statement.

If you are passive and silent whenever you hear people make degrading and hateful comments, you’re part of the problem.

If you say, Oh, Trump isn’t really a racist even though you’re aware of all the bigoted things he’s said, you’re part of the problem.

If you constantly find ways to excuse bigotry and hateful speech and behavior, you’re part of the problem.

If you say that it’s okay if people want to fly the confederate flag, you’re part of the problem.

If you think that social segregation is fine and that it’s “just the way things are,” you’re part of the problem.

If you struggle to relate to people just because they look different than you, you’re part of the problem.

If you say “all lives matter,” you’re part of the problem.

If you say racism doesn’t exist anymore because we’ve had a black president, you’re part of the problem.

So many people trivialize things that should cause an incredible amount of concern. We look at Nazi Germany and think, Oh, America could never get to that point. But do you really think that’s true? When we’re separating migrant children from their parents and putting them in cages, I think we need to wake up and realize that we certainly could get to that point. When people genuinely think building a wall sounds like a good idea, we need to acknowledge that we’re not that different than the Germans.

Human nature is human nature. America has an absolutely despicable moral track record. Conservatism is in complete denial about that fact. We think we can brush the centuries of  oppression and genocide under the rug, but we’re fooling ourselves. Today, Germany is completely transparent about the reality of the Holocaust. If only America could say the same about the countless atrocities committed on its soil.

The past still has an effect on the present. We can’t think that all the heinous crimes committed throughout history won’t have consequences for today. The discrimination that has gone on for years and years still has a sociological impact today.

First of all, I think we need to acknowledge the systemic nature of racism in America. It’s in our government, it’s in our education system, it’s in our society as a whole. And we need to acknowledge that we all, whether consciously or unconsciously, play a part in perpetuating racism.

Even if it’s on a subconscious level, we’re socialized to think certain things and behave in certain ways. All of us have at least a little bit of prejudice (non-white people included). White privilege is most certainly real. If we deny that we have any seeds of racism in us, we’re failing to take responsibility. It’s only when we acknowledge the insidious thought patterns ingrained in us by our culture that we can uproot them and end the cycle of participation and passivity.

I’m sure there are going to be some white people reading this who genuinely think that racism isn’t an issue anymore because we’ve had a black president, and who think I’m being way over the top. If that’s you, I ask you to reevaluate and try to think outside of your limited and privileged perspective.

So many white people take for granted how much easier it often is to be in the majority group, to not have to worry about being stereotyped or feeling like you somehow have to be a representative for your whole demographic when you’re around the majority group.

If you’re white and you somehow feel indignant about the things I am saying and as if I am attacking you, you might want to ask yourself why you feel defensive. If our consciences tell us that we’re not contributing to a culture of racism and that we’re being Christlike in how we think of issues of race, then we shouldn’t get angry and uncomfortable when people address racism.

Before I was a Christian, I was pretty apathetic about issues of injustice and didn’t really care that much about things unless they affected me. But after I found Christ, my heart broke for the things that break God’s heart. And I couldn’t believe I’d gone all those years not being righteously angry about the things that God hates.

I have to admit that it wasn’t until college that I really began to understand racial issues in America. And it made me angry and frustrated with myself for not getting it earlier and for lacking empathy for years. I may not have been a racist, but I’ve said some offensive things in my time, and I was despicably unaware of the reality of race relations in America. This is largely due to the education system’s failure to teach us enough history and inform us on inequality. But it’s also due to our society’s perpetuation and justification of insidious thought patterns. Christians so often get caught up in these worldly ways of thinking rather than what the gospel says.

If judgment begins in the Church, we should be pretty concerned. So many supposed Christians only care about issues if they directly affect them. This means that people often don’t stand up for what’s right until it’s too late. The majority of Trump supporters cared more about perpetuating their limited view of America than standing up for the marginalized.

What confuses me is how so many Christians can be in uproar about abortion (which, don’t worry, I also believe is most definitely wrong) yet remain indifferent about racism and inequality. We claim to care so much about unborn babies, yet we often don’t even care how those babies are treated once they come into the world.

If we claim to care about human rights, we can’t only care about justice in such a limited and blinkered way. If we claim to be pro-life, we have to be pro-life in a much broader sense than merely being against abortion.

There is so much hypocrisy amongst white conservative Christians. Many of them are like modern day Pharisees, who claim to be holy but don’t even care about the marginalized and oppressed. What’s disturbing is the fact that so many white Christians simply just don’t care. It’s like these issues don’t even register with them. They’re so focused on issues like gay marriage and abortion that they miss their own sins.

When you really understand how God is angered by injustice and oppression and how Jesus is on the side of the marginalized, you can’t help but be angered by injustice and people’s hatred or cold indifference.

We’re such selfish people. We’d rather seek our own happiness at the expense of others than stand on the side of the marginalized like Christ. That’s quite evident in our current political climate. It takes human rights violations to make people care.

I didn’t use to be a fan of hip hop, but I am genuinely obsessed with a rapper called Propaganda. His music is kind of prophetic. He speaks about the hypocrisy of many American Christians and the attempts to deny and “whitewash” America’s abominable history. His music is so eye-opening. He is truthful and even a little bit harsh, but he’s so gracious and speaks in a way that invites white people into the conversation rather than demonizes us. Go and have a listen to his music, particularly his most recent album, Crooked.

Another awesome Christian artist I recently discovered and who has similar lyrics to Propaganda is Micah Bournes. He’s done some songs with Propaganda and has some pretty awesome songs critiquing American religious hypocrisy and talking about inequality. I definitely recommend checking out his most recent album, A Time Like This. I think music is a powerful form of protest and communicates these kinds of concerns in a way few other mediums are able to.

I think it’s so important for white people to hear perspectives aside from those of other privileged white people, because we can’t have real empathy if we refuse to actually acknowledge the struggles of people of color.

I want to add that we should most definitely have a redemptive attitude when it comes to racist or bigoted people. I’ve heard people say things like, “Bigoted people deserve to die,” which is pretty messed up as we become just as bad as those people when we make such hateful comments.

I’ve heard testimonies of people who were racist but whose hearts were changed, and I totally believe that is possible with God. But change begins with admitting there’s a problem, and there is nothing wrong with being justifiably angry about these issues.

If you’re not white, I apologize on behalf of all ignorant white Christians. I hope more and more of us can become increasingly aware of our own idiocy. If you’re white, remember that your words and actions make a difference, even if you think they don’t. Don’t justify hateful or apathetic attitudes. Don’t trivialize things that are actually a big deal just because they don’t directly affect you. Stop thinking that God is okay with His Church being segregated. Oh, and can people please stop portraying Jesus as a white guy?

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Videos about racial issues:

“IT’S NOT A SKIN PROBLEM” – Joseph Solomon

What Can White Girls Do About Racial Injustice? – Tiffany Dawn

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I’ll just leave you with this song about white privilege:

4 thoughts on “Ignorant White Christians

  1. Bethany, I certainly understand where your coming from, however, I do take umbrage with your narrow view and comment of “ignorant white Christians “. I am a 60 yr old white Christian and I’ve seen many forms and levels of racism in my lifetime. I’ve seen riots where black Americans were treated awful. I’ve had close black friends asked to leave a business, I have also been forced to fight for my black friends. But, believe me when i say, racism is very much a 2 sided coin, per se. I’ve also seen and been the victim of aggressive, violent behavior from black folks as well, when , I might add, there was absolutely no provocation at all. Racism, my dear, is a heart issue. A hate filled heart issue that is alive and well in every socioeconomic and cultural background. However, I must say dear, it will only continue to thrive as long souls such as yourself, continue in the kind of rhetoric that have spewed in this article. In my experiences, I have come to realize that we will never see an end to racism until the heart of man is hungry for the only one who is able to change those very hearts, Christ Jesus, the only son of God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am white, and I admitted in the post that I used to be ignorant. Therefore I think I have a right to use that language. I live in the Midwest, and so many white people here are horribly ignorant and quite proud of it (especially Trump supporters). I’ve also seen racism from black people too. But how on earth can we compare the two when white people have been the oppressors for centuries? Yes, it’s unfair when white people are immediately demonized and put in a box. It frustrates me. But we need to have humility. I am in no way for hate or aggression towards anyone, but I don’t blame black people for being angry. It’s absurd to act like both sides of racism are the same. Of course racism is a heart issue. This blog is written for Christians, therefore it’s kind of a given that people reading it probably already know Christ. The point is, there are lots of people who claim to know Jesus who are still pretty racist. And I’ve heard the argument made (which I agree with), why do people use that argument about racism but usually not for other issues, like abortion for instance? This was a fairly short post, so I didn’t get into how God can change your heart. I was just addressing terrible behavior I’ve seen from supposed Christians that many of us are often unaware of. I don’t really understand how addressing how white people need to be more aware will cause racism to thrive?

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    1. I’m not going to lie, if people like Trump then this blog probably isn’t for them. Christians who justify his conduct and agree with his views must follow a totally different Jesus than I do.

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