I believe there is racism in America. But. I do not believe that racism is winning. I also believe there are drunk drivers, terrorists, broken homes, and under-achieving teens. But this doesn't make us a racist nation, or a drunken nation, or a terrorist nation, or a divorced nation, or an ignorant nation. The existence of these traits in some do not create a meme that ultimately damns an entire nation. I am taking a calculated risk (as a white evangelical male with a graduate degree in his 50's) of being labeled mis-informed and certainly mis-understood. But, as a 32 year veteran in Youth Studies, I have exhaustive experience in the Sociology of American Youth. Read this because we all need to be more informed and understood. And read this because if we miss the gracism (mercy, respect, and value) that is growing in America we will fail to see the answer might be right in front of all of us.
I believe there is racism in America. But. I do not believe that racism is winning. And that is the beginning of healing for this issue. That racism exists. But racism will not win.
While listening to a recent National Nightly News cast on the topic of Racism in America, the person being interviewed made the statement that America is a racist nation. With little more than personal opinions, television scenes on our streets, and the panel on the show, the host indicted the U.S. as racist. I believe there is racism in America. But. I do not believe that we are a racist nation.
Why Do I Believe This? Two Simple Principles.
First, I believe there is racism in America. And white people must start with admitting this. Because I have seen my friends of color hurt every day by some people who will not see them as equal. And I have heard my friends of color talk to me about how they are treated unequally. The 'white privilege' that is decades and centuries old in America is not going to be easily dealt with. It is obvious by looking in the newsroom, the boardroom, and the classroom that there is inequality in America. I will never be able to experience what my friends of color feel daily. However, I can personally see it. And because of that I will say something to stop the looks or the comments or the injustice or the preference.
We cannot get away from the proliferation of racism through the negative media upon the subject. Weekly we are inundated with reports of racism in America. And, while many of the feelings America has on the issues is partially shaped by the media, it doesn't seem like the media is willing to recognize there is another side of the issue. And so we are fed a steady diet of hatred and predominant bigotry. While never seeing the growing answer to the issue all around us. I happen to believe that racism is more prevalent than most white people think it is. And that gracism is more prevalent than most people of color think it is. It's a matter of what we all choose to focus upon.
The problem is that we would refuse to see the positive side of race-relations that is growing right in front of us. Like the Law of Diminishing Returns. The more we become familiar with something, the less valuable it becomes. Or seeing the trees and not the forest. Could white people be so focused upon gracism they don't see racism? And could people of color be so focused upon racism they don't see gracism?
Second, I don't believe racism is winning. And people of color must start with admitting this. The existence of racist traits in some do not create a meme that is out of control and ultimately damns an entire nation. For a moment, let's use that same math as it relates to other issues in society. Is it that easy to label America as a drunken nation because drunk driving kills 50,000 annually? Or to call America a terrorist nation because there have been terrorist attacks on our soil? Or that we are a divorced nation because almost half of our marriages end in divorce? Or that America is an ignorant nation because youth test scores are ranked toward the bottom of almost every top ten educational list worldwide?
No, the existence of the narrative around these social issues does not damn an entire nation to the argument. Here are several more reasons why I believe that the majority of our nation is living in harmony and that diversity and gracism is winning. And why I believe that this should be spoken of more than it is. Because racism is losing and gracism is winning.
- Because of the goodness that still exists in humanity. Just look around if you are willing. I do not believe that it is anecdotal, or, slighted evidence. Here's a look into my life. A white evangelical male in his 50's living in downtown Minneapolis in a very inter-cultural setting. I walk to my bank that is predominantly employed by Somali's. Greeted with smiles, handshakes, and hugs by Adil and Sahmun and Sami. I shop at the grocery store that is filled with Red and Yellow, Black and Brown and White. The door is held for me and I get the door for others. Most of my neighbors in this city treat me and each other with respect and value and laughter. Thousands of people living in harmony around me. And this is repeated in cities across America. We cannot let the bigoted and racist minority get all of the publicity and define our generation. That doesn't mean we live in denial of the problem. It means we live in recognition of the solution. We are going to get what we speak if we are not careful. So why not overcome the dark by shining the light?
- Because mainstream news media does not control and is not pop to the US population under 30. About 40% of Americans are under 30 years of age. That is somewhere around 130 million people. The Milennials and the Like generation (Teens today) are not swayed by the 50 year old and over talking heads and activists on nightly news and what they have to say about racism. Because it is not what they believe about each other. I understand that much of the crowd on television demonstrating is younger. But it is also very diverse. And they are speaking against the prevailing issue. Has that hit you? What would happen if the mainstream media would televise the thousands of demonstrators of gracism across America? Doing acts of diversity. There are many young people we do not see storied in the mainstream media who are living and demonstrating in daily diversity and unity at school, work, and play. They laugh together, shop together, study together, play together, worship together, marry together, and vote together. What would mainstream television be saying about diversity and racism if it were controlled by young people? That narrative would be much more compelling and interesting. And maybe flood our country with hope instead of despair.
- Because young people care what race you are in their relational and social circles. Did you hear that correctly? Read it again. They care deeply and value the differences. For 32 years I have worked with young people in urban and rural settings. And, outside of the broadcast and print media, I see healing and unity in America in this younger generation. Of course racism exists. You have heard me state that throughout this article. But it exists in the midst of growing gracism too. Among the genuine love and acceptance of many more people who practice grace than the racists who get the publicity. Oh, racism is there. But it is being smothered by young people who care deeply about what color their best friend is or what nation their neighbor is from or who is in their study group. They care deeply and value those differences. The other day, on the Manhattan Beach Pier in California, I watched my 2 year old grandson dancing with another 2 year old boy from India while the parents looked on. It was inspiring. And then I thought to myself, I hope that he will grow up and be willing to dance spontaneously with anyone no matter their race or religious belief or economic tier. Maybe racism is something we learn from adults who haven't grown up yet.
- Because Athletic teams have grown beyond the race issue and embraced diversity. Learn from the deep friendships that are modeled in social and competitive sports in elementary school, middle school, high school, collegiate, and professional sports. In both the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Teammates of all races who would die for each other on the field, the court, and even the street. There are many things that athletics can teach us, but maybe foremost of all is the diversity that exists in the team mentality and the unity of brother- and sister- hood. I have witnessed the diversity of thousands of teens who are on the same athletic team in front of a diverse crowd of family in the stands, working side by side in practice, doing team meals together, having sleep-overs, and car pooling. Let that picture become a greater meme that shapes our belief and ultimately our language.
- Because even the bible believes that racism is not right. Theology is clear about prejudice and preference. What became a popular form of slave service in the OT crossed racial lines. And with a flurry of NT support, we need to see that the preferential treatment of anyone, regardless of their race, social status, or economic makeup, is quoted by James, the brother of Jesus, as “the sin of partiality” (James 2.1-9). And remember, even the last visions of bible history as John wrote under the anointing of the Holy Spirit about every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping together for eternity under the name of Christ (Revelation 5, 7, 20, 21, and 22).
I believe there is racism in America. But. I do not believe that racism is winning. And that is the beginning of the healing that we need. Admitting the problem. While recognizing the solution is happening in front of us. I have always seen the glass as half-full. We have a long way to go, but, we must accept the responsibility to bring the powerful and prevalent message of gracism to our nation. Seeing the inter-geneRACIAL power that exists.
Remember, the principles of one generation will become the practices of the next. I will choose the principle of gracism over racism. So that the generation after me will win.