Another sad reality about race relations in the kingdom is that it becomes a great temptation for us to be ultra-sensitive about how people of another race may treat us. This is counter to the Biblical principles that are all over the scriptures about how that we are to be far more worried about our treatment of other people than we are about their treatment of us. “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s well-being,” is what Paul, through the Holy Spirit admonished the first century Christians in I Corinthians 10:24.
Out in the world, there are rules that seem to change fairly often about what verbiage is politically correct for white people to speak in relation to people of color. When I am writing, it is difficult for me to know exactly which terms are acceptable and those for which I will be criticized—in that world. I do not think it is correct, for instance, for me to say “Negro” in 2017. I am unsure whether I should say “brown people” or “black people” or if either one is correct for today. I certainly struggle with whether I should say “black culture” or “African American culture” or just perhaps “African American minority community.” I know there are some lines of sensitivity that might close evangelistic doors if crossed. But, in the church, we should all be so busy doing all we can to treat one another with respect and courtesy, that we are willing to overlook our own preferences in deference to relationships with our sisters. I wish that everyone, black and white could be more concerned with how we love each other and less sensitive about whether or not we are politically correct in our terms of address. Of course, we need to be respectful and polite, but, still, we should give a little grace in the body when we truly love each other and want the absolute best for each other.
The term “white fragility” has surfaced several times as I explore race relations in the body of Christ. According to overcomingracism.org/resources/white-fragility, white fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include. the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.
Of course, Christians of any color should not become angry or deflective when facing a stress related to or an accusation of racism. But the problem with this definition is that it precludes the ability to explain or defend actions that might be identified as racist, which, in reality, may not be racially motivated at all. If someone accuses me of being racist, then almost any reaction on my part, except for agreement and admission that I am indeed racist, would be interpreted, according to this definition, as “white fragility”. Sisters, if I react with a calm defense, I should be heard and my defense should be examined fairly. If I react with honest guilt, then I should be encouraged to repent. If I react with silence, then maybe I should be engaged. If I react with fear, then, if you are my sister, you should attempt to allay my fears, as I should attempt to relieve yours. Labeling sisters with a negative term before they are heard is unfair and is not a step toward unity, but a step toward division.
Paul, again, said this by inspiration:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:1-3).
It seems to me that, as brothers and sisters, we should always allow one another the privilege of explaining actions and the that the term “white fragility” is, whether intentionally or not, an unfair attempt to silence every dissenter before that person is given a chance to speak. That silencing is accompanied by the assumption of racism and foolishness on the part of the “fragile” person. As we examine Paul’s statement above, it seems to me that the label of “white fragility” is less than longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, and lowliness. Maybe it is not a full endeavor to keep unity in peace. In fact, when we consider Paul’s admonition, we have to agree that his instruction applies absolutely equally to white people and brown people. Just as we should all be ashamed of any attitude of prejudgment toward brethren of color, so people, white or brown, should be ashamed of automatically labeling the anxiety or dissent of a white person in a conversation about race relations. Righteous people can be anxious in situations of racial tension, even as they strive to be what God wants them to be. Good people can be distraught or need a space for respectful disagreement when accused of racism. It seems to me that “white fragility” is a term that attempts to silence any defense, even if it is truth, before it even begins.
May we all, whether black or white, consider others more important than ourselves. May we give each other the benefit of the doubt. May we assign pure motives until we know differently. May we bear with one another, even when it may not be popular with those who are like us, physically, but who are conformed to the world, spiritually. May we do absolutely all we can to preserve unity in an eternal bond of peace.
I believe it’s important for white parents in 2017 to be very careful that our children grow up without respect of persons. God’s people are family. We share the same heavenly Father. We are blood kin in the most important way. We refuse to let skin color be a factor in our relationships in the church. Brown parents do the same thing. They refuse to let the world around them in 2017 influence them to allow their children to believe that racism so saturates their worlds that those children fail to recognize the purity of heart that true Christians maintain, even if they are white. We need to shed the sensitivities right along with the prejudices. We have great potential in 2017 to be spiritual non-conformists in a world of racial tension. But it takes all of us spending a lot more time and concentration on how we are treating others than we spend on how we are being treated.
When I read the first ten verses of Philippians 2, I know that, even if I do all that I can to exalt those around me and serve others to my maximum potential, I fall very short of the servant spirit of my Lord, who humbled himself as a man, being obedient to death, even death by execution on a cruel Roman cross. May I, like Him, make myself of no reputation.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.