Racism Is in All of Us
Is every human being racist? It is too strong to put it that way. But it appears that a large percentage of people are racist in their thinking. Why is that? And why are there racist feelings hiding in our own heart? And how do you get rid of them?
Racism, discrimination, anti-Semitism
Someone who is racist harbours thoughts against/dislikes people from a race other than the race to which they belong themselves. Such thoughts and feelings quickly lead to discrimination of the other person. From research it is evident that many forms of discrimination remain hidden. People then do not tell anyone about being discriminated against, because they think that notifying the authorities does not help anyway. Little or nothing is being done with it. And many just do not want to give it much thought. Lighter forms of discrimination are of course experienced as unpleasant and painful, but you can live with it.
It is not unusual for people to experience some form of discrimination when they move to a new country. That happens because they are unused to the customs of the land to which they move, or on account of their religion or colour of their skin. This happens especially in the workplace and in education. The protective laws many countries have obviously have not fully penetrated everywhere, and the notion that discrimination is an act of much disrespect is not accepted by everyone.
Anti-Semitism is also increasing. The worst form of anti-Semitism is the claim that the Jews are the source of evil in the world. How one comes to believe that will probably always remain a profound mystery. Of course you can find fault with Jews and with other people and with ourselves. For that you only need some self-knowledge. But to say that the Jews are the reason for evil in the world is too absurd for words. Then in certain matters you obviously have an under-developed brain. But emotions are not always guided by intellect, and are not always driven by rational thinking. In racism, of which anti-Semitism is a dangerous form, one is driven by fear, by pure ignorance and by intolerable hate.
Three elements of racism
And these three elements will always play a role in racism. There is a (vague) fear of the other person: the other person is different from me. I do not know him well enough. I do not know how I have to behave relative to him or her. He has different habits, adheres to a different religion, thinks about so many things differently than I do. I experience that as a threat. It makes me feel uncomfortable. And I do not want to live with such feelings. I project my unfounded feeling toward the other person. But even though these feelings are irrational, are unfounded, and are not supported by solid arguments, I still have them. In this respect feelings are facts. And seeing such feelings as facts can be dangerous. They work. They affect others. As a person, but also as a group, you can let yourself being dragged along by such feelings. A man like Hitler (almost) dragged a whole country into the abyss of anti-sematic feelings. His arguments and the people’s actions came from fear, no knowledge of facts, and pure hate. And all this was fanned by fire from hell.
It is clear that racism has everything to do with norms and values. Upbringing can therefore probably prevent a coming disaster. The disaster can consist of less drastic forms, like rejection, ignoring each other, and cool treatment, or more severe forms of discrimination. Thus racism and the accompanying tensions can be a source of violent behaviour. It can lead to the start of all kinds of disruptions and divisions in society. That is why discrimination is not an innocent evil. No form of evil is harmless. An abusive word is powerful. It shows something that is not positive. An unfriendly treatment gives feelings of fear and aversion. Teasing each other can have a devastating influence on a person’s life. It can take away all joy in life. Life will be experienced as difficult and unpleasant. Every rejection because of lovelessness, in any form, causes damage. Teasing can even put (young) people on the road to suicide.
We touch on the deepest root of racism with the word lovelessness. It is a form of hate. Hate is the root of murder. Loveless behavior and hate are (almost) always the root of murder, of vicious discrimination, of war in a small form or of a real war. And from there you are even able to kill your brother. Remember the first war between two brothers; Cain killed his brother Abel. Cain was of the evil one (1 John 3:14b). “Whoever does not love abides in death”.
Everyone is created in the image of God. The true life and happiness of every human being can only happen through the (restored) relationship with God, through believing in Jesus Christ and by being guided by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way to life, peace and rest. When the love of God enters our heart, we immediately see our fellow man in a different light. We do not let ourselves be led by judgements that only rely on people’s appearance. Another origin, colour, culture or customs are no reason to be afraid of someone else any longer. Of course, we always have to be wise and careful when we deal with others. We have to, and are allowed to, analyse forms of evil, and the seed of evil. But a Christian always tries to see others in the light of his relation to God. With that we do not believe a person to be nicer and better than he or she is. Because we learn to know ourselves! We learn to know ourselves in the light of our relation to God. And then we will become very careful. In principle we know the power of sin. We realize that the root of discrimination, racism, and anti-Semitism is present in our own heart, and that that root, time and again, has to be removed. Only if the word of Jesus lives in us and we are being led by the Spirit of God will racism and anti-Semitism disappear from our heart.
Evil sits deep
So racism indeed sits deep. If the circumstances are right, it can pop up unexpectedly. We can even be surprised that it is found in ourselves. But that is the case with more bad things. The Christian confession that man by nature is a sinner and unholy, is not a theoretical pronouncement. A Christian finds the power to fight sin in the grace of God and Christ. We look for that power to extinguish sin in our life. Under certain circumstances that can be a hard battle. Deep down there will always be a lifelong battle against sin in our life. This battle knows numerous defeats, but also victories. We rely on the grace of God; how great is his faithfulness! What patience he has with me. I experience it as an incomprehensible miracle that he has put up with me and still does. I seek my safe hiding place in, and under, the blood of Christ.
Racism will be there as long as the world exists in its present form. No sensitivity training will make it disappear completely. No integration model will accomplish the total elimination of lovelessness between people. That does not mean that sensitivity training and actions for better integration are without meaning or purpose. The government has, among other things, the task to oppose and restrain injustice in society as much as possible. But only God can change the heart. His love is so powerful that not only feelings of kindness come into being, but those feelings will also become a source of power to show deeds of love, to get into action, to work hard for the well being of our fellow-man, and to stand up for justice.
Civilization and culture have a softening effect on expressions of racism. We offer no opinion on the subject of how to interpret civilization and culture. In many parts of the world there is a (“modern”) spirit of liberalism and neo liberalism. That spirit one-sided culture and society. It is certainly not easy to define civilization and culture. At present things are so varied and complicated, that one definition is not satisfactory any more. You need several descriptions.
But let us all acknowledge the racist in us, and remove it from heart. Let us learn to look at our fellow-man with the eyes of Christ. Then we always have good intentions towards everyone.
This article was translated by Harry Janssen.