Color Blind? Us vs Them


Us Versus Them

It was time for a stack of pancakes. My friend goes to another church now. IHOP has become our new sanctuary. Every few months we meet to eat and catch up with each other’s lives.

She’s a brave woman. Beautiful. Strong.

And black.

We’re not color blind with each other. I know her color has influenced who she is, just like she knows my color has influenced who I am. It’s inescapable.

During our last conversation, she made a comment about how the black people at her church traditionally dress very nice.

That’s when I made my blunder. I still feel bad about it.

I told her, “Yes, y’all always look so sharp, and we look like slouches.” (Myself included.)

Ugh. It was the classic duality I don’t like to make.

As if we are on two separate teams. As if we can categories whole races of people into two little words: us versus them. Whites versus blacks.

Awkward Conversations

Those goofs are why we sometimes avoid having conversations.

  • We don’t want to offend anyone.
  • We don’t like feeling awkward.
  • We don’t know how to handle our white guilt.

Above all, we don’t want to appear racist. Because we don’t want to believe we are racist.

But here’s the biggest misstep:

When we’re too afraid of saying the wrong thing, we too often say no thing. . .

. . . which is the wrong thing.

Mess Up Anyway

What can we do about it?

  • Speak scared
  • Have awkward conversations
  • Ask if we’re offensive
  • Listen
  • Listen
  • Listen

(If you like to read novels, I highly recommend Small Great Things, a powerful story that speaks directly to discrimination. The title is taken from Martin Luther King Jr’s famous quote: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.“)

We are going to mess up when we talk to each other. We do that at some point with everyone we talk to, regardless of the sameness or difference of our color or gender or religion or political preference.

But if we don’t talk about touchy subjects, we mess up even more.

Talking is one way to be the change that needs to happen. Grow closer. Get smarter. Bring more peace and love and joy into the world.

God is happy when his colorful kids play together. He made us different on purpose, not by accident.

Intentionally celebrate his intentionality.

My friend let my blunder slide that day. We just kept talking. Maybe she thought nothing about my vocabulary of “us vs them”. Maybe she did. Next time I’ll bring it up and find out.

But love is like that: It covers a multitude of sins. I know my friend loves me. And she knows I love her.

Live in Color

Later that week she sent me an affirming text, a prophetic word related to a spiritual decision we had discussed that day.

She ended her text with this: “I love you to life.”


We’re not in a race against each other. Life isn’t scored like a ballgame.

It’s not: If I win, you lose. Nor is it: If you win, I lose.

It’s both/and. Not either/or.

Seeing life in color is more beautiful than being color blind.

* * *

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “Color Blind? Us vs Them

  1. Michele Morin

    I read eagerly to the very end, because I was hoping you would share how your friend responded. So glad that you were given grace, and that you took it.

    And lately I’ve been reading a lot about these social gaffes, and, quite honestly, I would have been guilty in every single case. My learning curve on this topic is nearly vertical. Thanks for this very instructive story.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My friend was very gracious indeed. I love her for that and for many other reasons. She is a safe place. I know that’s not always the case. We all are still learning from each other. Thanks, Michele.

  2. Linda Stoll

    Lisa … I love your emphasis on listening. Too often we’re so absorbed in our next response or nervous about what will come out of our lips instead of being fully present for whomever we’re sitting with.

    And when we’re self-focused, we tend to say the stupidest things.


  3. Pam

    So well said, Lisa! I believe you know that my husband and I were a part of a predominantly African-American church for 21 years and I served on staff for 13 of those and my husband was an elder. It’s impossible not to make little slips like you noted from time to time, but I think it is just as likely our African-American friends do the same with us. Having lived, worked, and worshipped for so long with a different culture, I discovered how often it happened on the flip side with very little awareness on their part as well. So many many things cause us to be struck by differences. Anyone who was not raised like us in the community we grew up in despite any differences in color can experience that us vs. them thing as well. It often happens with those in the poor parts of Appalachia as well. Thanks for your frank sharing! Always enjoy your words.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Pam. I value your opinion from having walked the walk for so long and learned so much. I’m sure you are a wealth of information and compassion for bridging gaps that need to be bridged. I love hearing your thoughts. May God continue to bless you in new current ministry as he blessed you in the past one!

  4. Heather Hart

    “Live in color” – I love that. I think of our skin color being more about our culture than anything else. It’s not the color that separates us, but our backgrounds. When it becomes part of who we are, we can’t simply ignore it. It’s a touchy subject for sure.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Heather…even those of the same skin color can have such different backgrounds and come from different cultures that there are more differences than those with a similar background yet the same color. (if that makes sense, ha). Thanks for sharing this point!

  5. Bill (cycleguy)

    I think Pam is correct in that we all make “color/culture” mistakes. It is hard not to do an us vs. them slip from time to time. Even the most polished racial person will make them. But the important thing is GRACE. She showed it by letting it go. You may be called on to show it the next time. Least you are doing what others don’t/won’t: making an effort.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Bill. Yes, GRACE is the thing! It smooths out so many rough edges between all of us. So thankful that God paved the way by giving us grace first. May I learn more and more how to give it back out to others.

  6. floyd

    I appreciate the honesty, Lisa. And yes, I’m with you. We’re not afraid of stepping on our families toes and even our friends of the same color, so why would be so guarded if our heart is in the right place?

    It’s fear, and we mistake it for being for the right cause, but it’s not. To be guarded is to be fake. Good for you for living life with your guard down.

    Love your dear friend’s quote.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Fear…that’s something that I have to fight so often. Thanks, brother, for giving me courage to keep pushing through that fear. I don’t live life with my guard down as much as I should; I love the way you put it. But it’s a goal.

  7. Jean Wise

    so well said. Yes very awkward and then I feel guilty and vulnerable for saying something that reveals a hidden prejudice…Your direction to admit, then listen, listen, listen is perfect. Right now I don’t have a close acquaintance from a different culture or ethnicity. Dare I pray for one? I think I will.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That sounds like what I call a “scary prayer”, Jean. 🙂 But a wonderful one. I believe God rewards those kinds of risks. It will be interesting to see if God sends someone your way, or sends you to someone who is praying the same prayer and you are their answer.

      1. Jean Wise

        I had to laugh this morning and come back to find this post and my comment about daring to pray for diversity. God is answering! Ha. watch what you pray for. We have been invited to a Bar Mitzvah in Boston of a friend’s nephew. Never been to one. Don’t know what happens. Way out of my comfort zone. We are praying and actually looking into attending. Oh, my, Lisa. God is stretching me. LOL

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Oh, this makes me smile, Jean! God definitely reads our blog comments to each other. 🙂 I’ve never been to a Bar Mitzvah either. What a wonderful opportunity, if you’re able to attend. It’s a long way from where you are to Boston, but that would be an exciting trip on many levels. Let me know how it goes if you make it!

  8. Sherry Stahl

    As I read your post the tv theme song “In Living Color” kept running through my head 🙂 I love, love, loved your post! I have a bunch of friends of many colors. Canada is very multicultural. I kept referring to black people as ‘colored’ and she finally politely told me where that term came from and explained that it was offensive and how she preferred me using the term black. I gasped and felt horrible. I began apologizing and she just laughed. She told me she knew I loved her and just wanted to let me know. I tried apologizing a few more times and she kept stopping me. She told me she knew my heart and said I needed to let it go. Love, love, love your heart for unity. I remember how your post led me to read that amazing post from LeCrae. Our Daddy loves unity, so I know He loves your heart too!
    Via the #DancingwithJesus linkup
    Praying you’re blessed with many colorful friendships 🙂
    ~Sherry Stahl

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a wonderful story, Sherry! We all make flubs, but love covers them over. I’m glad you had such a gracious friend too. I didn’t realize Canada was so multicultural. I’ve never visited except to cross over the border when we went to Niagara Falls. 🙂 Thanks for sharing here. I have had the theme of In Living Color on my mind now, too.

  9. Debbie

    Lisa I love this. It’s true we mess up with all around us. So glad that God knows that and He gives grace.

    It’s thrilling to meet up with friends. I know that from being retired now and meeting up with them to have lunch when this girl can work it in. I have so many black friend I love from work and at my church.

    Love your friends text – “I love you to life”. Profound.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you’re retired and can take advantage of those opportunities to meet up with friends, Debbie. I am blessed to get to do that quite a lot, too. I know not everyone gets to have that gift so I don’t want to take it for granted. Blessings to you!

  10. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, this is such a great post in every way. It is so true … we are going to make mistakes as we become relational with others. But it is the only way we can make relationships and grow. I love your friend’s response, “I love you to life.” So powerful for as we love and give grace to one another, we will surely love one another to life. I am so grateful you shared this post with us all. I have much to learn as well. Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What sweet words of encouragement, Joanne. Thank you very much. It’s true that giving each other grace is the absolute best way to love each other. I appreciate how much grace you send out into the world!

  11. Ashley Davis

    Very nice to read this article, Lisa. Recently, we’ve been hiring some new people at work. One of the new ladies is a younger, black lady. She’s the only employee we have that is black, and I’ve wanted to ask what it’s like for her in an all white environment. But like you pointed out in your post, we feel awkward and don’t know what to say, or we’re afraid of saying the wrong things. Ah.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s great that your company has hired her. Knowing you, I’m guessing you’ll be having that conversation with her soon. 🙂 Either way, I know you’ll be a good friend to her, which is what counts the most!

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