Discrimination—An inside view

It’s a touchy subject. I’m uncomfortable bringing it up. I’d rather ignore racial lines altogether—I know we’re all the same!—but sometimes if we want to know what we’re blind to on the outside, we need to ask an insider.

After reading about Auburn University commemorating 50 years of integration this year, I began wondering how today’s students feel.

What does racial discrimination look like now? Is it still among us?

So I decided to just ask. And prayed I wouldn’t look like a bigot because of the asking.

I sent a note to one of Jenna’s friends in AU Gospel Choir—Chris—a young African-American man that I’d already grown to admire. I considered him my friend, too.

Yet would approaching him with questions about discrimination mess that up?

2014-02-16 Chris

“Hey Chris,
Hope this isn’t too weird a request . . . ”

He couldn’t have been nicer in his response.

Yet I cried anyway.

Because yes, he’s seen discrimination.
Yes, he’s heard it.
Yes, he’s felt it.

It isn’t something he dwells on, but he’s aware of it when it happens.

Even though he was brought up to be open-minded, to see people as individuals, he knows not everybody else has been.

We know that in our homes is where most of it starts. What are we teaching?

As Chris said, “Nobody is born discriminating against one another, it’s something that’s seen and then learned.”

So I asked him a few more awkward questions; he answered each with grace and with assurance I could keep asking more. (And to be fair, I told him if he had any questions for middle-aged white women, ask away.)

As our conversations deepened, so did my respect for him. Not only because of his refusal to be crippled by the ups and downs he’s already experienced, but also because of the dreams he has for the future. To be a voice to younger kids; to be a better father one day than some fathers he has seen; to keep looking to God as the one true Father of all of us.

So did I learn more about discrimination? Definitely. It’s enlightening information to me.

But the greater joy was in learning more about a fellow human being. The outer journey—questions, words, knowledge—was good. But the inner journey was better—friendship, hope, connectedness.

Ultimately, unity and love is what will destroy discrimination.
One friendship at a time.

* * *

chris-national-anthem

And now for a little bragging—it’s allowed because we’ve adopted Chris as our godson—here’s a link to Chris singing the National Anthem at one of two recent Auburn University athletic events.  Don’t you think he’s awesome, too?

Where do you still see discrimination?
What can we do about it?
Please share.

33 thoughts on “Discrimination—An inside view

  1. blankJen Ferguson

    Oh, yes. I see discrimination…and not just racial. A friend was turned down for a job, really, because she’s a young mom with a baby and her hours aren’t as “flexible.” I love how God used your questions to not only help you see something on a deeper level, but to grow your relationship with your Chris. And yes, brag away!!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Jen. Discrimination isn’t very discriminating. In my own life I’ve probably seen it most in the religious world, proving it can show up anywhere. Lord, help us all.

  2. blankbluecottonmemory

    When I was little and being bullied on the bus by these brothers, the principal lectured me about causing problems for parent. I didn’t realize it then, but as one of the very few children of divorce in our catholic school – I blieve she treated me as the problem because I was a child of divorce. Discrimination isn’t just in race, sex and age. It can be in how you dress, do your hair or who people see you with. Discrimination pigeon holes negatively.

    You are so right – “unity and love is what will destroy discrimination” – my boys bring home lots of friends, regardless of race, fashion or family background – and there are a lot of these boys that I would gladly call my sons:) It’s an inside thing!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      What a painful memory. It shows how discrimination can stick to us for years, and for all kinds of reasons which often have absolutely nothing to do with who we are on the inside.

      But instead of allowing it to make you discriminatory yourself as an adult, you chose to flip it upside down. I know you are blessing to many, many young people (and adults too!). Praise God.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I agree. 🙂 Shortly after that performance, he was asked to sing again for an Auburn baseball game. I didn’t get to go to that one, but I know he did a great job there too.

  3. blankfloyd

    He’s awesome! What a voice… and better yet, a heart. One of my best friends and business associates is African American and we both grew up in So Cal in the late sixties. We’ve seen ugly. He has a scar on his head from being nearly killed by a cops club after being stopped basically for harassment.

    Funny how much alike we are… Not only is he a brother in Christ, but he’s got my back just like my blood brothers… We’re all more alike than we are different.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      “We’ve seen ugly.” That in itself is bonding, even though I wish none of us would ever have to see ugly. What a blessing that you have this best friend.

      You’re so right that we’re all more alike than different–we all have the same Daddy. Thanks for sharing this, Floyd.

  4. blankAlecia

    Um, first let me say, “WAR EAGLE,” my husband says one day we WILL retire in Auburn bc it’s the best place in the whole wide world!

    And second, thanks for being brave and approaching a hard subject. May we all be able to look at each other as individuals and not by our skin color, sex, or anything else.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      War Eagle back to you, Alecia! Quite a year, yes? If Auburn keeps stealing my children, I might find myself living there one day myself. ha.

      Thanks for your encouraging words. There are many things that can separate us, but so many more that can draw us together. Those are the things I want to see. May the Lord keep replacing our limited vision with his limitless one.

  5. blankDawn

    “Ultimately, unity and love is what will destroy discrimination.
    One friendship at a time.”— Thank you for this! Your post had me crying too….from one middle age white woman to another 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’m actually still not comfortable thinking of myself as middle-aged, even though I am–we can be discriminated against too. ha. Although it is just jokes compared to the real stuff, I do know that. Thanks for crying with me, Dawn, over the truly discriminated against. I look forward to when we all have new bodies in heaven and there will be no discrimination there.

  6. blankKrista

    Lisa, I have to say I look forward to reading your blog each week! 🙂
    It’s really sad that we still have to live in a world where there is still so much discrimination.
    I’m so glad you were able to have that candid conversation with your God son. What an amazing young man! 🙂

  7. blankNatalie

    “The greater joy was learning about a fellow human being…” Love that. Curiosity about the heart of another is a true gift. I love a good conversation and that type of curiosity is key to that. Thanks for sharing about your journey on this topic.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Chris is definitely a bright spot; I always feel better about the future when I see the young men and women coming up behind us. So many have a strong desire to love the Lord and to do good things in the world to love others. I’m thankful Chris and my daughter are friends and I hope they stay that way even after he graduates from Auburn this spring.

  8. blankbrian miller

    it is learned…and it is in many ways stupidity…
    i had a kid i had to sit down on campus today…a couple actually….two white guys walking around campus yelling ‘i hate crackers!’ and making racial jokes…and they did not see a problem with it…one of them just transferred from another school where it is probably a bit more prevalent…but he would get beat up pretty quick here for it…

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you were there in that moment, Brian. Sometimes a little nudge in the right direction can go far. And prevent bigger disasters. I hope those two guys learned their lesson…but if not this time, sounds like they’ll probably learn it a harder way next time.

  9. blankTrudy

    “Ultimately, unity and love is what will destroy discrimination.” Amen. What an inspiration Chris is! As are you, Lisa. Because you had the courage to ask questions in your tender, loving way, you heard of the important “inner journey” that you could share with us. Thank you so much, Lisa,

    1. blankLisa

      Thanks for your encouragement, Trudy, to both me and to Chris. I love how God puts people in our lives at just the right time. I’m glad he knows what he’s doing!

  10. blankSita

    Hi Lisa, first of all, thank you for popping my blog and leaving me some encouragement.
    As for your post on ‘discrimination’, I have to say I applaud your courage. Most of my ‘white’ friends would prefer not to see their own part or heart. Discrimination hit me very hard as a visible minority, tiny, brown, unassertive woman. IN fact it is where some of my deepest hurts lie and I know that God wants to use that. We are all guilty of it because we have all been acculturated via family values, Hollywood movies, the news etc. When we don’t have any real friends among people who are different from us in one way or the other, we tend to view them through the filter of what we have heard or seen on the news.
    The best way to break a stereotype is to invite the ‘stranger’ into our homes, our lives. I distinctly remember going to an International Students Christmas camp where we enjoyed a celebration of our cultures in concerts, songs, skits etc. It was glorious, English, Chinese, Latin American, Caribbean, European, Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, African, Nepalese, Canadian all together. By the time it was finished, we knew we were all the same, humans, but with superficial differences in dress, diet, appearance.
    It made me love God and appreciate Him even more for His creativity.
    So, I agree with you, one friendship at a time. 🙂

    1. blankLisa

      I value your voice here, Sita. So glad you left this comment. You know first-hand the pain of discrimination based on skin color and how deep the hurt can go. We need to hear stories like yours, even though it makes us cringe. But we ALL need to cringe when one of us is hurt–rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. I pray more and more that those who believe in racism will come to understand that it hurts everyone, including themselves.

      You’re right that if we don’t have friends other than those who are “like us”, we believe the stereotypes we see on TV or hear about. And we miss out on the diversity of beauty that God created for us all to enjoy.

      I wish I could have experienced your International Students Christmas camp–it sounds like it was a bit of heaven on earth!

      So thankful we are connecting, too, friend to friend. 🙂 I loved the “Unconditionally” video you had on your blog–it’s how Christ loves each of us and desires us to love each other.

  11. blankDawn St Amand Paoletta

    I think the reality is, sometimes racism is in us dormant, buried, until something happens that raises it to the surface. I think if we are really honest with ourselves and others we ‘d see it is everywhere. And as Jen F. said it’s not just about skin color, it’s a chameleon that can change and transform in a way we don’t rcognize it. But, God. He can allow us to recognize it, and remove it from us, because the roots of it…I just think they are deeper than we want to believe. I have my own story of revelation, when God showed this to me. To my surprise it was there, after an incident it reared it’s head. And Chris is right, ““Nobody is born discriminating against one another, it’s something that’s seen and then learned.”. Sometimes we don’t even know it has been “caught” as it lies as a sleeping lion. Unfortuately, it is a lion that needs to be slain. One, beast at a time, within the hearts and minds of each one of us. Kudos to you for being brave and honest enough to take on this precious topic and congrats on a very cool, talented Godson!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      “Unfortunately, it is a lion that needs to be slain. One, beast at a time, within the hearts and minds of each one of us.”

      Amen, Dawn. I heard more discrimination talk just today from someone. Why is it easier to recognize in others than in ourselves? I guess it’s like any other sin—we see it in others first. 🙁 Your point about it being a chameleon is so true; it can morph into forms that we don’t recognize.

      But God. Yes!

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  13. blankKirra Antrobus

    Discrimination is a strange thing. My husband is black, and I am white, but he is foreign (from an island in the Caribbean) and we deal with very little discrimination. As a counselor, he meets all kinds of people, and at one time he had a few clients from the Aryan nation that thought he was great. I suppose all this is because he’s obviously foreign (his accent is still evident even after living here for newly ten years) but I can’t say they for certain.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      This is very encouraging to hear, Kirra. How wonderful that you and your husband haven’t had much discrimination to deal with it. Whatever the reason for it, I praise God. It gives me hope. Thank you for sharing!

  14. blankSita

    ~Henri Nouwen~
    “Towards a Nonjudgmental life
    One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.
    Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being “other.” Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at “those other persons” as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I value the words of Henri Nouwen. This is a beautiful passage you share, Sita, and I thank you for it. He had it right:

      “One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are.”

      Overcoming our blind spots is often one of the most difficult parts of it. But realizing that God loves “others” is definitely a healing pattern we can all move toward as we grow in realizing we are all the same and there are really no others after all.

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