I remember watching the video of the exchange over a dog leash between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper (no relation between the two) in Central Park that ended with Ms. Cooper calling the police.
As I watched Mr. Cooper’s voice get louder as he walked closer to Ms. Cooper, my body got rather tense. In that moment, I knew that I may have been fearful had I been the white woman in Amy Cooper’s place. (Would I have called the police to say a man was threatening me? Probably not and I certainly wouldn’t have specified that he was a Black man). However, I had to be honest with myself that I, too, had an internal fearful reaction that wasn’t even intentional in watching the exchange. I had taught and studied human rights for years in the college classroom and yet I finally realized what it meant that we are never truly post-racial in our fallen world (although with God’s grace over time maybe we can come closer someday!).
While watching TV growing up, I saw Black actors in movies primarily portraying gang members and villains. When I would go on vacation to other cities, I would be warned by other people when we were driving through the “bad areas” of town in which I would then primarily see Black and Brown people walking the sidewalks. All of this added up to me being engrossed in a culture that was sending me biased messages from a young age without me even fully realizing it.
I truly recommend that we all take this issue to prayer and ask God to heal us of any racial, ethnic, or national biases we may have, even if unconsciously. Ask Him to reveal anything to you that you may need to work on in this area and ask Him to heal it. A good place to start might be praying for the virtue of humility which is an absolute necessity for recognizing how we might need to work in this area.
Back in 2007, when I was in training over the summer as a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), we were given the most intense Examination of Conscience for the Sacrament of Confession that I have ever seen. It revolved around the Seven Deadly Sins, and we were told that it is likely that every human is struggling in some way in all seven areas. Under each of the seven sins was an extremely long list of all the ways one could struggle with that sin. While that was a hard thing to hear at the time, especially for someone like me who struggles with extreme scrupulosity and OCD, it was also somewhat freeing. I began to realize that ALL of us are struggling with sin in so many areas because of our fallen world with the entrance of Original Sin under Adam and Eve. We are not alone in this struggle and many holy men and women have struggled before us. As the saying goes, Saints are sinners who kept trying!
I would like to suggest that it is the same with sins of prejudice, racism and xenophobia. I think the truth is that we are probably all (yes, people of any race and ethnicity can harbor prejudice although systemic and institutional factors make the effects of prejudice worse for people of color in the United States) struggling in some way in these areas due to the sinful society we live in, but it is just a matter of how and to what degree. I highly doubt anyone reading this is a white supremacist or in the KKK, and hopefully FAR, FAR from it!!! However, I want to challenge you to take to prayer if God wants to help transform your heart in any way to heal you of biases or prejudice that you might have grown up with. Friends, please pray for me and know I am praying for you as we strive for holiness!