This is the title of an essay I wrote looking at what has opened up for us due to the killing of George Floyd. In this 4 page Word document I attempt to get to the heart of the issue, and hopefully bring some healing and compassion for us all.
I am a Racist and So are You
Of course, I am thinking of George Floyd. (This is written
on June 2, 2020.) What a tragedy, and I am upset at what happened to him. And
this man was a fellow Christian who was actively reaching out evangelistically
with the Gospel in his neighborhood.
The guy with his knee on Brother Floyd’s head—what was that
about? Was he afraid for his own safety? Would not seem so. Three other cops
were visible, just right there. Floyd was hand cuffed as well. But I noticed
all four of the cops were nervously looking around and around with their hands
near their weapons.
My brother Bruce
Bruce, gone now for four years, retired as chief of police
in Pasadena, CA. There was, and is, a large black population in that city. Two
decades or more ago Bruce wrote a manual on how to secure a city when there was
some kind of violent event taking place. We talked about it, and he told me
that one of his focuses was on looting. It could get bad. Bruce’s manual has
been used by cities across America. And, Bruce’s girlfriend, a great lady, was
One of the things I learned from Bruce is that, during a
major protest or march gone bad, there is a lot of fear experienced by police.
Turns out that behind the badge and the gun is a human being who may be scared
to death. How many cops around the country are killed each year in carrying out
The brain has a tendency to freeze up; thus, untoward events
can take place. Is this what happened in Minneapolis? No one knows, but there
is a possibility that the “fight or flight” hormone charge kicked in.
This does not, however, excuse what happened to George
Was the cop racist?
My answer is, most likely. How could he be the only one in
the world who is not? If we can be honest about ourselves for a minute, I think
many of us would admit to having some or a lot of racism deep within us.
I grew up in a black and white neighborhood in Portland,
Oregon. The family who lived behind us was black, and the son and I spent lots
of time together. In the military also lots of black friends. That said, I
still had some tinges of racism in me.
Then we moved to Los Angeles, and near us, a few miles away,
was San Fernando Valley with a large Mexican population, and we had gang wars
with some of them during my high school days. Did I pick up some prejudice
then? Sure, I did. We also had gang fights with the blacks at Belmont High in
the city, and also with the Buddha heads of Hollywood. Thinking about it, I am
lucky to be alive.
I am racist
Over the years I picked up any number of racist-oriented
prejudices. Some were racial, others economic, some educationally oriented, I will
admit also to a lot of politically oriented bias, and this is playing out front
and center right now. Religious prejudice? Yes, I have some of that, too. Maybe
“some” is an understatement.
The good thing is that I recognize it, I own it. That way my
idiosyncrasies might not creep up on me. The person who denies racism, in one
form or another, is not being honest or self-aware.
Can black people be racist? For sure, and I have experienced
it, especially as a volunteer at San Quentin Prison for the last nearly forty years.
Everything is racial there and to a degree most would never understand.
I think that people who receive the brunt of racism have a
more difficult time seeing racism in themselves. Almost any significant
difference between people will spawn forms of prejudice, some more deeply than
“Hey whitey” has been directed at me. Is this a racist
statement? Of course, it is. Yet the person who yelled it out might likely deny
it was. We so easily see what we suppose are faults and differences in others and
are blind to our own. And we have them. He who is without sin, cast the first
stone, Jesus said.
You are racist
Are you offended? Or, are you in touch with yourself to the
point that you not only can see the prejudices you carry with you but are able
to admit them to others, and maybe work to reduce them? They will not suddenly
vanish or completely go away by themselves.
This is the way it is for us. On a scale from 1 to 100,
where do you fit in? I’m not sure where I fit; in the double digits for sure.
How could it be otherwise? Our world is a little bit hellish, for some more
than others, and the harder we get beaten down, the more distorted we become. I
know that for those who have spent years in prison, the racism they encountered
behind bars stays with them. Through my involvement with prison ministry and
sports, I have seen and experienced this.
People raised in what we might call a ghetto most often have
racism build into them, on both an unconscious level and a deliberately taught
level, sometimes for safety sake. Our world is filled with inequities, and to
think these will just go away or disappear is crazy thinking. Social Justice—nice idea—but the work it
will take to achieve it might end up being discouraging. Is it even pie in the
sky by and by? We have to deal with social injustice, a battle we will not win
but one which we cannot abandon. And here I am hoping to give us some
ammunition in this warfare.
The Good Samaritan
Jesus told a parable about a man, a Jew, who was robbed,
beaten, and left for dead. This event took place on the Jericho Road, which led
from the village of Jericho to Jerusalem.
As it turned out, two Jewish religious types travelling
along the road heading for Jerusalem walked around the victim and made no
attempt to help. Then a Samaritan man came along.
The story will make no sense, unless we understand that Jews
and Samaritans did not get along. They hated each other. The Samaritans were considered
half-breeds by the Jews and held to a rival form of worship. The Jews and
Samaritans despised each other both racially and religiously.
Big surprise! The Samaritan stopped and helped the man and
made sure he would be okay. It cost him time and money and perhaps put him at
risk at the same time.
Jesus told this story. Here it is now from Luke 10:25–37: The
Parable of the Good Samaritan:
 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test,
saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to
him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”  And he answered,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as
yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and
you will live.”
 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from
Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him
and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down
that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise
a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw
him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on
oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and
took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them
to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I
will repay you when I come back.’  Which of these three, do you think,
proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said,
“The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do
Two men had racial prejudice, one did not, or if he did, he
did not allow it to determine his actions. The Samaritan would have had every
reason to walk around the beaten man and leave him be. Those who heard Jesus
tell the story would have instantly understood that. Somehow, the Samaritan had
dealt with the hatred he would have encountered growing up.
The neighbor is the one who is in need. All else is
Now in this day and age, with so many in need and with so
little resources available, and even the road to bringing help laden with
complexities, how can we be like the good Samaritan?
Sorry, I have no answer, except to say that we attempt to do
what is within our capacity. And it all starts with recognizing our prejudices
and overcoming these. Complications arise when the good Samaritans among us are
resented by those who are in need. We must deal with both our own and the
others’ prejudices in the midst of trying to help. And it is present though
largely unseen and unspoken.
Our racism is tribal in nature. It is given soon after birth
among those who are part of it and passed along generation to generation. I
know it is this way with white people like myself. Although I was raised in a
black and white community in Portland, Oregon, but I did not escape being
racist all together. Living in Los Angeles, I was a student in the class of
racial hatreds. Some of it is yet in me. I admit it.
My wife and I catch ourselves while watching the nightly
news. One injustice after another—there have been a number of George Floyds
over the years. And alongside the injustices perpetrated by those in control,
we see the misdeeds of those who are not in control, from robbery to murder,
constantly on the screen, and the images bring up racist emotions. Just last
night we saw footage of looters, both black and white, and our prejudices jumped
to the fore.
I am somewhat resigned to the unhappy thought that this side
of the Kingdom of God our racism is not going away, including my own. But I can
be on guard. I can be aware of my own foibles. I accept that others will act
out their inner hatreds and confusion. There will be injustice, there will be
riots, and lootings, and killings. This is life on the planet, but we will
continue to stand our ground and strive to be a neighbor to those who need one.
Now then, for the final word. Something else from Jesus. “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is called The Golden
Rule. We know how we want to be treated, so this gives us the knowledge of how
we are to treat others. This is not so simple, because we find it difficult,
sometimes impossible, to do unto others for their benefit. And I could go on
here with the caveats. Still, the words of Jesus give us a platform, something
solid to think about.
Let me offer a challenge: Memorize the rule of Jesus, think
about it as you live in the world, and attempt to apply it when need arises.