I keep hearing the term “reverse racism." And I’ve been thinking a lot about it. “Reverse racism” is generally how White people describe what they perceive to be racism toward them.
But not everyone agrees that reverse racism is real. An article released last month on Today.com (“What does 'reverse racism' mean and is it actually real? Experts weigh in”) asserted that reverse racism is a “social lie that doesn’t exist,” calling it “a mythological ideology that stems from discourse and propaganda on anti-Blackness.”
According to Critical Race Theory (and cultural sensibility of our day), reverse racism is impossible because Whites have power and People of Color do not. By definition, there can be no such thing as “reverse racism.” As this Facebook string testifies:
A couple days ago, I came across this blog post, which left me highly confused. Can you help me? Is this racist? (I have underlined some key phrases of concern.)
The Perpetual Perpetrator: Encouragement for Whites in A Minority Focused Culture
By: A White Pastor of a Multi-Ethnic Church
The work of reconciliation as Whites in minority focused culture can be lonely and exhausting. In fact, if we only see this as “work,” chances are we won’t make it to the finish line, but instead will flame out in a fit of (understandable) bitterness like the prophet Jonah. Over the years I’ve often referred to this as the call for Whites to serve as missionaries, seeing the mission field as our Black brothers and sisters. My decades-long exchanges with White people trying to live as Jesus among our minority siblings has led me to conclude the missionary metaphor is inadequate. Sure, there are aspects to the imagery which fit: Cross ethnic/cultural exchanges. Having to learn a new language. Modifying one’s customs. Always having to dial back who you are. But what are we to do when the mission field is supposed to be our home –– a place which has become increasingly violent toward those with White skin? A place where we are continually accused of the racist acts of our forefathers? We will never be able to adequately repent or to divest of “Whiteness” enough to be forgiven or tolerated. To be a White person in our current cultural context is to be a perpetual perpetrator.
I guess I could pull you into my own journey, and inundate you with a litany of sleepless nights, obscene moments where I have been the recipient of overt racism in churches I’ve served. My road to racial reconciliation has led to long walks in the valley of loneliness. Instead, I want to give you some hope. Effective leadership demands a positive attitude. And our attitudes are merely the thermometers of our emotional health. White brother or sister, hear me: The effectiveness and longevity of your ministry will depend on you fighting for your emotional well-being. As the writer of Proverbs says, we must guard our hearts.
In my decades served as a reconciler, I have found these three things to be absolute non-negotiables in nurturing emotional health:
Missionaries get furloughs –– times where they must leave the field and come back to what’s familiar. As White people in a minority focused culture, we need to take emotional furloughs. Daily. Some of you are expected to make your church diverse, and to be the answer to the ethnic and cultural ills in your community. Listen to me. Have John the Baptist’s words plastered on the walls of your mind, “I am not the Christ.” Stop right now, and say that to yourselves. Say it again. And again. Once you embrace this, you can now put healthy emotional boundaries in place. As a matter of soul care, you have to get away from it. Put the book on race down, and read something else, something mindless. Stop racking your brain over whether you are a critical race theorist. Stop brooding over the email you received chastising you for paying tribute to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson because they owned slaves. In fact, delete the email. Jesus didn’t heal everyone, and neither can you. It’s not your calling. Set boundaries.
Permission to Play:
While you’re on emotional furlough, give yourself permission to play. You know what kept me sane twelve years in Southern California, and what keeps me sane today? Jesus and surfing! I know you were looking for something more spiritual, but that’s all I got. I never would have made it without these two. In fact, I’m convinced Jesus gave me surfing to aid in my emotional well-being. Never confuse hobby with optional. Hobbies are essential. Some of my heroes and mentors in the faith do consistent golf days (you know who you are!), get dirt under their nails gardening, are so good at naps it becomes a sport, vacation well, or attend movies by themselves. They play well, and decades later they are doing well in ministry. This is exponentially more so for we perpetual perpetrators.
You also need to give yourself permission to spend time with people who look like you. No, this doesn’t need to be your exclusive community. And of course, one of the most biblical and redemptive things God has done to form me is to experience rich, vibrant community with people who don’t look like me. But the work of reconciliation is beyond tiring. Always having to explain what you meant. Always needing to restrain dimensions of who you are to not offend. I guess what I’m saying is to be a perpetual perpetrator is to have a perpetual filter. Well, we need moments to put the filter down. My surf club in Newport, CA, was mostly White pastors. I didn’t have to be culturally measured with them. I didn’t have to tiptoe around them. I could also vent. I wasn’t accused of microaggressions. A few good waves and talking with friends over a plate of sushi, gave me the emotional bandwidth to go back to the office measured. As White people, we must have moments where we are unfiltered so we can be filtered.
It’s been said the most important thing a leader can do is to stay encouraged. Do these three things and you will be encouraged, ready to engage our Black and Brown siblings with great joy.