It’s easy to feel stuck in patterns of the past. Most of the time we inherit these cycles from society, parents, or even the church. Let’s get past the layers of dysfunction and have an honest talk about emotions, racism, addiction, and religion. It can stop with you —you can be the cycle breaker!
I’m Breaking the Cycle of Racism
weekend in review
Note to Leaders: This topic can obviously be a difficult one to discuss. At Eastside we have people who hold the perspective that racism is no longer a significant issue in our society and that continued discussion of it is making things worse, and we have other people who have personally been impacted by racism in significant ways.
We believe that as long as one part of the body of Christ is hurting, we are all hurting. If any of our Christian brothers and sisters are feeling hurt or disadvantaged because of the color of their skin, then we need to extend love and engage with them so that together we can figure out the best way forward.
Before beginning this conversation with your group, consider establishing some guidelines for your discussion. Here are three you might consider:
- Listen to and respect others’ perspectives and especially their stories. Really listen to people and hear what they’re saying rather than just trying to formulate your own response while they’re talking. Don’t try to explain away people’s experiences or their understanding of them. You can disagree, but recognize that their interpretation of their experience is very real to them.
- What’s said in the group stays in the group. We have to be able to trust that what we share here is confidential, that we’re not going to hear about it on the six o’clock news or as part of a “prayer request.” Conversations about race can be difficult, and we won’t all get them all right.
- Finally and most importantly, before we speak, let’s each of us ask not only whether what we’re about to say is true but also whether it is being said out of love.
Begin with some conversation, checking in on how people are doing. You can talk about whatever you’d like, but here are potential questions to get the conversation going.
- What’s one funny or quirky thing your family did when you were growing up that you only later realized wasn’t something everyone’s family did?
- Mike taught that at the core of racism is the lie that some people are superior or inferior to others. It’s a lie we have to dispel. He shared his journey of growing up in the South, in a culture and family who believed they were superior. Share what type of home you grew up in. Did family members say things that made you feel uncomfortable?
- Does your life look more like the salad or the salad bar? In other words, are you in meaningful relationships with people who are different from you? Is your life all mixed up like a salad? Or is it more like the salad bar? You might work next to people of different races. Your kids might play sports with kids of different races. But ultimately you keep yourself separate from them like the different items on a salad bar. You don’t really invite them into your life. They’re around you, but there’s always a separation.
- Mike explained that “white privilege” doesn’t mean that all white people grew up with every advantage life has to offer. Plenty grew up in challenging circumstances, as he did. He explained it this way, “I’ve never been pulled over in my car simply because I’m white… I usually don’t get looked at suspiciously when I enter a convenience store… When I’m in an upscale neighborhood, people don’t just assume I must be the landscaper or the cleaning lady… I’ve never been attacked because my distant relatives may live in a part of the world where COVID may have originated… Deb and I had an easier time getting a loan when we were younger than some of our friends of color did. There’s ‘privilege’ attached to [those things].” White privilege doesn’t mean that all white people have lots of opportunities, it simply means that they have some advantages in our society that people of color do not have. Does that explanation change your understanding of white privilege?
- Read James 3:9-10, I Samuel 16:7, and I John 4:19-21. Becoming a racism cycle breaker is not a political issue; it is a heart issue. What words or commands stand out to you from these verses? How does your perspective change if you view racism as a spiritual issue instead of a political or social issue?
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-18. As people who’ve been changed through the reconciliation of Jesus, how can we extend compassion and build bridges with people who are different from us?
- Today a significant minority of Americans are overtly, blatantly prejudiced. Few of us would just say, “I don’t like Black people. I don’t like white people. I don’t like Mexicans.” But most of us struggle with some level of bias or preference for those who act like us, look like us, and are culturally like us.
In his book, The Deeply Formed Life, Rich Villodas poses a number of pointed questions that can help us better understand our own biases. He asks:
- Is there a particular people, ethnicity, or race that you or your child cannot marry, and why? I heard someone say, “The real question of Christian discipleship is not can I be your brother in Christ, but can I be your brother-in-law?”
- What types of people cause you to cross the street if you are walking alone and why?
- What type of person would you most trust to invest or steward your money and why?
As you hear those questions, what runs through your mind? Are there groups that you prefer or don’t prefer? If you’d trust someone with your own skin color to invest your money more than someone with a different skin color, it doesn’t mean you’re a horrible racist. It just means that maybe you have some bias that you should think and pray about, some bias that you should work through.
- Read Matthew 9:9-13. Jesus touched all kinds of people, breaking down racial and gender bias while motioning to his followers, “Come on … FOLLOW ME.” Who do you need to extend your hand to?
- One of the main purposes of His Kingdom is the creation of a new family that transcends racial and ethnic barriers. God is not only in the business of saving souls; he is in the business of creating a new family. Jesus put everyone in the same category: priceless. How does this understanding shape the way you live in the world?
- Read Galatians 6:2 and Galatians 3:28. Dr. John Perkins, an African American pastor writes, “The duty to ‘carry each other’s burdens’ takes on added meaning in interracial community building. When a white brother comes into the community, he’s bringing all his teaching about superiority and all of his guilt that society has put on him. I must be able and willing to absorb that if we are to be reconciled. And my white brother in the community must also recognize that I bring my history of being treated as inferior, of being told that I am a nobody. He must understand that I am trying to claim my worth as a person created in God’s image. He must help bear the burden of all the bitterness and anger that grows out of my past. To be reconciled, we must bear the burdens of each other’s pasts.” What runs through your mind as you think about those words?
- Mike shared his journey of self-reflection and of listening to others regarding the issue of racism. What fears do you have about reflecting on your story and taking steps to listen to the stories of people around you from different races and cultural backgrounds?
- Listening allows us to get to know others on a deeper level and gain new insights. When we enter a learning mode, humbly listen, and are honest about any hint of superiority that might exist within us, we become cycle breakers. Active listening is where we seek to understand other people’s perspectives, challenges, burdens, and backgrounds. Who serves as a great listener for you? What gets in the way of people listening to each other?
- What are some barriers in your heart that keep you from engaging with people of other races or cultures?
- Reflecting on Mike’s message, where might God be calling you to be a bridge-builder?
- Spend time praying, asking God if he might be wanting to do some work in your heart. Here are a few questions to help guide you:
- Who do you need to extend your hand to?
- Who do you need to share a meal with? Who do you need to include?
- Who do you need to learn from?
- What steps could you personally take to allow the Holy Spirit of God to replace any hint of judgmentalism, prejudice, pride, or superiority with his love, causing that ugly, destructive cycle to end in you?
WRAP UP & PRAYER
Share prayer requests and spend time praying for each other.
- Pray for an open heart to see our church and our community as God sees it. Ask for God to reveal the work he desires each of us to do and provide the courage to rewrite our stories.
For additional resources on racial unity or to be notified when we start new Conversations on Race groups in January click here.