My parents made a great decision when I was just a little boy. Somewhere in the 1990’s the “My Buddy” doll trend started. My mom and dad decided to buy me one and I LOVED it; however, the one they got me was a little different than the others. He was black. They could have simply bought this doll because it was the one on sale, (I really don’t know their intentions behind it), but I believe this doll opened up my mind and heart to the reality that not everyone in the world was just like me or the people in the predominately white town that I lived in. This reality settled into my soul and caused me to look at the world differently. Yes. That is what I am saying. A dumb little doll created a cultural awareness in my mind and heart. I was unaware of the reality of racism until I was older.
My first “wake up call” pertaining to racism came while working at a JC Penney store in Corbin, Kentucky as a teenager. I was helping a customer at the register who was buying a pile of University of Kentucky basketball clothing. At this time, Tubby Smith (a black man) was the coach at UK. We began to talk about the losing that had been going on and just like all the know-it-all Kentucky fans, myself included, I was opining on what Tubby could do to fix it. The man looked at me as straight-faced, cold-blooded, and emotionless as he could and said, “The real problem is that our coach is the WRONG COLOR. Black men do not belong in positions of leadership; they are our hired hands.” I nearly dropped to the floor. My heart began pounding. Sweat began to pour from my forehead. Rage, anger, passion, fear, wisdom, along with grace and forgiveness were all shouting at me at the same time to make a quick decision. I looked at the man and replied, “I happen to strongly disagree with you on that sir.” I then turned around, logged out of my computer, and asked an associate to finish the transaction. I simply could NOT look at this gentlemen anymore and I knew that punching him was not an option. TALK ABOUT A WAKE UP CALL.
This situation was more than just me waking up to the reality that people were really racist in this world. It was a wake up call to the reality that somehow, someway, my parents had found a way to instill in me a respect for all races. That little doll may have very well been helpful in raising a non-racist, but exposure to the gospel of Jesus was the key ingredient.
I sat in my car that evening and asked God to help me to always have the mentality that I am no better than anybody else because of the color of my skin. I asked God to help me, as minister of the gospel, to always see people through the eyes of Christ, who, by the way, is completely color blind.
But what about those racist people? How do we approach them? What do we do about guys like Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was recently caught on audio tape denigrating minorities, and has a long-standing history of being a racist? Here are 3 small steps we can take that could possibly make a big difference.
1.) We pray for them. Never underestimate the power of God to change a wicked heart. We must realize that this battle is more than just cultural or national, but it is SPIRITUAL and only GOD has the power to transform a heart of hatred. Prayer is a weapon in the arsenal of the Christian that can break strongholds and mentalities that have been dominating the thought-life of people for many years.
2.) Challenge them lovingly. There is NO WAY that we can (in a conversation) change a person, but our job is NOT to change people. Our job is to LOVE people enough to challenge their way of thinking; not with OUR OPINION, but with the word of God. We cannot fall into the trap of fighting fire with fire, or returning hatred with more hatred. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
3.) Be the example. Be intentional about inviting people of different races or cultural backgrounds into your inner-circle. You can show others how to be open by being open yourself. What we simply cannot do is point our fingers at others for having a racist mentality and then look at our lives and see that we have never made ourselves available for relationship with anybody other than our own race.
With the encouragement of a good friend who shall remain nameless (Ben Quintanilla) I have decided to start a blog. This blog will be dedicated to the purpose of encouraging my fellow-leaders. Hope you enjoy the entries that are soon to come!
“Leadership is influence.” -John Maxwell