EVEN AS SOUTHERN states—and GOP candidates—jumped through hoops to distance themselves from the Confederate flag, a backlash erupted among those claiming the flag was merely a symbol of “heritage.” Battle-flag waving Southerners (and Confederacy sympathizers) seemed to leap at the opportunity to wave their banner high.
But what about the rest of us? One of the most profound statements I’ve heard recently came from Rev. Jin Kim, founding pastor of Church of All Nations in Minnesota. This Korean-born pastor stood at the podium of the Sojourners Summit and said with conviction: “I am a white supremacist.”
How can this man, a person of color who’s dedicated his life to ethnic and cultural reconciliation, be a white supremacist? The same way any of us can. After all, at its heart white supremacy is not about white hoods, battle flags, and burning crosses. Those symbols are what we call explicit bias. People know when they are practicing it.
But most often white supremacy is about implicit bias that favors whiteness. It’s about the unconscious associations we make in our minds before we even know we’ve done it. White? Rich. Black? Poor. White? Good. Black? Bad. White? Trustworthy. Black? Scary. You get the idea.
These are the unconscious biases that shape the way we order our lives; the communities we live in, the places we shop, the churches we attend, the leadership from others we accept (or reject), and the policies we support (or don’t).
It’s not hard to fume at the thought of the killer of Mother Emanuel’s Nine. And it feels good to click “like” and share posts calling for the removal of Confederate flags.
But if we stop there, bias beats us. It is the unconscious biases of the masses that keep us from moving forward, not the explicit biases of the few. So, check out this tongue-in-cheek list of four easy ways to be a white supremacist (regardless of your own race).
1. Plan a conference on church planting with a speaker lineup so white it would make Honey Boo Boo blush. And if you want to increase your “diversity,” have one speaker of color (even if he is from India), an Asian emcee, and maybe a black worship leader.
2. Make references to “theologians,” “historians,” or “leaders” when their foundation is Western theology, the history of Western civilization, or leadership of a white community. But, when referring to a person of color, reference them as a “black theologian,” “Latino historian,” or “Asian leader.”
3. Envision Jesus as a white person—who speaks with a King James accent.
4. Live in a mostly white private community, place your kids in mostly white schools, go to a mostly white church, and work in a mostly white office. Then, when a black colleague or “friend” on Facebook posts about Black Lives Matter, accuse him or her of playing the race card.
A 2014 REPORT from the Kirwan Institute identifies a few key things we can do to dismantle the craziness. Here are four:
1. Take the free Harvard Implicit Association Test online.
2. Grow your empathy. Seriously listen to the stories of people who are not white. Read what they write. Watch movies by them, about them.
3. Deepen relationships with people who are not white. The Kirwan report reveals that when folks build relationships with people they were biased against, their unconscious bias levels go down.
4. Take every thought captive. Focusing on a person’s unique traits, as opposed to their group affiliation, lowers implicit bias scores. When I’m talking with people who I’m tempted to write off as “just a [fill in the blank],” I look them in the eyes (if I can) and remember that the image of God lives inside them, and I sit in that truth.
Together, let’s kick bias’ butt!