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I’ve seen it daily for years. Somehow though I was completely unaware. Growing up, I was a white male living in a white world. I had not realized the ways I probably have contributed to it. But it’s been there the entire time.

Racial Microaggressions.

I couldn’t put my finger on it. Things slightly said, like dust in the wind, but leaving freight train like impact. However, since being in an interracial marriage, having an interracial child and two African American stepchildren, I have become aware of how consistently these slight comments are said. And it deeply hurts me. I expect this out of depraved sinners. But it’s troubling that it comes from God’s people who have experienced his grace – grace that declares us right in spite of ourselves.

What are Racial Microaggressions?

One definition of Microaggression states: “Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

When I heard of this term, it took a second for it to register. However, with time, reading blogs and seeing several examples, it made perfect sense. In fact, I now hear them almost daily. I began to realize that many of the comments that have been made about my newly born son were offensive for my wife and me. These aren’t small statements quickly forgotten. And they are not limited to the mouths of non-believers. It’s in the church. It exists heavily and it’s been hurting people of color for a very long time. They can range from insensitively said food references (fried chicken, watermelons etc.) to skin tone (“He looks burnt” or “She’s pretty for a black girl”). They lift up light skinned people and degrade those who are dark skinned.

Reaction

Mad? Angry? Wrathful?

Many of us want to rightfully react that way. I myself have had moments where I (a church leader) was ready to go to blows with a man who made a disrespectful comment towards my family. [pullquote]I have felt righteous anger over the sinful root of racism.[/pullquote] It brings anger and hurt.

Remember we are guilty. When someone makes an insensitive comment, intentionally or unintentionally, I remember my own depravity.

The gospel applies to this because when pointing out any sins in others’ lives (Mt. 7:3-5), we must remember the sin in our own. All of us are poor and in need of being saved. All of us are wretched and deserve eternal punishment. I can look at that man who made a comment about my family and be angry, but the gospel reminds me that I have offended God just as harshly.

We are justified. God has justified you. His word declares you equal with anyone else in the kingdom of God. You deserve to be at the table. You deserve the inheritance that has been given you.

This is all because of what Jesus has done. When the father looks at your life, he sees the perfect life of Christ. He sees you as his child and heir. You are adopted as his (Rom. 8:14-16), completely his.

INTERact

When unjust things happen to those I love or me, my reaction is to be angry, offended and ready to duke it out with words. But this is never helpful. God’s word teaches us not to repay evil for evil (1 Pet. 3:9).

When I begin to probe gospel questions towards ignorant comments, it will show a gospel need in one’s heart. A friend of mine shared how he has a coworker who makes racial slights and claims to be a Christian. He began digging in to reveal this guy’s racist heart that is in need of gospel transformation. These conversations may leave the comment-maker angry because they may not want to believe that racism (sin) exists in their heart. But the gospel does tell us a harsh truth about ourselves: we are sinners. Many of us hear that and because of our sinful hearts don’t want to receive it.

Pray. This is the typical church answer but is the most essential action that must follow sin. We need to pray for ourselves that God would strengthen us to react to sin in ways that brings him glory. [pullquote position=”right”]Pray that we would love others throughout the rightful frustrations we may feel.[/pullquote] We need to pray for those who were sinned against. Pray they would understand their value as God’s creation. Pray they would not become embittered with the person who wronged them. Pray they would see a need for the gospel through this experience. We need to pray for the one who sinned. Pray they would have a gospel heart change. Pray they would repent of their sin. And that they would seek restoration for the relationship they (intentionally or unintentionally) have hurt. And if it’s an unbeliever, pray they would come to faith in Christ through this situation.

Have you experienced Racial Microaggressions? How do you tend to react?

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