Christian Living

Racial Microaggressions

Mark Singleton

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.


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.


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?

9 thoughts on “Racial Microaggressions

  1. Khrys

    True enough sin is sin, but in order to address it, you have to name it. It’s the same as a person being sick. In order for them to get better, they have to know what they have. ‘Just another sin’ ignores the person’s humanity, demeans their experience, & is the equivalent of saying ‘just get over it’. It also places greater focus on the victim’s response than the offender’s responsibility for their action. People have a right to be angry, just not to sin. However, the ‘not to sin’ part, does not mean not to address/confront the person. Christians have forgotten that the same God who said ‘love thy neighbor’ is the same God who got angry at the money changers, whipped them in public, & spoke words the equivalent of cursing as He put them in their place. He didn’t say ‘It’s all sin.’ He called them what they were & confronted them with it. All in public, without hesitation, & without sin.

  2. MarkSingleton

    RJ, Thanks for commenting. I know that it can be hard to decipher what is and isn’t racist today because few people act boldly and openly with their racist actions.

    I like that you pointed the issue as being sin.

    The heart is the true issue seen here. Simply labeling something as being racist will not solve the problem. Racism’s issue lies in sin. And if we never address sin yet seek to combat racism, we will never get to the real issue.

    Thank you tons for commenting and sharing the story RJ.

  3. RJ

    I don’t know if this was a microagression, but just yesterday my friend and I were talking about her job. She began to tell me of a problem she had with her boss, about her staying late and possibly getting overtime. She then made the comment that the boss would not have been upset if another employee had acquired the o.t.. Her boss is white and the other employee is white, oh and we are black. Then she made the comment that someone had told her that it would be like that for her when she went to work with those folks. Now, as we were talking, I became offended. I am a Christian. So I told my friend, how do you know it was racial which is what she implied. And if it is racism, that’s not the problem, the problem is the sin in sinners, and previously she had work with a majority black population that had committed a different type of sin against her. Why can’t we just look at this as depraved sinners in need of a savior and followers of Christ who still struggle with a sin nature. And also it’s as if we as blacks do not exhibit or act in racist (sinful) manners against other not of our color. I grew up in a home with a father who came from rural MS
    and experience racism to a great deal. But I also had a father who taught me racist slang and slights against not only whites, but others . And I struggle with remnant’s of that sin that I was taught and was born with. But because of JESUS, where there is neither Jew nor gentile, I desire to define myself as a new creation in Christ first and foremost. And those who don’t know Christ as depraved sinners who can only do what they do sin…….lie, cheat, steal….be racist. I just think we should, as believers look at this sin as sin.

  4. MarkSingleton

    Thanks for the comment Mark. I will see about the possibility of doing a follow-up post. And that last sentence is a huge step above most of us. Most of us are too prideful to admit that we are unaware.

    Thanks tons for your response.

  5. Mark Jackson

    Great article… thanks for posting… I would love a follow-up post with a list of common microaggressions. I am sure the list could be exhaustive, but as a white guy who grew up on a mostly white world, I am simply aware of the fact that I am unaware.

  6. MarkSingleton

    Thanks for the comment Candice!

    That would be an interesting idea for a follow-up post. As we have talked about before, it’s hard to know how to react biblically to racism because of anger that comes out.

    I’m encouraged to know that people want to see the conversation happening. Thanks again for the comment.

  7. MarkSingleton

    George, Thanks for the response. I completely agree, It’s difficult to not allow anger to take over and bring one to sin.

    It’s a difficult issue to deal with because it’s something that happens daily. I’m thankful for RAAN as being a place to have the conversations that are needed on these issues and to be able to react in a Christ-like way, not completely being led by our emotions (which can easily happen).

    I’m encouraged to read the situations of others and how they’ve reacted to racism they have seen. Thanks George.

  8. Candice Carr

    Mark, I love this. I can really appreciate your perspective, as you are well aware. lol
    thanks for sharing. I wouldn’t mind a follow-up post on ‘things white people should probably never say’ or biblical attitudes/postures to take in race conversations. thanks again. -c

  9. george canady

    Thanks Mark for this. I have struggled with anger over this also. I have not done well until recently as I have read and learned more from reading that there are more people who care about this than I thought. I have been told that it is just me and that I am over sensitive and hyper critical, and for sure I haven’t helped my own case on that when I say words in anger. But I want to learn and I am. Please, if you get a chance to pray a short prayer for me I would appreciate it. Thanks to the you guys at RAAN for the forum of discussion to know I am not alone.

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