A White Man's Perspective

I am white.  I see the world through the eyes of a white male.

Let's take it a step further. I was raised in a prejudice environment.  I grew up hearing the "n-word" used regularly by family, friends, and many in the southern culture in which I was raised.  Sadly it was also an occasional part of my vocabulary and attitude until after high school.  That's my reality.

I can't understand how a black man feels. I do not see the world through the eyes of a person with a skin color different than my own. I do not know what it feels like to be singled out because of my race. I have never been publicly profiled.  I have never felt labeled because of my skin tone. I have never lived as a minority in a nation with a deep-seated history of prejudice attitudes and actions.

I have a couple of close black friends who have described to me how they are consistently made to feel. I can't relate to them. Frequently searched at airports. Followed around in stores. Unnecessarily questioned. Routinely pulled over for no legitimate reason. Constantly looked at with suspicion.

I don't get it.  Bottom line: I can't get it. I am white and whether we want to admit it or not white privilege is a reality. I have certain advantages simply because I am a white male. I will never face unfair prejudices because of my race.  If you have trouble believing that actuality, you are either in denial or willfully uninformed.

I can only view what is happening in Ferguson through the eyes of a white man.  And let's be honest, we tend to defend the people who are most like us. Just look at the polls associated with the Ferguson situation. The story they tell is clear.

What that means is my natural tendency is to defend Officer Darren Wilson. Sadly the depravity of my heart wants to believe Michael Brown somehow deserved what he got.  I choose the words sadly and depravity because the natural sinful heart of humans is bent toward our own distorted view of justice.  We want what we believe is right based on our own partisan ideology.

Michael Brown was a human being created in the image of God. He had value, worth, and dignity.  Right or wrong, deserved or undeserved, innocent or guilty, Michael Brown's death is tragic. In the midst of our effort to defend why his death is justifiable, don't miss the tragedy.  It is tragic because a human being, created in God's image, lost his life.  And our "yeah, but" reactions simply speak of our own lack of understanding of how valuable a life is to our Creator.

I am a Christ follower. The bedrock of my belief system is the story of a God who loves, forgives, and redeems undeserving people.  In and through Christ, my natural prejudiced tendencies are being replaced by a love for all types of people - regardless of race, gender, social status, nationality and every other dividing wall that separates us from the moment we enter life.

As a person who is being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, my perspective is also being shaped. No longer do I live life just as a middle class white male living in the suburbs or as an urban black male living in the inner-city. Instead, I am part of a people who are not to be defined primarily by race, gender, or class but by the gospel (Gal 3:28). In other words, the lens by which I view life and people should not be marked primarily by my own bigotry or preferences or self-centeredness but by the impartiality and inclusiveness of the gospel.

As a follower of Jesus, I should value life. I should value the life of those I would naturally disregard. I should value the life of those I would normally judge or condemn. I should value the life of those who in my twisted opinion "deserve" what they got.  And I value these lives because Jesus values them ... because Jesus values ME!  In short, the gospel changes how I view and interpret the brokenness of this world.

Let's be frank. Racism is a S-I-N.  Jesus spoke regularly against it. Paul condemned it. The other New Testament writers denounced it.  In the Old Testament, God consistently rebuked His people for their racist tendencies.  Racism, obvious or covert, has no place in the life of the Jesus follower.

Rioting is wrong. Violence is sinful. Destroying property is senseless. But using the inappropriate reactions of sinners to disregard true racism or ignore hurting people is without excuse for the Christian.

I am a white male. I can't change that reality.  I view life from that perspective. But more importantly, I am a sinner who has been radically transformed by the gospel of grace. The only true remedy to racism is the gospel. Jesus entered the chaos to redeem sinners. That is the heart of the gospel. And it is through that grace-centered lens that I must seek to live life amidst the chaos. 

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