Am I a racist? This is the question that everyone is asking

Am I a racist? Are you?

Writing this weekly messageblog? article? newsletter? – every Monday is stretching. For 30 years, I’ve sought to challenge you and my other friends (nearly 5000) to address the hot-off-the-press issues of the moment looking through the lens of Scripture. It’s 4:35a as I write today’s edition…

Jabez was a welcome diversion from the Covid-19 crisis. For five weeks, this column didn’t mention the pandemic, closures, facemasks, quarantines; we looked back nearly 3300 years to pick up some insights that are still worthy of emulation today. Today, the headlines have shifted; history has meshed with histrionics as a violent and indefensible act by a policeman in Minneapolis has stopped the world in its tracks.

I grew up in a town surrounded by orange groves. The kids in the annual class photos at school were mostly white, but definitely mixed. I played football through junior and senior highs; our huddle looked like the United Nations. Samoans, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Blacks, Whites; with our helmets on, there weren’t any differences or divisions apparent. I was a lineman, blocking for Isaac Curtis who went on to play for over a decade in the NFL; a white kid opening holes for a black kid who went to Berkley on a football scholarship. Nothing was wrong with that picture.

If we had been more sociologically savvy – and lined up based on demographic profiles – I would have stood in the Poor White Trash contingent. My dad was a gardener – before the task was reassigned to immigrant labor – and we mowed lawns in the neighborhoods where my White Privilege friends lived. Nobody seemed overly preoccupied by those differences; I did well in school, but our social studies classes weren’t out to highlight inadequacies in the way we did life.

I didn’t know I was PWT; my friends at school – and, at church – didn’t seem to know they were growing up with WP. When we all graduated, I was the Class President. After graduation, most of my WP friends left for college; the month after graduation, I moved into an apartment (I was 17, and lied about my age on the rent application) and went to work, taking classes at the local junior college at night. Vietnam was raging; back then, the only “lottery” was drawing birthdates to determine who would be inducted into the army. The first hundred drawn were likely to head to southeast Asia…

Racists? Those were the KKK guys who made the news, while Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was calling the nation to reimagine the values that we claimed as foundational. Assassinations and demonstrations were historic markers, but they seemed a world away from the neighborhood, before the era of breaking news and live coverage on our ever-present mobile devices. Am I a racist?

I have a great friend who played quarterback for a Division One school, got his business degree and has a vita far superior to mine. I have a grandson who started life in a Zulu village in South Africa and joined our family six years ago; he’s my flesh-and-blood. Our family devotes significant time and resource to support the rescue and nurture of children orphaned by crisis in South Africa. I lead a color-blind ministry that invests in the leadership of Christians whose faith-based influence can change the world and build God’s Kingdom. Am I a racist?

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The followers of Jesus have checkered histories; life apart from redemption by grace came in various deficiencies, but those definitions were left in our past when the transformation made possible by the Lord Jesus redefined us, at the core. We were all something, before; but, today, we’ve been made something entirely different: washed, sanctified, justified in His Name, by His Spirit.

Apart from the reset of redemption, people are defined – secretly, or blatantly – by the sin that has come to define them. Because of redemption, sin no longer characterizes the follower of Jesus: we may choose to re-enact the moral failures of our past, but those choices can be challenged by the power of God that makes victory over sin the game-changing option.

Am I a racist? No sin defines me, though any sin could distract me from living up to my potential in Christ. Being aware of the egregious path and choosing, instead, the righteous path is the daily exercise of following Jesus.

Bob Shank


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15 responses to “Am I a racist? This is the question that everyone is asking”

  1. Don P Avatar
    Don P

    Excellent column today. Special thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Bob G Avatar
    Bob G

    Very interesting “editorial” in the Wall Street Journal today by Cardinal Dolan… referring to the “heroes” of the past who had done something offensive…. Very well written.. He said only Jesus and Mary were without the things they tear statues down these days.

  3. Mark M Avatar
    Mark M

    Eulogy! Not a paratruthful speech at a funeral…
    Just “good words”. Thanks Bob.

  4. Roger P Avatar
    Roger P

    Not sure if you know the Matt Lockett and Will Ford story but it is very encouraging (and very timely) of God at work. You can see a church presentation on YouTube called “The Dream King, Will Ford and Matt Lockett, OpenDoor Church”. There are other YouTube videos of their story as well. They also have a book out.

  5. Bill S Avatar
    Bill S

    Yet again, this is brilliant in its simplicity and objectivity. Please keep leading the way and enlightening us. Love you, my brother.

  6. Rufus S Avatar
    Rufus S

    I’ve appreciated your work for many years. You are a mature Jesus-Follower (JF) and a wizard with words. Therefore your question of “Am I A Racist,” may be the question many are asking, but you are smart enough to know, it’s the WRONG question.

    Like you, I don’t take my cues from the collapsing culture of the world; But from the Great Shepherd-King of the church. Our charge is to propagate the TOTALITY of the gospel message: preaching ( the proclamation of the person Jesus); teaching ( the explanation of biblical truth); & healing ( the mitigation of human pain).

    In my opinion, your question seems defensive in nature, not descriptive of the deeper seeds or needs that breed our current racial & civil unrest. We know the diagnosis of our problem is ‘sin’ not ‘skin.’ But the prognosis of our entrenched problem of racial division in the America Church is not for the church of JC to continue its status quo.

    I’m praying you would write soon about “Another question,” that mature white evangelical JFs ought to be asking. I’ll not offer that question(s), because you are wise enough to discern it.

    Joy! (Ruth 2:12)

  7. Pam M Avatar
    Pam M

    Thanks Bob… best article I’ve read on this issue….definitely a sin issue not a skin issue for followers of Jesus. Blessings and love to you and yours.

  8. Kent R Avatar
    Kent R

    As always, an outstanding piece. I may respond to many of these, but today’s is exceptional. Please continue to dispense Truth and encouragement on this daily platform. I appreciate all the time and effort you invest in it.
    Christ’s best to you and yours!

  9. Leslie M Avatar
    Leslie M

    Very, very well said (no surprise) and made me cry.
    Thanks for taking the time.

  10. Greg W Avatar
    Greg W

    I’ve been following you for a while, and have appreciated the steadfastness and consistency of your ministry. Thank you for that! I especially appreciated your word today on this inflamed topic of race and justice. In particular I found your address of the question being assumed and pressed upon us, “Am I a racist?” a very encouraging reminder for every Jesus follower.

    Keep up the great work, brother!

    Love and peace to you.

  11. Norman A Avatar
    Norman A

    Great stuff – helpful for reflection and Biblical perspective.
    I think the question we are asking ourselves is, “am I a racist?”

    But I think the question also being asked of us is, “Have I been oblivious to, and failed to stand up against, racism?”

  12. Lindsey S Avatar
    Lindsey S

    Thank you for the great POV!

    Your story resonates with mine somewhat…growing up in Pomona amongst the orange groves while attending schools with a racial mix; running Varsity track and CC with half of the former being black. We had race riots during my senior year (’73) that never affected the relationship I had with my team mates. After attending a multicultural university (Cal Poly), I married a wonderful hispanic woman and embraced her family and culture as my own.

    So I am very weary of hearing from the talking heads, including some of these young pastors (whom you know) who don’t have a clue of what they are talking about as they jump onto the militant and dangerous BLM bandwagon (parroting “no lives matter until all black lives matter”) while devisively saying guys like you/I need to apologize for being rascist, privileged white folk.

    You (and a couple other pastors I know) have called our current cultural condition for what it is…sin. We are sinners saved by a Savior that is above all of this mess. Thank you for the clarion call that reminds us that our nation needs to turn to Him during these desperate hours.

    Thank you for standing in the gap for us…please know that we are here to help you carry your armor.

  13. David W Avatar
    David W

    AMEN!!!
    SO TRUE!!!
    GOD BLESS YOU GUYS!!!

  14. John N Avatar
    John N

    Thank you Bob for being you. I appreciate you and your long term mission.

  15. Ray K Avatar
    Ray K

    Love this devotional, Bob. Love your frankness. Love your personhood…

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