I must have heard the term “racism” at least a hundred times last week; but what does it truly mean? The primary definition in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capabilities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority in a particular race.” That is one definition for the word but it is not the only kind of racism in the world. A lot of racism is ethnic or religious and has nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin. Visit any country and you will find people who believe they are superior to another group of people who share their same nationality. Many believe they are superior to those living in the countries along their borders.
How do we get those beliefs inside of us and where do they come from? If we examine our own belief systems, we will see that most prejudice inside of us has been taught to us since the time we were small children. Remarks may have been made around our home or in the neighborhoods we lived in about people who were different than us. Did we always agree with those remarks? Probably not, but somehow those attitudes may have wormed their way inside of us in a way we were not aware of at the time. We could also have had a bad experience with someone from a different nationality or ethnicity, and so we formed a generalization about those that shared the same characteristics as the person that hurt us.
I believe that racism is a form of hatred. We may have even heard the words, “I hate that person because they are…you fill in the blank. Racism hates because of the racial, ethnic or religious differences of those around us. It is very easy to generalize about people groups, especially when we don’t know the individuals personally. We don’t believe we are bad people when we hold those kinds of beliefs, we think it is only natural to feel that way.
Natural or not, we need to confront those beliefs and seek to change our attitudes towards those who are not like us. Jesus told us to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” There are many kinds of love in the world but the kind of love we need is “phileo.” The word phileo is from the Greek and it means “friendship or brotherly love.” You’ve heard of Philadelphia…same root word.
Will it be easy to change? No, it will take time and determination. Every time we begin to generalize or think ill of those who are different than us, we must catch those thoughts and reject them. We must learn to view others as fellow human beings, our brothers if you will, whom we need to learn to love and care for. If we can personalize that love and reach out to others with that same kind of caring we would give our own brothers, it will go a long way in solving the problem of racism.
Remember, we cannot fix the world around us until we can fix ourselves.
Image by Cheryl Holt. Courtesy of Pixabay.