Here is a John 4 approach to reducing racism and reaching across the cultural, racial, and ethnic divide as we live our everyday lives: how do people experience you, especially those who don’t look like you? You are somebody’s experience.
On one hand, do not internalize the implied guilt. I have all kinds of issues with what I see happening in public discourse. Remember Romans 8:1 (NIV) 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus... But on the other hand, do not forget to love. Love reduces friction.
1. Identify your racial biases (John the writer of this Gospel does) Every person has stereotypes and biases about people from other races. Think about what stereotypes you may have. Write them down. Write down where you think these ideas came from. You must understand your feelings before you can address them.
2. Own your prejudices (the woman in John 4 did). You may need to talk to someone of your own race or in your church family to help you assess this. Some things are deeply embedded in a family and another perspective helps. Everybody has racist thoughts but don’t be too hard on yourself if you see more than you knew. You’re growing.
3. View other ethnicities as divine appointments. (Jesus did) Given what we are seeing, any time you are with a person of a different ethnicity, it is a calling to interact with them in some way. If a schedule is pushing you and you have a place you have to be, then commute kindly and yield right of way, but be more attentive as you’re coming and going to the natural points of interaction that life affords. Jesus asked her for a drink. You know, minority people have something we need. They have a story.
4. Offer affirming gestures, both direct and indirectly (Jesus did). Make eye contact. Nod your head. Hold the door. Smile. A warm word of greeting, even if someone’s pants are hanging halfway down their legs or if they’re all tatted up with a funky haircut. They’re human; it’ll be okay. We expect Jesus to show up in church, but it gets really interesting when Jesus shows up at our wells: the party, the grocery store, the ball game, the road race, the bar. Maybe Jesus will “Jesus” in you with people who won’t go to church.
5. Open up to a conversation if the circumstances lend itself to it; or you might even be intentional (Jesus was). Sense the receptivity. Ask a question. Listen for insight. Listen to more than just each other; listen to the Lord. And make a friend. Refrain from using unnecessarily offensive phrases or language. We have to learn how to be offended and still be able to have a relationship. AND, we have to learn how to receive a loving correction when in fact, we have offended, and maybe we didn’t even mean to offend.
6. Enjoy your differences (the disciples struggled). You don’t have to be color-blind and pretend you aren’t different. Of course, you’re different. But that’s the fun! I love multi-ethnic people. I want to know how they see life and what they think, especially if they are from another country. I might learn something and I love to learn.