|Are you colorblind?|
On rare occasions race might actually be mentioned in conversation: "I was talking to Dan, you know the new African-American history teacher." It might be whispered quietly like a dirty word. Or maybe someone might say "ya know, this black woman at the grocery store just wouldn't hurry up through the checkout line," as though her race (or her gender) was somehow relevant to the story.
Neither statement is overtly prejudiced per say, but they reveal an innate bias many white people grow up with: that we are normal. That white is the default, and anything else is set aside as 'different.' In many communities, it can truly seem like this is the reality (See post: Segregated). Even today, white children can grow surprisingly old before they ever have a conversation with a POC.
White folks grow up with the idea that we are generally "a good (read: colorblind) people." We've heard that story in evangelism before. "I don't do anything really bad. I am basically a good person." Yet we know that there is more to the story of salvation than that. We can see that the world is messed up--we have all needed to clean up our act at one point or another. Rarely do people experience their sin in big batches of evil. It is in little nibbles at a time.
So too with racism. Growing up, I would often wonder why the handful of black kids at my school always hung out together. "Weren't they perpetuating their own isolation and segregation?" I would get frustrated with people living in the inner city. "Why were they so lazy? why not just suck it up and get a job?" I would become indignant in college with the black student group began a protest about some minor comment in the school paper. "Why are they always so angry?"
These were my symptoms of racism. They are deep and systematic. They are hard to eradicate because they were subtle and ingrained in day-to-day life, in how we grew up.
I remember the day I learned I was white like the day I became a Christian. A profound, life-altering experience that brought me into a more intimate relationship with God and with the people around me. Like coming to Christ, the experience is also gradual, stemming from years of slow learning and exposure, one relationship at a time. Like coming to Christ, my journey didn't end on the day it began, and I have been learning ever since. Praise God!