Race in America

“We need to talk about race in America.” 

I’ve heard that phrase often. Whether it’s a political candidate stumbling over whether or not to disavow an association with the Klu Klux Klan or a pastor of an almost-all-white-church stumbling through an awkward conversation… it’s something you say that makes it seem like you’re really interested when in fact you aren’t.

“We need to talk about race in America.” 

For me, I see this as a placeholder phrase. It’s slightly better than saying “uh, I dunno.

I think a lot of people truly are interested in cultivating change about race, but they just don’t know where to start. For me… it is intimidating because I am mostly ignorant of the way that society has privileged me. I find myself afraid to say the wrong things and consequently say nothing.

So perhaps instead of saying, “We need to talk about race in America” I should start saying, “I need to listen better about race in America”?


If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar?


I can’t understand until I listen.

I can’t change until I understand.

Church Leadership

Understanding Advent in 2 Minutes

ht to Bob Carlton

Harbor Mid-City

The Dogpile Effect

Photo by John Shardlow via flickr (Creative Commons)

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

We live in a dog pile society. Everyone has an opinion on everything. Their own opinion is superior to everyone else’s. And nothing gets us talking faster than repeating or adding to someone else’s opinion.

It’s the dog pile effect. It takes a mountain, makes a molehill, then it makes Mt. Everest. All in the name of “just talking.”

As if the collateral damage was worth it?

The annoying thing about the whole dog pile method is that, at the end of the day, it’s typically over things we don’t actually care about or effect us.

And while we all join in, and get injured by, the dog pile– we do it to other people! (It’s true that hurt people, hurt people.)

National politics? Office politics? Denominational politics? Church politics? Sure, I’m up on the news but I don’t really care enough to say… hurt a friends feelings by saying his opinion is stupid.

The bottom of the dog pile hurts

Broken bones. Broken dreams. Broken lives.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a big, fancy nationally known person or the guy handing out flyers at the grocery store. When criticism mounts, when accusations fly, when things get repeated to the point that it’s assumed to be true even before you take a serious second to think… all of that adds weight to the dog pile.

Stop it

O, that we would be different! That we would seek to understand before volleying an opinion. That we would differ in opinions in a way that honored, loved even, others.

There are things in this world that are worth destroying. But one another is not one of them.