My Journey from Ignorance to Awareness with Racial Reconciliation
Updated: May 25
Written by Rebekah Lassiter
Having been raised in Raleigh, I believe I was in the “thick” of the ignorance phase that J.D. Greear talks about in the Undivided series our small groups just finished at the end of the summer. With neither of my parents being from NC, I have no southern ancestors, I had black friends at school, and I NEVER said racist things. However, in the last few years, current events, movements, and personal experiences have had me look back on my years growing up and opened my eyes to the hidden racial injustice around me and even MY incorrect thinking of people whose skin is a different color from mine.
I have come realize that so many times growing up, even when I did not speak unjust things about my brothers and sisters of color, I frequently thought them or performed actions (or didn’t prevent actions) against them. Starting in 2016, I entered a time of repentance for the words, thoughts, and actions that I did in my past that undermined the value of people of color in my community.
However, I was still very blind to many injustices around me and how I did not prevent the undermining of the value of people of color. In 2017, Jordan and I had the opportunity to participate in the DurhamCares Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope. This was the first time that I was able to sit down and listen to brothers and sisters of color, in an intimate setting, share their feelings about living in Durham; how, even today, they are treated differently because of the color of their skin, and how the city overlooks them in the name of progress and revitalization.
Our pilgrimage was in July, only a few days after July 4th. I remember one member of our group pointing out that we had just celebrated July 4th—a celebration of freedom—but that is not a time he could celebrate freedom because his ancestors were not freed on July 4th like my ancestors were. That one comment was ground shaking for me. Have you ever noticed how European-centric many of our nation’s holidays are? Yes, many people who were here when this country was formed were of European descent, but not all of them! This realization is what takes me back to the Undivided series. In the second study J.D. and Dhati talk about ignorance and how preconceptions and stereotypes can block our paths to a diverse community. After my fellow pilgrim pointed out the fact about July 4th, I began seeking out what other things in my life am I unaware of that undermine the value of my brothers and sisters of color.
Since our pilgrimage, I have sought out groups and read articles to become more aware of the status of people of color in the U.S. I am not an expert, and I know I have not read or seen everything.
Here are a few things recently that have helped me better understand racial issues in the U.S. and my role in the movement to true Gospel Community:
DurhamCares Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope happens a few times a year. It is undeniably worth the time and money to participate. https://www.durhamcares.org/pilgrimage/
The Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity which is a closed group that promotes healthy dialogue about race and racialization in the U.S. There are opportunities to ask questions and learn more about how I, one of the white majority, can advocate for others and there is an opportunity for lament, which allows people of color to grieve over their how they are treated in situations. This has been helpful for my “eye-opening” experiences and the experience in grieving alongside brothers and sisters in Christ. The Integrated Schools Community specifically informs me on the issue of segregation and inequality in the public-school system. (https://integratedschools.org/)
The documentary 13th on Netflix, which is about mass incarceration in the U.S.
These are just a small handful of resources (Be the Bridge has copious amounts of articles and information within it. For the first three months of being a member of the group, you are required to go through readings and modules before you can begin posting and commenting on posts).
I would love for anyone who has other suggestions or resources to comment on this post to share with all of us!
Also, join me to continue to pray for our church and the Triangle community as we move towards being a Gospel community that sees the value of all people and that all in our area can says as Peter does in Acts 10:34-36 “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”