April 1, 2015
Microaggressions are defined by an article carried by the American Psychological Association as "racism is so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on -- which may be especially toxic for people of color."
I'm not sure they're so subtle. Consider what follows.
A number of Fordham University students have developed a project in which they display signs with offensive things said to them, such as:
** A biracial woman who has been asked, "What are you?" (Her response: "Human")
** An African-American man who has been told, "You don't act like a normal black person, ya know?"
** A black student: "You're really pretty for a dark-skinned girl."
Full disclosure: My children are multi-racial, so I'm especially alert to comments like this. They smack of racism or at least insensitivity of a nature so pronounced that it reeks like a rotting egg.
Still, I would submit that some of these things are less "aggressive" than they are either unkind or ignorant. I'm not mincing words when I draw this distinction. Aggression connotes an effort to demean or belittle, and while some of the remarks reported by the Fordham students certainly would fall into that category, others just seem borne of a particular kind of insularity. People who don't spend time with others of different races or ethnicities often have provincial and stereotypical images of one another that are dispelled by more frequent contact -- by less insular and monochromatic social interaction.
My major concern here is that the Bible gives ample remedy for both overt bigotry and unintentional but still hurtful rudeness. "Be kind one to another," writes Paul to the church in Ephesus, "tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God in Christ has forgiven you" (4:32). That's just one of hundreds of passages in which warmth, acceptance, and respect are taught as endemic to Christian character. In other words, believers in Christ need to try to be more like Him.
Is the application of these commandments a remedy for all racial prejudice and its offensive articulation in social conversation or conduct? No, certainly not. But for followers of Jesus, His Word's teaching about racial equality and human dignity offer more than sufficient counsel for the way we treat others of "every tribe and nation and people and language" (Revelation 7:9).
I'm grateful for the work of FRC President Tony Perkins, Executive Vice President Jerry Boykin, and Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell in seeking to advance racial reconciliation, and that I work for an organization that affirms our most fundamental national assertion: that all men are created equal, bearing the same value before their Creator as every other image-bearer of God.
For Christians, those truths should be the final word. Let's keep working to that end.