Category Archives: Stereotyping

Beyond Stereotypes

label-319x400There is more to be seen of you and me than what has been thought visible and thereby obvious.  There is more to who we are.  In fact, we are quite literally scratching and picking on the surface of our humanity when we only look at the social coloring of skin.  We can’t move past race because we can’t see beyond popular, passed down and thereby treasured stereotypes.  Yes, if the truth be told, we have favorites.  But, I sense that there will be no oversharing there.

What is a stereotype?  It is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  It is comparable to having tunnel vision.  Only in this case, the only thing you can see is how persons and cultural groups have been historically viewed.  If persons have only been seen as expendable, ignorant, hateful, criminal, an economic threat or cheap labor. And if this is how we introduce and interact with each other, then there will be no relational change.  That is, until we choose to see them differently, to decline the recommendations of race and the references of stereotypes.

However, this can only happen when we choose to see ourselves from a different angle.  This will require that we not only change positions or shoes in order to walk in someone else’s but that we discard the roles of oppressor and oppressed.  The racial relationship is the most oppressive of them all.  There is no broadening of view or perspective without these changes within us.  We cannot see beyond stereotypes if we continue to gloss over our own.

Tiffany Jana speaks about the power of privilege

Let’s keep the conversation going.  I love resources like these as they offer to those who are journeying with me a look at what often informs my understanding and writings on race and its progeny.   Tiffany Jana talks about social privileges.  She challenges some of the assumptions that come along with these cultural biases and the ways in which we share and benefit from them at a Tedx event in Richmond.

I hugged a police officer yesterday

Stop-And-Give-Me-A-HugMy family and I were out at a local Chipotle restaurant and I saw a European American police officer standing in line.  I had the unction to hug a police officer last week while standing in line at Panera Bread.  I questioned myself and his potential reaction.  While I was questioning the impulse, he walked away.  I watched him walk away and I was so disappointed with myself.  I came home and told my husband about it.

So, when the opportunity presented itself again, I just looked at my husband and said, “I’m going to go over and hug him.”  I handed our son to him, walked over to the officer and asked if I could.  He said, “Yes.”  Afterwards, I thanked him for his service, told him that I didn’t believe that all police officers are bad, that I loved him even.  He said that it had been difficult given the circumstances these past few months.  I shook my head in agreement and with that, we parted ways.

It felt good.  Not the hug.  I mean, he’s not a bad hugger but it wasn’t about the hug.  It was about confronting fear, connecting and reconnecting, relating to race as the outsider.

Persons are still protesting and I have joined with them.  I’m not carrying a sign.  I’m hugging police officers.

On this past Sunday, I asked my congregation to pray for police officers, instructing them not to stereotype all police officers as bad.  Persons slowly nodded their heads in agreement.  The silence wasn’t awkward but thoughtful.  After the service, a European American member came and hugged me.  She was in tears.

Her son had recently completed training as a police officer and was having doubts about the decision to serve in light of the increased discussions on race and law enforcement.  She thanked me for the prayer and the instruction.

Her son’s fear is shared.  A recent article provided some police officers’ point of view regarding the Eric Garner case, pointing out that he was resisting arrest and that his health also contributed to his death.  But, they also talked about the disrespect that other police officers not involved in the death of Eric Garner are suffering in light of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, feelings of betrayal by other high ranking officials and the demonization of all who wear the badge.  These are tough words to hear but there is never one side of a story– no matter how old or familiar it is to us.

I did not assume as much when I decided to hug the police officer yesterday; in fact, I put the stories aside.  I put my fears aside and embraced the possibility that it was an accident, that we could be friends, that we might be able to breathe again… one day.





New Revised Version: Profiling guidance is released again

Arizona Activists Hold Vigil To Protest New Immigration Law At White House

No indictment again and more cases involving European American police officers and African American men and children.  Persons are in city streets protesting again.  Attorney General Eric Holder has revised the 2003 racial profiling guidelines and has expanded them to include gender, gender identity, national origin, religion and sexual orientation.  But, do we need to revise our guidelines? Or, does this painful reality of police brutality, of excessive force, of conflict between the police departments and persons within the African American community require more?  More than revisions, than updates of what we should do, could do?  Perhaps, we need to start all over, scrap our race relations and build our relationships from scratch.

In an age of lawlessness, when we no longer bend the rules but create our own, when we do not respect authority and the authority of the law has been discredited, perhaps newness is needed.  A fresh start. The new not simply revised version of our humanity in Christ, that is without profile and is beyond comparison.

A Psalmist’s Testimony of Deliverance


The thirty- fourth psalm is an oldie but goodie.  Its introduction used at the start of countless worship services: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (34.1).  It is truth and aspiration.  We should bless the Lord all the time but we don’t.  It’s easier to say than to do.  Our praise is also conditional and even in good times, we don’t bless the Lord.

Eugene Peterson translates the verse this way: “I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise” (MSG).  We could only wish that we were as good as his interpretation.  The fact is, we would die if our lives, our breath depended on our praise of God.  We know that every day is a chance to bless God and more often than not, we forget to mention His name among those we wish to thank for our accomplishments.  We thank our bed and the alarm clock, the shower and breakfast, our mode of transportation and our ability.  But, not God.

But, the introduction, while inspirational, is not what got my attention today.  It is the fourth verse: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  The psalmist reminds us that we should seek.  Though God does not hide and we have a “revealed religion,” we do have to participate.  Yes, Jesus leads us but we must choose to follow, to ask, seek and knock (cp. Matthew 7.7-8; 16.24).

The singer gives us a report.  He comes back and says, “He answered me.”  The God of the universe and all of its inhabitants responds personally.  God did not send a messenger but gave a direct response to the believer.  God did not say, “Take a number” or “Schedule an appointment.”  No, He answered the worshipper.

What did he ask for?  Deliverance.  Now, we are not certain of what he asked to be delivered from but perhaps, God decided to exceed his expectation (cp. Ephesians 3.20).  It is not necessary to name them because they are no longer relevant; they are no longer a threat.  There is no reason to record them, to repeat them because they do not matter any more.

He has been delivered from all his fears.  So, why are we so fearful?  Perhaps, it is because we are afraid to ask God for this kind of deliverance.  Instead, we would rather be afraid of all.

The rich are afraid of the poor.  The healthy are afraid of the sick.  The short are afraid of the tall.  The citizens are afraid of the immigrants.  The neighbors are afraid of the strangers.

But, we serve the God of the psalmist who can deliver us from all of our fears.  Let’s seek Him today.