“Your dad should teach you English!” – the ugly face of racial hate

A man came up to us and said loudly to my son, “Your dad should teach you English!”  Then he walked away.

A seemingly innocuous statement made by a complete stranger to my four year old whilst we were standing at the checkout of the Coles supermarket at Castle Towers.  My son just ignored it.  However, the fact it was said to my little boy at a volume loud enough so that everyone could hear it, and in a tone design to demean and condescend, I can’t but conclude that the remark was one which had a racist attitude at it’s heart and it was designed to humiliate myself and my boy.

Maybe this man was having a bad day? Maybe he was just playing a joke? Maybe he was just a jerk?

When I was a young, this kind of behaviour happened enough to maybe think that it was somehow acceptable in the playground or in the street or down at the shops. I’ve even experienced it to a lesser extent by senior clergy in the diocese that I’m a minister in (don’t worry I’m not going to label or name names or shame them … )  However, even though I have been on the receiving end of racism, I was secretly hoping that my kids would never be!  How wrong was I?

I understand that the bible is pretty clear that because of universal sinfulness, all people can and do turn against God and one another (Romans 3:23).  Although we find that God created the different races, languages and cultures (Genesis 11), because we understand that all people are sinful, we know that our sinfulness makes inter-personal relationships less than perfect – which is why some are racist in their sinfulness and imperfection.

I wonder if this is an area that Christians can actually be counter-cultural and helpful here?  Seeing that the end-point of where Christians are heading is heaven where there is:

9 …  a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)

Lots of Christians are involved in feeding the homeless, supporting fairtrade, lobbying their members of parliament to rectify all manner of social injustices.  However, maybe Christians could be more inclusive, caring, willing to relate to all people, especially to those from different culture to themselves – this would go a long way to closing off a significant blindspot in our generally mono-cultural churches.  The mere fact that I still get people at church saying to me, “I met this guy on the bus from Hong Kong. His name is Ken. Do you know him?”  suggests that even Christians in my own church don’t get it!  And by the way, the answer is “No!”

As Christians, let’s not reinforce racial stereotypes by being unwilling to make relationships with peoples of other cultures. If you show in your life that you don’t care about these sometimes superficial and physical differences, then this is a great model for others. Maybe it could be an opportunity for talking about Jesus?

And on top of all that, even though racists are douche-bags they deserve to hear about Jesus too?

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