Have you ever confronted your own prejudice or ignorance? If so, how did you go about it? In this conversation, Pastor David Platt and his team model how to have a conversation about prejudice and ignorance in a Christ-like manner. Because of our fallen condition, humanity has no choice but to begin in a state of ignorance or prejudice. Rather than giving in or acting rashly, Pastor Platt and his team exhibit what it looks like for people with different backgrounds and histories to come together. When we confess our faults to our brothers and sisters in these conversations, we begin to look more like Jesus.
- Sin Struggle
- Letting the Lord Work in Our Hearts
- Looking Like Jesus
Do we all have struggles with prejudice and or ignorance when it comes to this issue? And I mean, part of it’s our sinful nature. Part of it’s the water we’ve swim in or the context we’ve grown in, things we’ve been taught, things we’ve experienced, just maybe how have you all had to confront in your own hearts prejudice or ignorance?
How Have You Confronted Your Own Prejudice or Ignorance?
I can jump into that, David, and just before I answer that, let me just say it is just, I love hearing your stories because I think that’s so important in this conversation and making progress as a church. It’s us taking the time to hear each other’s stories as it relates to race and ethnicity and culture.
It’s just so helpful and I hope that our church members who are watching this, but whoever’s watching this would be encouraged and inspired to have these kind of conversations in their discipleship groups and with their… For now over Zoom, you know what I mean? During COVID-19, but hopefully one day over a meal.
For me, I definitely have had to confront my own prejudice and bias because my grandfather picked cotton in Georgia. My grandmother was a part of the great migration from the South to the North, and her livelihood initially came from as a teenage girl, cleaning homes for white people. And she experienced such intense racism and discrimination, and so much of my family did.
They were in McKinley Tech in Washington DC which was a legendary all-black school before it integrated. And so my family experienced a lot of racism and discrimination from white people. And because of that, and I was trained to be on guard and I think in some ways rightfully so, but I internalized that. And as I moved into a world that in some ways was a little bit different than… Well, certainly different than how my grandparents came up, but even somewhat different than how my parents came up.
I carried that skepticism and just dislike to be honest with you. And it was not until I graduated from college, I had my first job with Luis Palau Association. He’s in kind of like, we call him the Latino Billy Graham. And I remember going around with him and the team there, and I distinctly remember one time being in a very wealthy, older white person’s home and standing there, they were so nice.
And I remember thinking, not saying it, but thinking, you’re being nice to me, but you don’t want me here. And that was a journey for me of beginning to see how deep I basically believed that all white people are racist. And it was just a journey through relationships and just confession and the Lord doing work in my heart to free me from that. And it doesn’t make me naive about the reality of ongoing racism in the world. But some of y’all on here are white and you’re great. You’re awesome people and we’re family. And that wouldn’t have been able to be the case for me 15 years ago.
Not Seeing Prejudices
So I just want to share something. I don’t know if you are familiar, but anyway, so there was a cartoon that was actually censored here in the United States, and it’s actually, it’s a cartoon about a black kid with his mom, and that’s how it’s portrayed. And that was very popular in Mexico. I actually, reading that story, that’s how I learned to read.
So every week I was excited to read that story. So in my mind there was not a problem. It was just a mom with a child and other children. And of course when you read it now after all the, I’m going to say the trash that has been put in your brain, you read it with different eyes. But at that time I had no idea about any of these prejudice. But when I came to United States, I was in Texas and I went to a school to learn English.
And everybody told me, be careful, don’t go out of that school because around there are all black people. They will kill you. They will do this. They will… So that’s the first time that I had a very strong prejudice. And interestingly, and I guess one way the Lord deal with me was in my second job, I had all my coworkers, they were black, all of them. And I became very good friends with them. They actually, they’re the ones that told me English.
So I spent hours and hours with them and they told me a lot of things, but not only English, they told me other things, but that erased all of that. And that has helped me. But I mean, at least I could have had stay with that experience for all my years. But thank God that didn’t happen. But it was very simple to get these feelings and these thoughts and these ideas out of nowhere. So from nothing to now having the worst thoughts.
Ignorance of Racism
I want to confess my many years of ignorance on the topic of racism as well. I just saw racism as more isolated or disconnected incidents that happens in certain geographic pockets and it has no direct relevance to my life. And when I saw other Asian American brothers who were so passionate about this issue, I mean, I secretly thought, that has nothing to do with me. Why don’t you just forgive and then just move on? Why are you so passionate about this issue? And now I’m starting to see how sick and so yeah, so wrong, so blinded was my thoughts around this issue and trying to learn and understand better and conversations with other brothers and sisters on this.
My experience, I moved from California to Northern Virginia and I changed my job from a private Christian school teacher to a public school. And now having Latino immigrants as my own students, I think this has really opened my eyes to see their incredible pain and their day-to-day struggles. And I’m just so ashamed at my past ignorance towards the Latino race and other races. And I have grown in myself so much more empathy and have been advocating for some of these inequities and prejudice and racism that they’re facing right now. And I even hear so many hurtful stories of injustice and racism that some of my Latino students are telling me who’s actually working under Asian American business owners. And this evident racism and hurtful stories between these two minority groups are a really heartbreaking, for me personally.
I think what’s on my heart, it’s been quite a journey, but it’s more of a people group at large all the time in the military spend a lot of time working against radical Islam. And so followers of Islam, I became pretty jaded. And even as a believer in the military, it was really hard for me to just, I don’t know, to care while I was over there, overseas in various places.
God is at Work In Our Hearts
But God’s done a great work in my heart. So it is, it’s one of those things where now when I see them, my guard’s lowered and I do care about where they are at spiritually. But there was many years where I have to admit, that just didn’t pop up in my first couple thoughts, and I was more prone to be suspicious. And yeah, it’s heartbreaking. And it’s just one of those things, again, I think environmental, how it can shape you.
If you see friends constantly killed by one people group, you can become pretty skewed. So yeah, I’m still growing there. But definitely, I also think of what DJ said with John 13. I love the fact that that will confound the wisdom of men because it makes sense. I could rationalize it from man’s point of view, but to reach out to them and share the gospel with them and the hope we have in Christ, I think that’s what it’s all about.
Thanks for bringing that up. It was one of the things, even as we were putting this time together and as it relates to even walking through Psalm 133 as a church and having you all share different things. And yeah, that’s one perspective that’s not represented even as much on this call. Just I think about all the brothers and sisters in our church from the Middle East, just with Arab backgrounds. Yeah. And particularly then all the military families in our church and people who walk similar journeys that you’ve walked. That’s a huge, to really evaluate what’s going on in our hearts there, it’s pretty powerful.
Yeah. I want to ask if I could DJ, you and Mike, you guys have been on a journey kind of together since before I even knew you guys. Could you guys give us a little bit of a glimpse into that in your own hearts and what that journeys looked like and how that’s affected you just personally in relation to each other?
You can start. I’ll just start it this way. I’m a much better man because of DJ Corky, but you can kind of explain why.
You can feel free to praise yourself too.
Well, that’s high praise. I was literally going to say the same thing about you, Mike. And I’ll start kind of by answer answering the last question just real fast. But I have to confess that I think that most of my prejudices manifested themselves due to socioeconomic situations as opposed to skin color.
People In Bad Socioeconomic Situations
And I think I can honestly say that I had the same disposition towards white people in trailers as I did with black and brown people in a bad socioeconomic situation because I was raised with hard work ethic, and that’s where you find value. And now when I went outside of America, that was different because I thought there’s less opportunity there. So clearly it’s going to be different. But for everybody else inside of America, I was kind of raised with this, you have opportunity and you can work. And so I was confused by people who didn’t take advantage of that opportunity.
And so it took me a long time to realize and to learn through conversations like I’ve had with Mike and Eric and others, that a lot of people in bad socioeconomic situations, many things happened prior to them in that situation that affected what’s happening in that moment or even in my decade of life. And that’s been helpful for me in just my journey as the Lord has been weeding out prejudice in my heart.
So the conversations are so helpful. Mike has been a constant patient and initiating relationship in my life. And I’ll start there on initiation is that somebody has to move first and we can argue all day about who that needs to be and what’s fair about who moves first.
Make the First Move
But somebody has to move first. And so I first encourage you that, from my own experience, Mike moved first and he told me, knowing my background and my love for the outdoors and hunting, fishing, shooting and all that, he said, “Hey, man, the next time you go shooting, I want to go with you. I just want to experience it.” And so as luck would have it, we drove. It was so far away. And so we had a lot of time in my Ford Ranger old pickup truck, and-I gave my wife my GPS coordinates because I was just like, I don’t know, going out here shooting with all these white people.
Well, you don’t get signal out there, so it wouldn’t have even helped you. But basically it was so helpful for me because I can honestly say it was the first time where not only did someone initiate wanting to ha… Because I always wanted to have the conversation, I was just scared to honestly, I was afraid I was going to say the wrong thing. I didn’t know if I was going to say the wrong words, if I would destroy relationships or whatever, but I wanted to learn.
And people like Mike and Eric have helped me to feel safe to ask those questions. And it’s been life changing. And so long story short, we had a great several hours drive back and forth, and Mike did a great job shooting. I was really proud. But there was a moment, and Mike, I don’t even know if I ever told you this, there was a moment though where we were driving there, and I’ve driven that road so many times and there’s a couple different ways that you can get there.
And as we were driving there, I remembered that there’s one particular house that flies this giant rebel flag like a couple miles from where we were going to be shooting. And I took a different road because I wasn’t sure how that would make you feel.
One, hardly knowing me at the time. But two, just knowing that that might set off some real concern. And so that was one of the first times where I think that I understood the alarm that goes off when those histories are brought up. And so lastly, in that conversation, the two things that I learned that really, really helped me was one, where I was raised to look at incidents, what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, not intentionally by my parents, but it just wasn’t emphasized or talked about why this is happening and all that. But where I was raised not to really think about Ahmaud Arbery’s situation being connected, everything’s isolated.
And so you look at every… The way that I always thought was everything’s distinct and isolated and everything has its own details, its own facts, and you look at it objectively. What I realized after talking with you is every single one of these situations is actually tied to decades of pain and history. It’s tied to history. And for me, it wasn’t. And so that helped me connect the dots on just a lot of emotions that were happening.
And then two, another thing that was really helpful as I talked with you is that you rarely ever hear the phrase the white community, but you hear the phrase the African-American community all the time. I was raised to think as an individual, individual responsibility, individual everything. And I started to realize that many African-Americans are raised with a sense of community.
And so just like when a white conservative American sees someone’s Second Amendment rights being infringed in Washington State or wherever, there’s a community sense of if it happens there, it could happen here. So I need to… And I started to connect the dots of, wow, race issues is something that the African American community connects on, and if it can happen in South Georgia, it can happen here. And it was just really helpful for me. So I know I talked a lot, but that just a couple high notes.
Man, that that’s so good. And I mean, you brought up a really good example and Ashley knows this, when we go on vacation and we drive through town, if we see a confederate flag somewhere that we know, or at least the feeling we have is like, don’t stop at those gas stations. You know what I’m saying? Let’s make sure that tank is full.
The Skepticism Of Law Enforcement
But in my time with you, DJ, one of the biggest takeaways for me, we talked about so much. You shared with me the kind of military history of your family and that deep desire that you had to serve. And the phrase that stuck with me to this day is how you talked about how disappointed you were just because of some medical conditions when you weren’t able to serve. And you said, I felt like I wasn’t able to fulfill my duty to serve.
And that struck me so hard because I just never had thought about it that way as my duty to serve the United States of America. Because even though both of my grandfathers were veterans, it was a very different experience and a different way of thinking for them. I mean, they went and they served, but then they still came back as black men facing racism and segregation. And so that kind of patriotic, like military pride was new to me, but for the first time it was humanized for me. And it helped me so much, especially pastor in the church in the DC area where there’s so many people, men and women who serve and families who have to send their family members to serve. So that was one thing that was huge for me. And then secondly, you talked about your brother whose law enforcement and shared with me a really scary story about one of the situations that he went through.
And it just dawned on me, it was just a peek behind the curtain for what law enforcement in our country deal with. And it helped me to realize that, and I knew this, but just because of how I grew up in the communities I grew up in, there is the deep kind of skepticism of police.
I knew that there were good police officers out there for sure. I mean, there were good police officers in my church growing up, but I think I realize in that moment, if there’s anybody that should be angry about police officers that abuse that privilege and honor and authority, it should be police officers who take that responsibility to protect and serve seriously. And there are so many people like your brother and so many people in our church who take that seriously and they’re doing God’s work and his sacred work.
Confront Your Own Prejudice or Ignorance
And so those were two things for me that it helped me so much, man. It made me a better dude, a better guy, a better Christ follower. But it really, really helped me to be a better pastor too, because it just gave me context that I just hadn’t had before. And I think what I want to say in that to people who are watching is change in these areas of race and justice, they don’t stop at just our interpersonal relationships because there’s much more that we need to do than just talk.
But a lot happens in the context of those relationships because our prejudices are exposed, and the truth and reality of another person’s situation just kind of deconstructs some of those assumptions. And then God has an opportunity to reconstruct something new, something that’s built on truth, and that’s built on love and empathy and compassion.
And I think that positions us to then together look out in the world and address some of these issues in practical ways. And so I’m thankful for you, man, really. I’m not just saying that, you know what I mean, just to get it recorded. But I’ve told you before, you were a critical instrument in the hands of God to sanctify me, to make me more like Jesus, and to equip me to better engage and lead out on these issues.
Likewise, man. Thank you. I wish I could hug you, through Zoom.
Yeah, it’s pretty… As you were saying that, Mike, right before you said that last statement, I thought this is, it’s pretty awesome. Both of these brothers look more like Jesus as a result of diving into the conversations we’re having right now and the implications for our lives and our families and for our church, and then you were like, “I look more like Jesus.” Like, yes. And it’s evident. It’s evident, I would say, in both you brothers’ lives.