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How to Deal with a Family Member's Racist Comments

How to Deal with a Family Member's Racist Comments

Born and raised in the South, in the 50s, coupled with my mother’s constant reminder—Attitudes are caught—not taught, defined my coming-of-age years.

Political correctness had not yet surfaced, nor had the Klan gone underground. As a six-year-old, I saw a cross burned on the lawn of a neighbor. As a young teen, I saw the deacons of the church we attended stand in rank formation to prevent black brothers and sisters from coming inside to worship. I also saw those terrifying white hoods meeting in the black of night with a cross burning in the center of their demonic tribe.

 But, let me be clear, racism did not originate in the South, nor is it confined to black and white issues. And I’m betting you’re asking if not there, where?

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV).

Thousands of years ago God told us, “The heart is deceitful and wicked, who can know it…” Problem today is, many refuse to believe the three-act drama in the Garden of Eden was an actual historical event—the deception of Eve, the disobedience of Adam, and the sentencing of Satan. This cast of three originated a timeless sequence of anger, rebellion, and deception causing God to curse Satan, the ground, and death entered and marred God’s perfect creation. 

God immediately confronted the three for their deception and disobedience. Judgment was passed, but in His mercy, God provided the way of redemption right from the start. And we—you and me—are His truth carriers—His messengers on this world’s stage.

Who’d believe this six-to-ten-thousand-year-old drama would still be headlining the nightly news—but it does—because those attitudes of hatred, disobedience and lies are still caught and transferred from one generation to the next.

Within the family, our guard is down and we are more apt to let slip what’s really in our hearts. When a family member utters a racial slur, it takes courage to speak God’s Word to them, doesn’t it? But the Spirit of God will use the words you speak to convict or condemn that loved one’s heart. Your assignment is to repeat God’s Truth.

Of the Same Blood

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27 NKJV).

Several years ago, I encountered a young Mexican boy while helping with Vacation Bible School in the Houston inner city. The two of us sat on the busy street curb outside the church. Angry, frightened, and defensive he glared at me. “You can’t understand.” He sputtered. “You’re not like me.” I placed my arm alongside his brown one. “We’re just alike. Peel off this skin and you couldn’t tell us apart. Your blood is red—just like mine. God made us both from one blood. We are His creations, and He loves us both—You and me, whether you believe it or not, that’s truth.” 

Unto One of the Least of These

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You’… And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:31-46 NKJV).

According to this Scripture, wouldn’t it make sense that hate-filled, racists comments are aimed and fired into the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ—our Savior who chose to suffer, bleed and die for everyone on the planet who chooses to believe Him? 

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

There were many things I saw in my childhood and teen years that didn’t line up with Scripture, and I asked questions… lots of questions. Like when I was six: Why couldn’t the little black boy about my age sit in the front seat on the city bus so he could see everything too? Or, where did those cute little black girls who lived across the street from our elementary school go to school? Or, why were there two water fountains?

I was often told to be quiet—children were to be seen and not heard. But I knew these things were not right and I continued to ask questions, if not out loud, surely in my heart.

As I grew older, God convicted my heart silence was not golden. As His child, I must speak in a manner that caused others to think… not to incite, but think. But this can only be achieved through the Spirit of God, with words spoken in a spirit of love toward family members who are determined to condemn themselves and wound the heart of God through the acid of their words. 

How did Jesus answer Satan during those days of His temptation in the wilderness? He repeated the Words of His Father to Satan. So, wouldn’t it follow that we should repeat the words of our Father when we’re tossed into the wilderness of temptation?

I was blessed to have a mother who required me to memorize Scripture. All these years later, I’m forever amazed how the Spirit of God calls to my mind the exact Scripture for a momentary need. What I had to learn was I’m not their Holy Spirit… that’s God’s job. My assignment is to speak God’s truth. But if your heart and mind are devoid of the Word of God, the Spirit doesn’t have a funnel; you’re left to fight the battle without the sword of the Spirit. And those results can be grim.

God tells us we are to instruct and rebuke, not with our words—with His Word.

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by our words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37 NKJV).

We are to reflect God’s love and mercy to those He puts in our path. We are called to be farmers, breaking up hard hearts and planting seeds of God’s love, while others water seeds already planted with words of understanding. If we fail, there will be no future harvest.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15 NKJV).

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-8, 11 NKJV).

Too often the attitude of our heart is hot-wired to our emotions, which short-circuits the cognitive power of our brain, causing harmful words to spew off our tongue.

What attitude are your children catching from you? Do you love Jesus and others—especially family members—enough to be obedient to speak God’s truth to those who live in ignorance of that Word? Our speech must be fused with the salt of His Truth in order to change hearts and attitudes from hatred to love—one moment, one life at a time.


DiAne Gates illustrates and writes fiction for children and YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries. DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association magazine, and had the opportunity to be in the rodeo arena, giving birth to her western rodeo adventure series, ROPED, (available on Amazon), which was named #5 in the Top Ten Reads for Christians Teens and Tweens. The sequel, TWISTED, was released by Prism in July 2017. She also facilitates GriefShare, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones. 

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/kieferpix