Face to Face with Racism

Face to Face with Racism

Racism is very, very real to those on its receiving end. The dilemma is how distant it can “feel” to those who are not on its receiving end and, thus, not confronted as vigorously as it should be.

This was laid bare in a social experiment where a man (who spoke English) asked strangers in Lithuania to translate a Facebook message he received from Lithuanian to English. 

At the start of each encounter, the man says he has been in the country for two weeks and wants each Lithuanian to translate a stranger’s message he cannot understand.

He asks: “Please, can you translate this for me? On my Facebook page someone wrote it to me. I don’t know the person.”

Handing the Lithuanians his tablet they eagerly begin reading the post.

But then, as they read the message, they realize its content.

It’s a racist message.

The ensuing reaction of the various translators, including that of a child, was arresting; captured in a short YouTube video, viewed nearly 4 million times.

Suddenly, for the translators the hate is real.

The empathy flows.

The heart melts.

But this is precisely what is missing from most of our lives. Racism is a concept, a hypothetical, a category.

It’s not an experience.

And until it is, we may never rise up against it the way we should.

So maybe watch the video again.

And start feeling it.

James Emery White



Click here to watch the experiment.

Francis Scott, “Heartbreaking video shows man asking strangers to translate a racist Facebook message he’s received but they struggle to get the words out,” DailyMail, July 21, 2016, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite