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How Can I Diagnose and Confront My Own Racism?

The word racism written on a blackboard, Praying for an end to racism for Pentecost
Trevor Atwood

"I would have never said before I adopted my middle son that I was racist, because I didn't say the words that a racist said. And I didn't have what I thought were the feelings a racist had."

"But when my wife came to me and said, 'I think we should adopt from Africa', there was a welling up within me that said, 'there's an easier way to do this.' What might my family say? What might my extended family say? Would have been easier, there would have been less to explain, there would have been less to navigate. 

Even understanding my own fear, there's a part of fear of other races that's racism. And I wasn't afraid of black people. I told one of my friends who's an African American pastor in Nashville. We sat down and talked about this. I said, 'One of the simple realities that I thought through was I don't know about his hair.' And that sounds silly, but what am I going to do with his hair. I don't know how to care for that, you know. I just knew from middle school, from the locker room, you know, white people try to get oil out of their hair and black people in the locker room are putting oil in their hair. 

I don't understand that. And so I'd rather just be a little separate from it. And now I've gotta care for this young man's hair? And now, even in the ... I was even afraid to touch his hair. Like before he came home. And now I kiss him right on ... I let his hair ... And he's proud of how fluffy it is, and I just let his hair come up around my face and lips, and I kiss the top of his head. 

But there was something that had to happen in me to say, 'Even though I don't have this figured out, I'm willing to step into it.' So it's one thing to say, 'I stand against racism.' It's another thing to throw open the doors of your heart and your home to people that you might not understand, and say, 'Come in and let's figure this out, walking next to each other.'"

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Tero Vesalainen