Breaking Down Walls
I’m pretty sure Breaking Down Walls is the most helpful book I’ve read so far about race relations, particularly between blacks and whites, though the tenets apply to all relationships and all cultures. I’m going to list and comment on the eight principles that authors Raleigh Washington and Glen Kehrein offer, but I hope you won’t use this blog as a substitute for actually reading the book. You can get a copy on Amazon.com for as little as a penny, so there’s really no excuse not to buy copies for yourself and all your friends!
1. Commitment to Relationship
This principle is really a merger of two critical concepts: commitment and relationship. Relationship indicates a realization that meaningful cross-cultural connections require an ongoing investment of time, and you won’t stick with it unless you are truly committed. Only in the context of committed relationships can true reconciliation happen.
Application: What can you do to put yourself in a situation that could lead to an opportunity to begin a cross-cultural friendship? Can you make a commitment to get to know someone specific at school, church, or work?
At my church, we call this being “intentionally inclusive,” and it’s one of our core values. There are several other churches in our area who have expressed an interest in being multi-cultural, but “interest” isn’t enough. Unless you make it a priority to seek out relationships with people who are different from you, they don’t happen. Or they don’t grow. Here’s a section that I marked in my copy of the book:
Intentionality acknowledges that race is an issue. John Perkins, the founder of numerous ministries committed to racial reconciliation and justice, says, “We are all damaged by the evil of racism which Satan uses to separate us.” The damage to blacks has resulted in feelings of inferiority; the damage to whites has promoted feelings of superiority. Intentionality says, “I recognize this damage. I recognize the hurt you have received. I not only don’t want to cause more hurt, but I want to make the extra effort to help heal the wounds.”
This cuts both ways. The hurt in the black community is historic, systemic, and crippling, but practically every white person who has tried to relate cross-culturally can identify individual hurts of being accused, rebuffed, or misunderstood by things black people have done or said.
If we’re not intentional about dealing with these hurts, if we say that all we have to do is act in Christian love and the problems will go away, we are engaging in denial, a mere scab covering a deep wound.…
Application: What small, intentional step can you start with? Eating in an ethnic restaurant you haven’t tried before? Learning a phrase in a different language? Going to a different barber shop or nail salon? Attending the Race video/discussion series at Living Springs?
If we’re not honest about our feelings, our disagreements, our preferences, we will never really get to know each other, and we will never overcome the tensions that mark many of our interactions. Washington and Kehrein refer to the law of “WWB/BBW” — “Whites know how to talk to whites about blacks, and blacks know how to talk to blacks about whites.” Until we are as honest across ethnic lines as we are among “our own kind,” we can’t achieve reconciliation.
Application: When you are with people who look like you, and they make disparaging remarks about others, what can you say to indicate your new commitment to reconciliation?
A lot of hurt is caused by people who just don’t think before they speak. The difficulty is, we usually don’t know we’re being hurtful until we’ve actually hurt someone. Sensitivity starts with a humble awareness that not everyone is like you, that there are other ways of looking at the world that are just as valid as yours.
Application: Is there anyone you need to apologize to, for an assumption you’ve made based on skin color or accent?
To be continued…
In the meantime, which of the above four principles is most challenging for you? Are there any particular Bible verses you can think of that particularly apply to one principle or another?