Working to Reduce Our Racial Biases in 2021

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).” A recent incident going viral through social media portrays a European American woman accusing an African American teenager of being in possession of her iPhone in a hotel lobby. The story has gone viral due to the unfortunate escalation of this situation, eventually involving the Arlo Hotel staff and local police. According to video posted online, the European American woman works to tackle the young man who she believes is in possession of her phone. Soon after this ill-fated incident, an Uber driver return the woman’s iPhone to her at the hotel.

Certainly, an apology is in order and it is likely that civil and probably even criminal charges will be pursued. Although there are many sides to a story and more will come to light related to this situation; many African Americans specifically, and “people of color” generally are physically weary, emotionally drained, and socially tired of living with and pushing through these circumstances caused by bias. All kinds of biases exist regarding sex, age, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, height, etc. Focusing on race, this unnecessary circumstance experienced by this young man due to his African American ethnicity (there are millions of iPhones made and distributed annually and he has one) is the result of a woman acting on her biases (how many other iPhones might there have been in the hotel lobby).

After a year like 2020, let’s work to be kinder to one another. Let’s work to be intentional in reducing our racial biases. We can all become aware of racial biases (implicit or otherwise) that we may have. If you are a parent, and if you can imagine a stranger accosting your child, then we can all be concerned about the consequences of acting on our biases without just cause. Even if you are not a parent, you have family, friends, and others in your network that can be made to experience unfortunate moments, penalized for no other reason than due to their race/ethnicity. But most importantly, I encourage all of us to work to substitute our biased reactions to racial situations with non-biased reactions related to our Christian values. Let us work to identify people as God would, looking at the heart! Even if we believe that someone has our phone, I am sure that there are dozens of different ways that this circumstance could have ended better.

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