Prodigal Magazine

I’m afraid of some black people too.

Someone had to say it.

I understand if you want to cyber-drop kick me in the face right now. But it’s true. I’m afraid of some black people.

To be fair, I’m also afraid of some white people. Like a month ago when I was at chipotle and these 3 burly white guys with scary demon face tattoos and abs that were shooting flames through their shirts stood in front of me.

Um, let’s just say I’ve never paid so much attention to my shoes. And maybe I might have peed my pants a little when they looked at me funny. I don’t know. The jury is still out on that one. What I do know is I was scared out of my mind.

Same thing happened to me when I went back to Africa a year ago. Scared out of my socks.

“At home? Really Sammy? No way.”

Yes way. I was scared of some African folks in some not so “nice” parts of home.

Some black people. Some white people. Some Africans. Rednecks that drive big trucks with confederate flags. Dude walking towards me in the dark when I’m downtown.

Yes every one of them scares the “word-I-can’t-say-cause-I’m-a-pastor” out of me. Funny thing is, I’ve never spoken a word to any of those people. I don’t even know their names, yet they scare me.

Isn’t it amazing how we can live in fear of people we don’t know?

I mean, how’s that possible? I’ll tell you how. It’s called prejudice and we all have it.

[“The word prejudice is most often used to refer to preconceived judgments toward people or a person because of gender, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, nationality or other personal characteristics” (via Wikipedia)]

I know we church folks like to think only the underground KKK militant and the Neo-Nazi idiot mouthing off in chat rooms is prejudiced but we are wrong.

Prejudice is not out there, no, it’s in here.

It’s in every church, in every aisle and in the chair you’re sitting in right now.

We all have people that scare us, disgust us, annoy us and frustrate us because of preconceived notions. People we’d rather not walk on the same side of the street as. People we’d like to ignore. People we judged based on their neighborhood, clothing style, skin color, weight, social status etc.

We are all prejudiced and the sooner we start acknowledging that, the better off we are.

Hate to go Dr Phil on you but the old bald man does have a point when he says “we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.”

Can you imagine what would happen if more Christians admitted that we have prejudged people?

Better yet, imagine if we didn’t stop there? Imagine if we did what Jesus did. Imagine if we were intentional about sharing life with people who are nothing like us.

Months ago I offered a helping hand to a scary guy that lives near me.

Dude man and I have absolutely nothing in common and to be honest I wasn’t helping him because I wanted to be his friend but because God did everything short of threaten my family with a locust invasion to get me to talk to this guy.

So, I did. I forced myself to talk to him and what do you know, behind the walls of my fear was a kind dude who actually wanted to be my friend.

I’ll never forget the first time he knocked on my door.

Daddy, said my daughter. What did that scary guy want?

He wasn’t a scary guy Bebe. His name is Dave, he’s my friend and he wanted to invite me to a cook out.

A few conversations.

That’s it. That was all it took to change my perception of him. That was all it took for me to realize that far too often our prejudices say way more about our hearts than the objects of my prejudice.

A few conversations.

Look I’m not trying to oversimplify the barriers that exist between people and I’m not saying all our judgments of people are preconceived.

I do however think most of would be shocked at how much we have in common with “the others” if we took a small relational step.

I think we will be surprised when we realize that the person who’s been missing out all along was us.

A few conversations.

That’s it. That’s all I’m asking you to have with someone who scares/annoys/frustrates you. You do that and I promise you that you will be pleasantly surprised.

And here’s what else… you will be closer to Jesus than you’ve ever been. You can bank on it.

Have you ever gotten to know someone only to realize they are nothing like you thought? What do you think are some of the most common barriers or prejudices we have against people?

[photo: Roy Lister, Creative Commons]

About The Author

Young Adult Pastor, Crazy Nigerian, Husband, Father and Blogger hoping to play a small role in the grand story of God. You can check out more from Sammy by visiting his blog, on Facebook or following him on Twitter @SammyAdebiyi.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

    Well said, Sammy! The funny thing is my best childhood friend turned into a “scary” person, or someone, if I didn’t know him, I would think is scary. But I know what’s underneath the exterior. It’s nothing like the tattoos that cover his entire body. He’s just a nice guy.

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      Thanks Matt. It really is amazing how much ‘beauty’ we find beneath the surface. The question is how many of us are willing to go and work that far.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyshan-Broden/16700010 Tyshan Broden

    I am so guilty of this. Its actually a little instilled in me because I have grandparents, aunts and uncles and church members that grew up during the civil rights movement. I grew up hearing very discriminatory and prejudice remarks. Now my mom had us grow up with the majority culture most of our lives which means I got talked about really bad by black kids because of the way I spoke (actually I still get picked on by blacks for the way I speak. The deputies at my job call me valley girl). Either way this helped squash a lot of the stereotypes I had heard coming up. And your right, in college I really had to fight through a lot of prejudices I had learned and the best way to do that was to meet people and get to know them. I have shown prejudices to all races, ethnic groups, disabilities, etc but getting to know people have completely changed my preception.

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      Thanks for being honest Tyshan. I think a lot of people are surprised to hear of prejudice within the the same race. Goes to show you even more so that we can all have this ‘lean’ to our hearts.

  • 1lori_1

    Oh this was such a great post….and yes, if we all have to be honest with ourselves, we have to admit we all have preconcieved notions about all kinds of people. It is easier to put someone in a box so that we don’t have to deal with them. I have learned some lessons in the past by putting a snap judgment on someone, only to be humble to my core when I actually got to know them! Thank you Sammy, for this very important post!

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      You’re so welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re right. It’s so much easier and convenient to assume. But how much are we missing out by taking that route?

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    There are a lot of dangers out there, that’s for sure. The Lord has given us some mechanisms for protecting ourselves. We feel safer and more comfortable around what we know. Different styles of dress, different attitudes, different ways that people carry themselves, can seem threatening to us. That is normal.

    If we can get to know some of these folks who scare us, one on one, then we may have our fears alleviated. Or, we may have them confirmed.

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      Thanks for diving in Steve. I’m with you in we are wired to protecting ourselves. The problem is, we also have super wicked hearts and left to ourselves, I believe we would keep building walls between us and others.

      Makes me wonder how crazy heaven will be. Every tongue, tribe and nation.. every? wow, can you imagine that?

  • http://everydayawe.com/ Stephanie Spencer

    I once went to the Tolerance Museum in L.A. There were 2 doors. One said, “I am a racist.” The other said, “I am not a racist.” The one that said “I am not a racist” didn’t open. They wanted everyone to enter with acknowledgement of our own prejudices. I loved that.

    Some of being scared for me is context. If I’m by myself I’m more likely to get scared than when I’m with a group. And If I’m in someone else’s neighborhood, I’m more likely to get scared than when I’m in my own.

    Great thoughts to ponder.

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      Wow. I’ve never heard of that Stephanie. Fascinating. Again, I can’t even imagine what would happen if we did acknowledge our own prejudices…

      Thanks Stephanie for adding great value to the dialogue!

  • Rhonda Singletary

    I know I’m late jumping in here, but what a great post. I would consider myself one of the least prejudiced people around. I mean seriously my husband is black, our boys a mix of us, both of our daughters-in-law are what we like to call Blaxican, I’m Italian German and Native American, our granddaughter a mix of all. We call our family the United Nations. BUT, I have had these same reactions or thoughts when seeing the scary people-and I never looked deep enough to see it might have been a prejudices or racial reaction to others. This will have me thinking for days. :)

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      Haha. We like thinking Rhonda. :) Thanks for reading, commenting and actually taking on the challenge to search your heart. Love it.

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    I heard a great definition of prejudice: to pre-judge someone, to judge someone before you get to know him/her. By that definition, we all do it and we all do it all the time. Some of the people I’ve pre-judged the most harshly have turned out to be my best friends.

    Katie

    • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

      That is a great definition Katie. Thanks!

  • Jerrilyn

    Ha ha… love this writting, the writter and the post. Let me tell you something. My husband is scared of me. I pull over and help strangers… strange looking people… when I’m alone… at night… (well… not till I pray about it first, there is so much power in prayer.)

  • Christina

    Sammy,
    Your writing is phenomenal….pretty much the best on this magazine, any day of the week. And that’s saying a lot because all of the writers are so talented.

    You’ve taken such an interesting topic and shed some genuinely serious light on the subject. Especially in the world we live in, where everyone tries to pretend they are multicultural and “aware”, telling them flat out to be real is awesome!
    Keep up the witty and genuine writing…you’ve definitely gotten another blog follower!

    And for those who read and wondered where to find him too, check out his site!
    http://www.sammyadebiyi.com/

  • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

    I’m scared of you J…. :)

  • http://www.SammyA.com Sammy Adebiyi

    Um, yea, Christina, I don’t know what to say except thank you for your extremely kind words. Thanks for reading. It’s an honor (and I don’t say that lightly) to be a small part of this team.

    I think I speak for all the writers when I say, this wouldn’t be as fun without everyone. Thanks again Christina. Hope to connect with you again soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Brookeluby Brooke Gale Luby

    Wow. This hit home. I am a single white female living in alone in an (not so nice) apartment in Texas, and I have to admit, it is really really easy to live in fear of a certain ethnic group surrounding my neighborhood, especially the men. Like my neighbor, who just moved in below me. Automatic judgement. Automatic fear. No matter how much traveling I do, how many missions trips I go on, it doesn’t alleviate the stereotypes. The other day, he introduced himself and I saw how open and warm he was. I was wrong. I was ashamed. Once again. We need conversations, like you said.