He held his squinty eyes up with his two fingers.
On the way to work the other day, a white male driver on the highway made the squinty eye racist gesture towards me as he zoomed past me. Minorities in America understand the pain and frustration of being the recieving end of racist devaluing gestures for most of their lives. Honestly it took me by surprise as I haven’t recieved such blatant communication in a while.
There is a strong temptation as a minority to respond in certain ways.
As Jesus said, it’s natural to return eye for eye and to think of ways to destroy this person verbally in return for the disrespect and the devaluing of my personhood. A more subtle response, that I believe happens more commonly in our society, is to degrade into bitterness against a people group and to prefer to be with my tribe in an antagonistic spirit.
It would be easy to curse all White people and to huddle back with Asian people and to be tribalistic. But we all know–this is where all the walls in our society begin their construction.
There I was still driving on the highway, processing these feelings, and a moment of courage came into my heart. I drove back past him, smiled at him, and waved, an attempt at extending friendship to him.
In my heart welled a Holy-Spirit-given revelation. While he meant to do me harm, I felt something that God gave me in that moment that I didn’t expect to feel: compassion.
I felt compassion that he didn’t have the joy of seeing someone made in the image of God. I felt compassion that harboring racism was the choice of poison he fed his own heart. I felt compassion that he didn’t have the joy of welcoming others, of showing hospitality to the stranger, a joy that Jesus invited us to. I felt compassion that he was probably stuck in the same tribalistic spirit I was tempted to resort to, and in that place he would be cursed to pain.
In Jesus, the societal boundaries erected now and over the generations must be torn down in light of the truth that all are made in the image of God. What he and other racist people don’t know is that this perspective is not our burden as Christians, it is our joy.
It is the perspective that will give healing to our friendships, our families, our communities, and in the world held in shackles in endless eye-for-eye disputes that happen from interpersonal relationships even to the scale of geopolitical conflicts. And so I felt compassion for him that he wouldn’t be able to see a worldwide transformation that could take place before his eyes if could see people the way Jesus saw.
As he went on his way, I prayed for him. I blessed him in the name of Jesus. I prayed that he would know the Jesus who accepts him, who loves him, and calls him a child.
I am no hero.
Like the road before me, the turn to bitterness, resentment, and tribalism was available to me and I felt, for a moment, them knocking at my soul and calling me towards its destructive path.
However as a Jesus-follower, I am only thankful that Jesus has paved a different road my heart can venture down–the road that sees this racist man as my brother. For that is who he is both in Jesus and in, now, my eyes.