Growing up, I imagined I could easily spot the racists around me. They were the ones proudly displaying the Confederate flag across the back of their pickup trucks or blatantly disregarding other people based on the color of their skin. I looked at them and counted myself lucky that I hadn’t been born into that kind of family or raised in that distorted version of Christianity.
But then I started to realize how much I had profited from systems designed to benefit people who looked more like me than my husband, an African American man, or our mixed-race sons. Like many of my European American brothers and sisters, I began awakening to my own racial identity. And that meant confronting the racist within me, lamenting the many ways I had been an oppressor to the marginalized.
When I say this, it makes me realize I’m not radically different from someone like Derek Black, once dubbed the “White Power Prodigy.” Raised in a culture of white supremacy, he seemed fated to become the next leader of the white nationalist movement. His father founded the notorious white supremacist website Stormfront.org, and his godfather was none other than David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.
But as journalist Eli Saslow shows in Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, when Black left home to attend New College of Florida, he underwent a most unlikely moral transformation—a change birthed by the power of relationships.
A Secret Exposed
As a Christian, I often fling the word relationships around without much of a thought. But relationships are at the heart of the gospel. Because God first loved us, followers of Jesus are commanded, above all things, to love God and love other people ...1