First, a Dog Story
I have the sweetest, cutest, snuggliest, smartest, dog in the world. His name is George.
Before George came into my life, I had in mind the type of dog I wanted, and it wasn’t a big one; I wanted a Chorkie. I thought that’s what I got when I drove 2 hours into South Carolina to purchase him. At least that’s what I was told.
But this morning I was curious and did a little research. From what it appears, despite what the papers said, George looks a whole lot more like a long hair Chihuahua than a little boy dog who had a Yorkie daddy. I think I was deceived.
So, through the course of conversation, one of our daughters asked me, “Are you OK with that?” With words of consolation, she then texted, “He has Yorkie coloring.” I replied, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to return him for a refund.”
Seriously, I have had this dog since August and have watched him grow, watched him learn, and felt my heart swell with affection. Do I get rid of him now because he might be a different breed than what I originally thought? Do I keep him because he might be the right color?
No! I love George! He’s part of our family.
Preference vs Prejudice
Folks, we show preferences all the time, and not only when it comes to selecting a particular dog bread we feel best meets our needs and desires. Preference is not a dirty word, nor a crime.
For example, I knew in advance of getting George that I did not want a German shepherd. I like German shepherds, but there’s no way I could keep one where we live – it would destroy the refinished hardwood floors! My preference was for a small, loyal, thinks-he’s-bigger-than-he-is little buddy, one that could meet me at the door without chewing it off the hinges.
Now, had I been offered a long-haired Chihuahua, I would have said “no.” Because of their typical “yappy” nature, their incessant shivering, and the whole “legally blond” thing, I preferred something more like a Yorkie (but Chorkies cost less). However, my prejudice (a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience) against owning a long hair Chihuahua proved unfounded. He is nothing like what I thought a long hair Chihuahua would be like.
“Breedism” and Racism
But there are dogs I do not like – never have, never will. I do not like Dobermans, Rottweilers, or pit bulls. Actually, I can’t stand pit bulls. Frankly, I wouldn’t get too upset if you told me the whole breed had become extinct.
Honestly, not all pit bulls are bad dogs; some are very sweet. But in my personal opinion, none can be trusted and each one is a potential killer waiting to snap. You could, quite literally, call me a “breedist.” I think any other dog breed is better, despite any statistic or evidence to the contrary.
Racists and breedists are very much alike: Both hold prejudiced opinions of entire groups; they believe one group is inherently better than another; and no amount of logic or evidence can change their opinions.
Let’s look at some examples of what could be considered racist or breedist statements:
- Never leave your pit bull alone with your child, not unless you want your child to die.
- Never let your white daughter date a black boy, not unless you want her to get raped.
- All dogs may go to heaven, but let one of those Rottweilers come in my yard and I’ll send it there.
- Yes, God made all men in His image and Jesus died so all men could be saved, but if you bring in those black kids, don’t be surprised when things wind up missing.
- See that big Doberman with the studded collar? He’s probably mean as the devil.
- See that colored boy in the hoodie? He’s probably up to no good.
But now let’s look at some examples of what is NOT racism or breedism:
- Ms. Brown was bit by a friend’s German shepherd several years ago. So bad was the bite that she required stitches to close the wound. Now, anytime she sees a German shepherd, a cold chill runs down her spine as she fights the urge to panic.
- While at the counter paying for gas, a young African-American male in a blue hoodie stormed through the door and hit Mr. Jones with a bat, then robbed the store clerk before shooting him. Now, anytime Mr. Jones is approached by a black man in a hoodie he feels threatened.
- The neighbor’s dog, a brindle-colored bull dog mix, often comes to our front door begging to come in and play with George. He’s a sweet dog, and he means no harm, but he doesn’t belong to us – he’s not our dog – and it won’t be two minutes before he “marks his territory” on our furniture. So, we say, “No!”, you can’t come in!
- We should require better security at our nation’s borders so that people from other homes don’t waltz in through our front door like it was their own. We like invited guests, not assuming ones.
I’m tired of everybody throwing around the word “racist” when racism is rarely at play. For example, I’m NOT a breedist because I wanted a small dog more than a big dog (even though I was originally prejudiced against long hair Chihuahuas).
Also, because I pastor a church that’s attended by white people, I’m no more a racist than the pastor down the road who leads a black congregation. Where and how we prefer to worship should not be a necessary indicator of anything.
For the record, I do not believe I’m superior to anyone for any reason, including my skin color, my nationality, my sex, or my faith. I’m not a racist.
Who’s to Blame?
Yet when it comes to the fears or misconceptions we may have of each other, it might be a good idea to determine where all those prejudices are getting their start! Who promotes the stereotypes? Maybe it used to be where we grew up, but America is much more diverse and cross-cultured than it was back in the 1860’s and 1960’s.
Who regularly portrays negative images to sell a product? How many movies have you seen with cuddly pit bulls or Dobermans?How many Hollywood films have you seen where an innocent victim is attacked in a dark alley by three white guys wearing pastel-colored Izod’s? Many of the stereotypes that perpetuate prejudice are actually fueled by the same Hollywood studios that preach to us about bigotry and racism.
Check out this report: “What Hollywood movies do to perpetuate racial stereotypes.”
There’s always going to be the one who thinks himself superior to others, whether consciously or subconsciously, and much of that is going to be due to ignorance, not hate. For example, many early European missionaries to Africa felt their race was inherently superior to the “descendants of Cain,” yet they lovingly gave their lives to reach them with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
But much of what is labeled as “racism” today is, I believe, a manufactured commodity of the media culture; they create the fear, keep people ignorant, and feed off the perpetual misconceptions. The rest is nothing more than name-calling in order to shame, silence, or intimidate one’s political or social opponent.
Racism is wrong. Racism is a sin! But calling something a sin that’s not, in order to bring about a desired response by shaming people into fitting your personal template, whatever that may be, is nothing less than manipulative, tyrannical, cultural legalism.
So, why don’t we forgo all the name-calling and honestly get to the root issues that generate fear, distrust, and division. I’ve got a strong feeling most of us care more about each other than the other knows.
Less labels; more Grace.