Confessions of a Former Racist

“How are you?” The guy asked loudly and slowly. He didn’t think that I could speak English. Maybe it was because this was a party for International Students in Lexington, KY. and I’m Hawaiian / Filipino. “I’m fine!” I replied at the same volume. He was startled. “I speak English,” I laughed.

When I first moved from Hawaii to Florida, I had no idea that I was a racist. Then I met some of my co-workers at the ministry headquarters and most of them were Southern belles with the thick Southern accent. I felt a revulsion rise up inside of me and I knew this wasn’t God. This revulsion, disgust, and hate came from a dark place.

Hawaii has a little-known secessionist movement.

I had taken on the offense of generations of Hawaiians whose land had been unjustly taken from them by White people. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of White friends. I grew up in California and Hawaii which prided itself on its cultural diversity.

But when I moved to Florida where people stared at me and asked me, “What are you?” a hate started forming in me. And I didn’t like it. I asked one of the ministry leaders for prayer and he jokingly prayed in a thick Southern accent.

Rusty Russell prayed for me to be set free from racism with a thick Southern accent. It was hilarious!

I don’t know if I was delivered from a spirit of hate but I laughed when he prayed. Rusty Russell melted my heart and soon all of those Southern belles became good friends. I learned to love BBQ, fried okra, greens and cornbread. They teased me about doing the hula and eating raw fish.

The differences that threatened to divide us were erased in a place of faith. My Southern belle friends and I both loved Jesus. We both wanted to fulfill His purposes. We both wanted to please Him. Jesus became our meeting place and we soon discovered that we had more in common than we realized.

My Southern Belle friends and I both wanted to be used by God. We wanted to get married. We loved traveling and listening to Christian music. Those Southern belles unknowingly prepared me for my future husband, Jerome Haywood, an African American who grew up in the deep south.

Jerome shared with me that he too struggled with hating White people when he was growing up during the Civil Rights era. He remembers vividly being chased by Klan when he was 10-years-old. He remembers when schools were desegregated in Natchez, MS. He also remembers his first white friend, a guy who encouraged him to pursue running track, which was his ticket into college.

Jerome was 10 when he was chased by Klan

Jerome was 10 when he was chased by Klan

The walls in Jerome’s heart came down when he was the only African American in a fraternity-like house with a bunch of Christian guys at Mississippi State University. Greg Ball, Rice Broocks, Richard Riley and some of his other roommates became like brothers to him. They were from well-to-do families, but Jerome never felt excluded or like he was a second-class citizen around them. The kingdom of God brought them together.

The George Zimmerman case has been burning up social media with outrage from many who believe he should be convicted. Underneath this dramatic case of a young black teenager, Trayvon Martin, shot by a white resident are issues of racism that still divide us today.

We forget that stories like George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin aren’t just one episode but part of a long-running drama in an overall story of pain and prejudice played out in the minds of millions of African-Americans. I don’t claim to know the details of this case because I haven’t been following it closely.

But I know that the hate in our hearts can’t be legally remedied. We need a change of heart that only God can bring. The only power that can unite people from different races and economic classes is the power of God. The legal system can’t fix the injustice because we live in an unjust world.

We can fix the injustice by not being unjust towards God first and then our friends. I pray for peace in our nation as we wade through the questions of justice revealed by the George Zimmerman case. I pray that our walls come down in His presence. Don’t let racism rob you of great friendships or opportunities God may be trying to bring through someone that doesn’t look like you.

Let God deal with racism in your heart. And purposely reach out to people that are different from you. Then you’ll find freedom and discover a whole new world.

Here’s an untold side of the Sanford story from Charisma Magazine’s channel. Check it out.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Former Racist

  1. Acknowledging you grew up thinking one way and have since grown and changed is a good thing, regardless of the race of the person doing it. I’m sure it’s just as scary for you to write that you were racist as it is for me to write that I was raised that way, too. There are plenty of people where I lived then and where I live now who don’t want to change, and I feel like acknowledging I have changed and continue to change is the best way to deal with that kind of foolishness. My 75-year-old neighbor told me at the pool last summer she hoped that the next people to rent the house across the street would be white after the black family moved out. First, I had to pick my jaw off the ground. Then, I had to look at her face and see she was seriously scared of black people. Then, I had to tell her I disagreed but I did whoever moved in were nice people. And then I had to leave before I bashed her wooly-white head in.

    I think opening up the conversation removes some of the fear that we’ll be lashed out at, and that fear is what stops those who want to change from doing so.

    • Wow that’s amazing that your neighbor would say that in 2013 but she is 75 and from a different era. Yeah this was a hard post to write but I felt like it needed to be said anyway. We all have racism to some degree, we just need to acknowledge it and be willing to change. I’m glad I opened my heart to people who were different from me because I found some friends who are still in my life today.

      On Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 3:43 PM, Keeping It Real from Leilani Haywood

  2. Thank you, Leilani, for your transparency and honesty. Minority people can also be racist — what a beautiful story of how God delivered you . . . may God heal and deliver us all.

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