A very common anti-racism approach of North American white Christians is called racial colorblindness. Even using the description “white Christians” is problematic—they would counter that there is no such thing as white or Black Christians, only Christians. This is typical of the colorblind approach.
But God is not racially colorblind. True, God shows no partiality or favoritism (Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9). But God does not erase our ethnic or racial differences either. We need to avoid two extremes. On the one hand, we cannot make our racial identities define us so much so that we are divided. At the other extreme, we cannot ignore or dismiss race entirely as if it does not matter at all.
In Revelation 7:9, the apostle John saw a great multitude from “every nation, tribe, people and language” worshiping God in heaven (see also Rev. 5:9). He further saw that “the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into” the new, heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:26). The original Greek word translated as “nation” is ethnos, from where we get the word “ethnicity.” Our ethnic differences will remain in God’s new heaven and earth, but united in our love and worship of God.
Galatians 3:28—“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”—does not mean that our ethnic and racial differences are erased. After all, our gender differences aren’t erased. But it does mean that in Christ the social barriers dividing races, cultures, genders, and economic classes are broken down. Hence Paul rebuked Peter for withdrawing from Gentile Christians (Gal. 2:11-14).
Because God has ordained that I was born Asian, to ignore or dismiss my Asian identity is to ignore something that God has made to be part of who I am. That seems disrespectful of the God who created me and every person of color. See and recognize the differences, but don’t define or limit people by their differences.
The colorblind approach has a laudable goal of getting rid of racism by creating a world where race no longer matters. But we cannot get to that world by everyone merely acting as if it’s already here. Simply ignoring race—not talking about or drawing attention to race, racial issues, and differences—without intentional reconciliation efforts and racial justice efforts won’t get rid of racism. It’s hard to educate people against racism if we can’t use racial descriptions such as white and Black. In fact, by avoiding conversations on race, or by “not noticing” race, we can inadvertently overlook injustice and discrimination. Racial colorblindness can unintentionally make us blind to racial injustice.
As far as I know, we don’t use this type of approach to any other social ills. We don’t tackle discrimination against people with disabilities, for example, by simply ignoring their disabilities.
The individualistic approach needs to be complemented by other approaches. Yes, every individual needs Jesus. But systems also need to be reformed. Remember that most slaveholders in America’s past loved Jesus too. So did the Afrikaners who created apartheid in South Africa. But neither social reform alone nor individual change alone will rid us of racism. Ultimately, only God can bring the lasting change we need. As we faithfully pursue our biblically informed anti-racism work, we have confident hope that Christ will one day usher in his new heaven and earth, where all of us, with all our differences, are united as one in God’s love.