We can all become more aware of our personal views about race* or ethnicity* by examining past experiences. Each person's experience is unique. This exercise aims to increase our self-awareness and improve our practice of mercy, empathy, and love (John 13:34-35). We did not design this exercise to shame you or disparage you as a person. We designed it to help you grow into a more Christ-like person, transformed from the inside out. We want to help move the church toward unity because Christ calls us to be one in the Spirit. We want to see you practice your love for those God loves, people of every race, ethnicity, gender, and country of the world.
Questions to Consider:
(Adapted from The Counselor's Race Narrative, © LaVerne H. Collins, PhD., NCC, 2018. Used by permission.)
Read the questions that follow. Then take time to reflect and write out your answer. You might consider sharing this with people on your team and discussing your findings.
How do you self-describe racially? Ethnically? Has that changed over time?
How did your family of origin self-describe racially/ethnically when growing up?
Do you have immediate or extended family members who self-describe as biracial or multi-racial? If so, how have you experienced your relationship?
Do you see yourself as marginalized or privileged? If so, in what way? Racially, economically, gender, or other. If not, why not?
What were your age and the first impression the first time you saw or met a person of another race?
What roles have people of other races had in your life (e.g., as a friend, childhood caregiver, housekeeper, teacher, professional peer, professional supervisor, religious leader, etc.)?
Has a person of another race been positively influential in your life? What kind of influence did they have?
Have you ever been personally victimized by a person of another race? If so, what effect did that have on your perspectives on race?
What were the explicit messages you received growing up about your race? About other races?
What implied or indirect messages did you receive growing up about your race? About other races?
To what extent did you attempt to "cross racial lines" voluntarily when younger? Was that encouraged or discouraged? Describe your experience. What was the outcome of that attempt?
To what extent have you voluntarily crossed racial lines as an adult, e.g., neighborhood or church integration?
Were you ever forced to cross racial lines, e.g., school integration? How would you describe that experience?
Have you ever confronted someone about statements or behaviors that you believed to be racist, segregationist, racially inflammatory, discriminatory, or racially unjust? Describe this experience.
What stereotypes, prejudices, or forms of discrimination do you think you may have personally subscribed to over the years?
What might it cost you professionally, socially, relationally, or financially to position yourself differently in controversial race-related conversations?
What messages have you heard from media and culture about various ethnic and racial communities? About religious communities? About men or women?
As a result of what you learned (question #17), what are your expectations of members of these groups?"
To what extent has your social status in America benefited you or limited you?
What norms or standards might you have become aware of that in the past you overlooked? How old were you when you first realized this? For example, have you ever noticed that most adhesive bandage color matches Caucasian skin?
RACE: A social construct connected to categorizing human bodies that are similar, e.g., skin colors and hair texture, physique, and other inherited qualities. The concept of race came out of the theory of evolution, which taught that there were innate biological differences between people of different skin colors and no ancestors common to all of humanity. This theory said that people with darker skin colors were less evolved than those with "white" skin and were closer to animals. This theory was used to justify horrendous atrocities. Although all of the "science" around this idea has been discredited, the social construct remains.
ETHNICITY: A social construct that has to do with culture. A group of people who share learned meanings, beliefs, languages, foods, traditions, etc. The Federal Government moved the term Hispanic from Race to Ethnicity (2 groups: Hispanic and non-Hispanic).
CULTURE: Refers to integrated patterns of human behavior. Culture includes the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of various racial, ethnic, religious, political, or social groups.
BIPOC: This is an acronym referring to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
After completing this exercise, you may find that either amends or forgiveness is in order. Pray over your responses and experiences and ask God what He would have you do. Watch for opportunities to practice racial reconciliation. Consider participating in groups like the OneRace Movement, based in Atlanta, GA. You can visit their Facebook page at
©R. Denice Colson, Ph.D., LPC, MAC, CPCS, CCS, DAAETS 2021