Depending on which side of the bike ride to school he was on, former NFL standout Miles McPherson would receive seemingly contradictory racial insults.
Being multi-racial provided McPherson with a unique perspective on racism. He explained to Faithwire in a recent interview that he caught flak for being both black – and not black enough – at the same time.
Now the pastor of rapidly growing Rock Church in San Diego, California, McPherson is using his childhood in New York and getting “harassed” in both black and white neighborhoods as inspiration to help a divided nation deal with ongoing race issues.
“I wrote this book (The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation) because in every race conversation and all these issues in our culture it’s always about us versus them,” McPherson told Faithwire. “The third option is to honor what we have in common instead of looking at you and deciding ‘are you on my side or their side?'”
“We’re 99.5% genetically identical. We’re made in the image of the same God. We both want to have relationships and get along. So why can’t we focus on that and figure out how to do that?”
You can listen to the entire interview here (continue reading below):
“People put themselves into groups,” he said, talking about our natural tendency to cling to what we know and what is familiar.
“If you put yourself in a group you understand the people who are like you really well. You don’t understand the people who are not like you. And so you have this ongoing story that keeps repeating itself about yourself, and this ongoing story that repeats itself about other people,” McPherson says.
He calls this “social reinforcement” and says when we’re stuck in that loop, we “never really get to know the people in your outgroup. They just stay over there. People have isolated themselves and they keep repeating this self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘those people are dangerous’ or ‘those people are stuck up or privileged’ or whatever you want to say. And we never really get to know them. And that’s what perpetuates the lie and keeps us separated.”
The challenging message that McPherson has for each and every one of us today is to honestly self-assess our own blind spots. “If you rename (label) somebody something other than your neighbor — white privilege is one of those names, and the n-word or whatever.. you no longer have to love them,” he said, arguing that once you label someone into a group, subconsciously it gives people license not to treat them the way we’d normally treat others.
“There’s an obvious divide in the nation and it can’t be all ‘them'” McPherson continued. “And when I say all them, blacks, whites, Hispanics, whoever. We all have to work together to get along.”
McPherson is hosting an online event called A Race for Unity which is taking place Saturday, September 15th. He says the event will, among other things, “demonstrate how to have a small group discussion” and lay out “guidelines and rules to make that conversation safe” because “until we talk with each other and not about each other… we’re just going to convince ourselves that what we believe is right” and that “won’t get us anywhere.”
McPherson challenged listeners to truly consider if they are fearful and if they really do put a label on other people
That’s the first step towards being able to “learn how to honor the priceless value that every human has” and ultimately one step closer to healing any racial divisions that remain today.