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Skin Color

October 6, 2020
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“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:9, NIV 1984).

This was not the first time I’d felt the anger of racial injustice, but it was the most surprising. Lorenzo had been my patient for 20 years. He was doing better and living longer with his myeloma than anyone I had ever treated. He and I are friends. I asked him about his relationship with God. “My brothers and sisters believe in that, but it’s never worked for me. I grew up in the cotton patch. I know what it’s like to be black and oppressed. When that black man was shot today, I took that personally. I’m angry. It ain’t right what people do to people because of their skin color.” I am white and can’t really understand, but I assume he was correct about his experiences in life and know he was sincere. I listened. After a moment, I asked him, “Lorenzo, have I ever treated you unfairly or unkindly because of your skin color?” “No, Doc, you haven’t.” When we ended, I said, “I’ve never lied to you, have I?” “No, you haven’t.” “Well then, believe me when I tell you: God loves you and is with you in whatever struggles you have in life—and I love you like a brother.” “I know you do, and I feel the same way.”

This was not a political experience; this was a personal experience.

“It ain’t right what people do to people because of their skin color.”

Lorenzo was not the first to make this claim.

Paul said it well along time ago: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (Romans 10:12, NIV 1984).

Jesus made it entirely clear by the way He treated women and outcasts and Samaritans and Gentiles: there is no difference in any person’s value before God—no difference based on skin color, or language, or gender, or wealth, or education, or beauty or a thousand other attributes by which we judge each other.

So, if we are God’s people, and God doesn’t choose favorites, why do we?

I need to examine my life and discover whether I value people differently or treat them differently based on attributes that Jesus would never consider.

I need to examine my practice and see if I manage patients differently based on factors in their lives that do not change their value to God.

I need to evaluate my local church and community to be sure that the open, caring arms of Jesus are not limited by prejudice.

I need to be active in correcting any injustices I find.

I need to change the world’s understanding of God’s love for all persons by introducing all persons to the love of Christ.

Dear Father,
Clean out any prejudices in my life that limit the work of Your love through me.
Amen

Al Weir, MD

About Al Weir, MD

After leaving academic medicine, Dr. Weir served in private practice at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee from 1991-2005 before joining the CMDA staff as Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries where he served for three years from 2005-2008. He is presently Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Program Director for the Hematology/Oncology fellowship program. He is also President of Albanian Health Fund, an educational ministry to Albania where he has been serving for 20 years. He is the author of two books: When Your Doctor Has Bad News and Practice by the Book. Dr. Weir’s work has also been published in many medical journals and other publications. Al and his wife Becky live in Memphis, Tennessee, and they have three children and three grandchildren. Dr. Weir is currently serving on CMDA's Board of Trustees.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Terry Schmidt on October 6, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Dr. Weir, thank you for sharing your personal experience concerning the racial issue which the country has been dealing with for many years and has once again come to the forefront in our country.

    I would like to share two instances in my life that spoke to this issue.

    When I was in college, Ball State University, I was a scholarship member of the football team. This was during the early 70’s when the country was dealing with integration in many areas and in particular with schools. During my junior year the coaching staff decided to start rooming by position on our road trips. At that time I was brought in the head coach’s office and asked in I minded rooming with an African American teammate. My response was something like; “let’s see, I practice with him, I dress in the same locker room, eat at the same dining room, shower in the same shower room, drink out of the same water bottle and you want to know if I have a problem sleeping in the same room…of course not.” My roommate and I have stayed in contact over the years and I stood up at his wedding and I asked him if they had asked him the same question. He told me no they did not.

    The second was before dental school when I was still playing in the NFL with Chicago. I was at wedding and while sitting at the table with three other couples the dialog turned to the Bears. Eventually they came to realize I played for the Bears and they started asking me questions, mostly generic type. Then one of the wives asked me very candidly how I could ever think about showering with African American men. It was quite an ‘eye opener’ and I responding in probably a most un-Christian manner…”well it does not wash off”, which quieted her and put quite a damper on the rest of the evening.
    I fortunately had parents who had friends of color and was always told to never judge a person by their stature in life or the color of their skin and never until I had walked in their shoes for a while.

    Just enjoyed your post and thought I would share two of my experiences in the area.

    Terry R. Schmidt, D.D.S.

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