I, like I’m guessing many of you, found myself watching the presidential debate last week. (groans). Shoot! Did I just lose a bunch of readers? I hope not and I promise this won’t be a politically charged post. Hear me out.
So I was watching the presidential debate last week and something amazing happened! When asked about policing problems and racial bias, Hillary Clinton said “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” I almost fell off my sofa. “YES!” I yelled, to my roommates’ annoyance. These were my exact thoughts – Hillary Clinton mentioned my peach pit theory!
Okay, so she didn’t call it (or me) by name and she (like you) probably has no idea what I mean by peach pit. But it was such a moment of pride for me that I felt it is finally time to reveal my peach pit theory.
Deep within us, we all carry prejudices. Things we have learned and experienced, even if we think we have forgotten them, continue to shape and guide our reactions. I call these our peach pits. The dirty and ugly piece inside all of us that, frankly, we don’t want. No one buys a peach for the pit. No one even looks at it when they’re done eating. It gives seemingly little value to the fruit and even if we are the sweetest peach in the bag, we still have a pit.
Our peach pit is what causes us to make quick, angry gestures towards drivers that cut us off in traffic. It is the fear we feel when we meet someone who doesn’t look like us on the street. It is the uneasiness that grips us when we overhear someone speaking a language we can’t understand. It is our implicit bias – not something we do consciously but something we do nonetheless.
We do ourselves and our spirit no favor when we deny our peach pit. When we are afraid to admit that maybe, on some level, we are racist. Or homophobic. Or heterophobic. Or Islamophobic, Christophobic, anti-semitic, etc. We all have fears of the so-called other, some of which are grounded in personal safety and some of which are just plain irrational, hurtful, or wrong.
But deny it we do. We type up impassioned social media posts decrying violence and prejudice, as if to prove that we aren’t violent or prejudiced. We loudly, angrily point out who the really bad people are, to draw a hard line between them and us (Brock Turner, anyone?) We get all up in arms (ha!) about the gun-control policies, or police policies, or anti-rape measures that we think will protect us. All while pointing away from ourselves, remind others that we are not them.
What I wonder is whether all of these reactions, as appropriate as they can be, are really just the shiny mirrors that protect us from encountering our own peach pits. We use the excuse of casting a light on the bad guys but don’t look to see the ugly parts of ourselves as well. But what happens if we force ourselves to turn that mirror inwards? What happens when we encounter our biases as a part of ourselves?. Or when we see where they come from and to understand why we feel the way we do?
What happens when we choose curiosity over fear? When we choose to look inward instead of pointing outward? Hillary went on to say it best: “I think unfortunately too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other and therefore I think we need all of us to be asked the hard question ‘why am I feeling this way?’”
When I first came to seminary, a fellow classmate would always talk about his “brokenness.” And I hated it. I was not broken. Or, surely, I didn’t feel like I was. But over time, I realized what he meant: we are all carrying sin. And not just the typical sin we think of – lies, wronging other people, doing bad things, etc – but also the sin of our thoughts and the hurts of our past. Our peach pit is nothing more than a collection of our sin. And until we explore and learn what we are carrying it can be, well, dangerous.
So I challenge you: explore your peach pit. Understand where your implicit biases come from – where they started and what they do to help/harm you. And remember…the best part about a peach pit? Like a peach tree, it is where we all grow from.