Live to Listen: Race, Southern and Me —  March 3, 2016

Corey Johnson

Unless you have been in a mission trip outside the country or on your yearly media fast, you’ve probably heard about the incident last month in Southern University regarding offensive comments towards African Americans in general, and my pastor friend Corey in particular. (

I sincerely believe in never wasting a crisis. If (that’s a big if, but nevertheless an if) the result of a painful Friday is a move to heal, restore and unite then love won. An important first step is the ability to listen:

  1. Listening helps us to respond with sensitivity and understanding.

I was concerned with the response to the racial slurs. It demonstrated the long ways we still have to go. Here are some responses I saw consistently in social media. Some of them are true. None of them are helpful.

*It was a minority. Not everyone feels that way.

*Lets ignore the trolls.

*The problem is black history month.

*The problem is divided conferences, eliminate black conferences!

Those comments reflect a non-listening attitude. Instead of trying to minimize, deflect, ignore and even justify, let’s do something radical. Let’s listen! Listen to the pain. Listen to the reasons. Listen to the facts. Ask questions. Listen some more. For example, my first reaction (to which I had to check myself) to a pain-filled night is: “well, that’s just a minority” reveals bias. I needed to step back and enter the pain of the preacher (I’ve been there!). Let’s listen.

One day I came home to find my wife crying. She had a bad day at work. As she started to tell me about it I committed a cardinal sin. I interrupted and told her to quit her job. She immediately snapped back and said: “That’s not what I need right now. I need for you to L.I.S.T.E.N.” (hands in her hip and everything). Lesson learned. We don’t listen to the exclusion of action. Listening precedes action and informs it. It really is frustrating to explain race issues or any other issue to people that say “don’t confuse me with the facts, because I have already made up my mind!”

  1. Listening should move us to action.

I hope there are some tangible (I have been pleasantly surprised with what has already started to take place) action steps taken. If all we do is listen we are like the 75 year old college student that has attended school for 40 years but never graduates. Follow me for a second. The reason you sit in class (listening) is that one day soon, you will go out and get a job (action). Both components are essential.

Listening without action frustrates.

Action without listening complicates.

Another example is a pep-rally. The reason a team has a pep-rally is to then go and play the game. Without the game, pep-rallies are meaningless. Let’s vow (starting with me) to listen.

What sustainable, intentional, spirit filled action steps will we take now?

Let me know your thoughts.

James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

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One response to Live to Listen: Race, Southern and Me

  1. I loved this post. I had read similar comments when this event happened…I have made a promise to listen, because in listening we learn and we empathize and we become human. My mother always says “cuando el rio suena, piedras trae” people voice pain in different ways, and if we fail to listen, we fail at what Christ called us to do — love our neighbor as ourself.