How Putting Yourself First Can Prevent Racist Thinking – Pt. 2 with Miles McPherson

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Many people say they don’t see color, but they then go to the beach to try to get a tan to improve their looks. The lack of honesty in how we see and how we treat others can be the biggest barrier to a healthy racially integrated society. In the second episode of a series on racism and the brain, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen speak with Miles McPherson, former NFL player and pastor of The Rock church in San Diego, about taking an inward focus to help you understand others.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

Welcome back. We are still with Pastor Miles McPherson, and we are talking about racism and the brain. It's so interesting. This topic is actually fascinating, because it really is ... I've never seen our nation more divided than it is now politically, racially. The blacks against cops, and I mean it's really sad. At what point, or how can we step back and go, "Look, we're Americans first. We're people first." How can we help each other? What will it take?

Dr Daniel Amen: Miles has a brand new book called The Third Option, Hope for a Racially Divided Nation. I've seen the YouTube talk you did on this. It's brilliant. I love what you said about so many people go to Hawaii. They try to get-

PastorMcPherson: A tan.

Dr Daniel Amen: Brown skin.

Tana Amen: Right. Right? It's so true.

Dr Daniel Amen: They try to get dark skin because they think they're going to get a date. Yet, if you're-

Tana Amen: Born that way.

Dr Daniel Amen: Born that way, you're criminalized.

Tana Amen: Weird.

PastorMcPherson: Yeah, if you get a tan in Hawaii, it's beautiful, and celebrated. If you get a tan in the womb, it's invalidated.

Tana Amen: Isn't that weird?

PastorMcPherson: Yeah. To some.

Tana Amen: That's a great expression.

PastorMcPherson: To some. To some, but you get the point. When people say they don't see color, in that illustration ... When people say they don't see color, but when you get a tan, you want people to see that color. You do it so it is seen. But yet, there are other colors you say you don't see. Anyway, you asked the question. This book is about honor. Every race conversation is about us versus them. You have to pick a side of division that pits you against somebody, and this book is all about, how do I honor what we have in common, which is the image of God. As you know, we're 90 something percent genetically exactly the same.

Tana Amen: The same.

PastorMcPherson: We're more similar-

Dr Daniel Amen: 99.7.

PastorMcPherson: 99.7, yes. I put fives on. I'm a little safe in here. 99.7% the same, but yet we focus on how we're different.

Tana Amen: That .3%, .03%. No, .3.

PastorMcPherson: .3 and even if that's the difference, even some of that really makes us look different is probably less than that. This is talking about how has racism destroyed my ability to see you and honor you as a human being. Fear, culture, ignorance, blind spots, not understanding what love is, and how do I restore my ability to honor you and put a priceless value on you as a human being.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, what triggered you to write this book?

PastorMcPherson: All my life, because I lived in two different worlds. I was born in 1960, so I remember Martin Luther King and the struggle. Listen, when I was a little kid, we had black and white TV and there was only white. There was very few, little black on the black and white TV. And when someone black came on TV, we were glued. When Michael Jackson was gonna come on TV, the world stopped. It was a big deal. So you grew up your whole life in that struggle, feeling inferior, feeling pushed down your whole life.

Tana Amen: Isn't that interesting. It'd be terrible.

PastorMcPherson: Three years ago, when I got a chance to write a book, when I put a proposal in, I wrote one of the chapters on racism. It was gonna be a book on other things, and race being one of them. They said, "Would you write the whole book on it?" I said, "Please, can I do that?" But I've always, every time I got an opportunity to preach on race because something happened in culture, or when OJ was acquitted and the community was, the nation was divided, I cried that night. Just the division broke my heart. It's like, man. It's been a burden on my life. So, when I got an opportunity to write it, I said, "I want to write a book that's gonna solve this," because my church is 20000 people, we look like the United Nations every Sunday. I see it every Sunday for 18 years.

Tana Amen: It's awesome though.

PastorMcPherson: It's awesome. People can get along. So, I wrote a book to try to provide people tools on how to get along better. How to be a better-

Tana Amen: I like that. I can't wait to read it. It's really interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: Your church also has a lot of military people. So, I grew up in a very white San Fernando Valley, but I was Lebanese. And a time-

Tana Amen: When it wasn't a good thing.

Dr Daniel Amen: The Arab Israeli wars were raging. So, I got singled out in a negative way. 1976 I won the California State Champion for peace oratory on our speech team because I was arguing for a two-state solution. But whenever I'd go to a tournament where there was a higher population of Jewish judges, they always flunked me. I came in 45th or something.

Tana Amen: I grew up with that similar thing.

Dr Daniel Amen: Where I really learned about integrating races was when I joined the military-

Tana Amen: Isn't that interesting?

Dr Daniel Amen: In 1972 because it didn't matter. You got promoted based on how you performed, not by the color of your skin.

Tana Amen: But that hasn't always been true in the military. That's not always been true.

Dr Daniel Amen: No, it certainly wasn't true in World War I or World War II or the Civil War.

Tana Amen: Yeah, I just want to address that because a lot of people are gonna be offended, I think.

Dr Daniel Amen: But now, and I think you see that in your church because there's a high military population in San Diego, is they're all over the board.

Tana Amen: So, what will it take for us to focus on someone's character more than their color?

PastorMcPherson: This book is all about how to honor the other person, but it starts with honoring me and acknowledging that I'm made in the image of God and the image of God, and he was not inferior or superior to mine. I can acknowledge the image of God. I can acknowledge that you have character, that you have the ability to have a relationship with me, that you have dreams, you have pursuits, you have pain. I need to acknowledge and place a priceless value on my ability to have compassion for you, to understand you, to be patient with you. I have to start with me. What are my blind spots? What are my issues? How am I not seeing you? Because if I don't honor you, and when I say honor you, place a priceless value on you and respect you, love you, I'm living below how I was designed to live, so that's on me. So, the first thing to do is find out about me. The first 11 chapters of the 18th are all about me.

Tana Amen: I like that.

PastorMcPherson: It's divided by me, you, we. The first 11 chapters are what do I need to learn about my fears, my understanding of what love is, my understanding of my blind spots, how am I offending people and not know it. And are there people in my life who are different than me that I can ask, am I being offensive? If all your view is ... unless this went to someone who was different, Mexican, black, white person said, "Is there anything I say or do that's offensive?" It doesn't make me a racist. I think we talked about it in the first segment. You can be racially offensive without being a racist. Is there something I do? Ask your friends. Are there insensitive things I say?

Tana Amen: Yeah, like what I said to my friend, Jasmine. When I said that to her it was offensive. I could see her face. I'm like, "Oh." And I picked up on it. I was smart enough to pick up on, I'm commenting and acting like I know something I know nothing about because I don't think it should be that way, but that's offensive to someone who has experienced something that's different from what I'm saying.

Dr Daniel Amen: But it doesn't make you a racist.

Tana Amen: No. If anything, I was feeling the opposite.

Dr Daniel Amen: But that's such an important point.

Tana Amen: I was feeling a little protective.

Dr Daniel Amen: And labeling, which are one of the ANTs that we talk about here all the time, the automatic negative thoughts, is so common in this conversation. If I can pigeonhole you, then I don't actually have to deal with you.

PastorMcPherson: Exactly. The greatest commandment is to love my neighbor as myself. But if you're the other, you're not my group, you're not my neighbor, so I don't have to love you. So, when we think about all the people that you see on television that are different, think of the labels you put on them.

Tana Amen: Oh, I do it every day. I don't even deny that I'm judgemental, but not against color.

PastorMcPherson: I'm gonna give this to you for free.

Tana Amen: But for me, it's not about color. It's about things you do in society. I know I'm that way, so I have to ... like you hurt a child, I'm sorry, the death penalty in my mind is not a bad thing.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, which also comes from past experience-

Tana Amen: That's labeling, right? It does.

Dr Daniel Amen: Of being hurt. So, often our buttons come from our history. And, as we're gonna talk about in the next podcast, it actually may not be our history. It may be the history of our parents or our grandparents because things get transmitted more than just the color of your eyes and how tall you are.

PastorMcPherson: If you think about the people we label, think about what you really know about them.

Tana Amen: I don't. And I don't know what they've been through. They could have been hurt as a child. All I can think about in that moment is, you did this to that person and that's unacceptable.

PastorMcPherson: And you're talking about the child molesters. I'm talking about whether they're Mexican, black or white, and we think, "Those people are like that," or, "That person is like that."

Tana Amen: And I grew up in a home where that was the norm. So, my stepfather, who was from Montana, we used to get into some rip roaring fights. When I was little, I didn't know. You're just told this and you don't understand, and there were very few black people in my community, in my school. I would hear that he was always telling racist jokes. I didn't really know. It never felt quite right, but I didn't really know the right, wrong part of it. It's like how your family is, it's what you're told. Then all of a sudden one day, I was like, wait. I experienced enough of the world. I'm like, this really feels yucky to me. It doesn't feel right. And I addressed it with him. We actually got into a huge fight over it because he was trying to tell me I'm wrong. I'm like, "I don't understand how you can be so racist." He goes, "I'm not racist. I hate everybody the same." How is that okay? I don't understand. You know what I mean? We used to actually-

Dr Daniel Amen: But that goes with the first 11 chapters of The Third Option. It's about him.

PastorMcPherson: It's about-

Dr Daniel Amen: More than it's about other people.

Tana Amen: But I grew up with that, and it's toxic.

PastorMcPherson: Oh it is. It's very toxic.

Tana Amen: You have a lot of growing up to do when you leave home if you grow up in an environment like that. You have to really do soul searching of your own.

PastorMcPherson: That's where this has to start. Again, without condemning myself. How can I be more honoring? It's not about avoiding being racist. It's about learning how to be more honoring. Those are two different things. Because people can walk on eggshells. "I don't want to say the wrong thing. I don't want to do the wrong thing." That's a scary way to live.

Tana Amen: But they can see that too. I feel like people see when you're not authentic.

PastorMcPherson: Well, maybe not authentic. If you're in fear, because I really don't want to offend. That's okay.

Tana Amen: That's more authentic.

PastorMcPherson: So authentic, but it's not a way you want to live. You want to live where no, I am going to intentionally figure out how to honor you, how to speak life to you. So, instead of saying, "Don't be racist," it's more about, how do I honor? This is telling people-

Tana Amen: I like that. It's a very different perspective.

PastorMcPherson: How to be more positive. Yeah, because if I come to you and I say, "Look, hey now," and you're different from me. I'm like, "Hey, how you doing?" And I ask people all the time where they're from. If you're sincere, people shouldn't be offended by that. The average person's like, I appreciate you wanting to know about me, versus being scared, do I say this? Do I say that? It's like people say, "Do I say black or African American?" Just be sincere.

Tana Amen: I've actually always had that question.

PastorMcPherson: In some parts of the country it's different, but if you're sincere and you're just speaking people are gonna be, "Okay, whatever." But it's when you start walking on eggshells where you are stressed out, this is more about how do I be intentionally honoring versus avoiding saying the wrong thing?

Tana Amen: No, I actually like that.

Dr Daniel Amen: So, the third option, it goes from me to you to we.

PastorMcPherson: To honor, yes. Yes, the book is me. Then the second section is you. And the third section is we. Now, in every section it talks about how I can honor. That's really the tread that goes throughout it.

Tana Amen: I really like that.

PastorMcPherson: How we can honor.

Tana Amen: I have a question because this is my own question.

Dr Daniel Amen: And that goes with happiness. People don't know that, that when we're connected, we're happy. When we're disconnected, we're in fear and isolated. When we come back, we're gonna talk about the brain and racism. Stay with us. Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warrior's Way and The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.