Recently, I read two articles about the issue of racism. One was by a black woman who described what took place as she and her family spent an afternoon on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. She shared how “Following the death of George Floyd, tension in the city was running high. Just being around people you didn’t know made you wonder what side they were on, especially white people. Patriotism and racism looked the same. The sight of a Trump sign or an American flag, for that matter, dug into my heart like an offense against my black body, like someone saying, ‘You don’t deserve to be alive'” (startribune.com).
The other article was written by a parent who had decided not to re-enroll their daughter at a private school for the coming year. The reason for this decision was related to how the school viewed racism. He wrote, “I object to a definition of systemic racism . . . that any educational, professional or societal outcome where blacks are underrepresented is prima facie evidence of the aforementioned systemic racism, or of white supremacy and oppression” (yourobserver.com). What followed in the article was now all these matters as they related to his children’s education.
In these two articles, you can see the polar opposite positions regarding the question of racism in America. One sees Americans as racists; the other does not. Is there an answer to these opposite opinions?
If you have ever been involved in counseling a couple through marital problems, you would have realized that the blame rarely lies on one person while the other person is entirely innocent. There are usually contributing factors from both sides of the marriage.
Thus, I believe it is the same with the issue of race. Both sides need to work in positive ways to bring healing to our nation. As I heard one pastor say recently, ‘We need peacemakers, not just peacekeepers.’ Let us look at what could or should be done to heal the wounds in society. However, before we do that, it will help to explain some concepts that are being presented and what they involve.
Racism can be defined in a number of ways, including:
- The belief that one race is superior to all others.
- The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
- Racist doctrine typically seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races.
Racism and Discrimination
It will help if we distinguish the difference between racism and discrimination. Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to others. In contrast, discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or gender.
To sum it up, racism is “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (merriam-webster.com).
Now the ‘extreme left’ differs on the definition of racism. They add ‘equity’ to it. So let us look at equality vs. equity.
Equality relates to opportunity. Equity relates to outcome and ignores competencies. For example, not everyone has the ability to be a major league baseball player, and equity can’t change that.
“Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson blasted the progressive push for racial equity as ‘what we used to call racism.’ ” He goes on to say, ‘Rather than equality of opportunity, equity would mandate equality of outcome…This goal is not only un-American — it is impossible to attain'” (foxnews.com).
“Rather than teach our children that they are victims of a racist system in which they can only be made whole by making people who have done nothing wrong pay for the past sins of others, we should teach them that they are in charge of their own dignity and their own future” (foxnews.com).
CRITICAL RACE THEORY
Critical race concepts going back to the 1960s and 70s were concerned with how “the law and legal institutions serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized.” (britannica.com).
The “‘basic tenets’ of CRT, according to the authors [Richard Delago and Jean Stefancic], include the following claims:
- Race is socially constructed, not biologically natural.
- Racism in the United States is normal, not aberrational: it is the common, ordinary experience of most people of colour.
- Legal advances (or setbacks) for people of colour tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups…
- Members of minority groups periodically undergo “differential racialization,” or the attribution to them of varying sets of negative stereotypes…
- According to the thesis of ‘intersectionality’… no individual can be adequately identified by membership in a single group. An African American person, for example, may also identify as a woman, a lesbian, a feminist, a Christian, and so on” (britannica.com).
John Stonestreet of Breakpoint wrote this about critical race theory: “As a theory, CRT descends from European and North American philosophical traditions, particularly Marxism and Postmodernism. Like these worldviews of its intellectual ancestry, CRT sees the world in terms of power dynamics. In this way of thinking, social evils such as poverty, crime, or oppression result not from universal human frailties but from Euro-Americans intent on securing and increasing their economic and social power” (breakpoint.org).
This leads to all sorts of progressive ideas, such as the idea that everyone should be entitled to a certain amount of money regularly or the move in public schools to declare math as racist.
One might add that initially critical race theory was rooted in Marxism and consequently class warfare, but the ‘extreme left’ has changed it to include racism. They failed to start a class war, so they played the race card.
Now the biblical view is that all people are created equal in value and worth. All are equally loved by their creator, and Christ died for everyone. However, the Bible also teaches that people are gifted in different ways in terms of talent and abilities. Everyone is not equal.
To try and simplify this, CRT is basically related to how society is structured and it is related to who has the power. So, for many today, America’s power has for too long been with what is called “white supremacy.”
RACISM IN THE CHURCH
The church must not simply criticize CRT; it must acknowledge its own issues with race and injustice and how it could be happening within the church.
According to the Barna Group Survey, “29% of black practicing Christians in multiracial congregations say they have experienced racism in church” (christianitytoday.com). That should not be the case. The Christian church has work to do regarding race and prejudice.
RACISM: THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN
Many of you will remember the children’s song:
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
All are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the word.”
Think about the colors mentioned in the song. However, “All humans are actually different shades of brown because of a pigment called melanin… Now, some throw around the word “race” to describe the differences we see in people. But there’s actually only one race, the human race [irrespective of skin color]… The physical differences we see between people such as eye shape or skin shade are very minor differences from a genetic standpoint… because we’re all descendants of sinful Adam and Eve” (charismanews.com)
So, when it comes to the critical race theory, the color of a person’s skin is not the key factor. What is it, then? It is about power.
IS AMERICA A RACIST COUNTRY?
In his response to President Biden’s message to congress, Tim Scott, an African American Republican Senator from North Carolina, caught the attention of many with his statement, “America is not racist” (nypost.com). Subsequently, Vice President Kamala Harris and then President Joe Biden agreed (cnn.com). Tim Scott pointed out that we need to get past original sin (in this case, the sin of slavery going back 400 years) and move on to redemption (nypost.com).
However, there are those who would believe that America (i.e., the people themselves) is not racist, but there are institutions and segments of society that are. Such as the courts, police, educational institutions, etc.
So, what is the answer to it all? Well, but for the grace of God, nothing will change, but let me make some suggestions.
WHAT ‘WHITE’ PEOPLE NEED TO DO
- Acknowledge the sins of the past; that black people through slavery and discrimination have suffered. Watch a movie like Selma. Read a book on slavery. Recognize that though much has changed in society, going back to the days of the Civil War up to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond, terrible things have happened.
- Listen. Seek to understand the views of black Americans. Hear what they have to say and the issues of justice, the police, and the judicial system.
- Repent. We need identificational repentance regarding the sins of the past. See Nehemiah Chapter 1 – Repenting for the sins of our nation.
- Seek. Then seek healing, reconciliation, and redemption for America.
- Pray. Behind all of this are spiritual factors that lie at the heart of it all.
WHAT ‘BLACK’ PEOPLE NEED TO DO
- Acknowledge the good aspects of history. The foundation of American is one incredible feat with a unique constitution that has stood the test of time.
- Listen. Seek to understand white people and how they may reject the concepts of America being racist and white supremacy.
- Forgive. The one word you rarely hear today is “forgive.” There is no hope for redemption without forgiveness for the past and even present sins.
- Seek. Seek healthy reconciliation. There are people who want to see this happen, and it can.
- Pray. As said before, there are spiritual dimensions that require spiritual answers that begin with prayer.
TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
Some people have suggested a truth and reconciliation commission. Twenty-five years ago, in the shadow of apartheid in South Africa, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was made to address generations of racial injustice in that land. Its purpose was “. . . to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation”(justice.gov.za). Unfortunately, it did not solve the problem, and at this time, there is racial tension again, this time over land.
To heal racism requires forgiveness and restitution, not revenge. Many proponents of Critical Race Theory teach that the only way to purge the world of white privilege is to dismantle our institutions and give minorities special privileges. Their unspoken mantra is: ‘Burn it down.’ But this is not the heart of Jesus, who told us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us in the 1960s that violence is never the answer. He preached: ‘He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.’
We can see an example of forgiveness in the aftermath of the shootings in South Carolina. Dan Simmon Jr., son of Rev. Simmons, who was shot in the attack at Mother Emmanual church in Charleston, South Carolina, said to Dylann Roof at the time of his sentencing, “I forgive you. I know you don’t understand that, but God requires me to forgive you. I forgive you. He also requires me to plead and pray for you and I do that.” (abcnews.com)
“America has reached a critical junction: Will we choose the narrow path of Christian love, non-violence, and forgiveness? Or will we embrace the wide road of hatred, division, and woke political theories?” (greenelines.libsyn.com).
Lord, have mercy on us here in America. May we, by your grace, experience your healing power and see reconciliation take place amongst your people.
Thank you , Alan. A much-needed topic, and well researched and presented. A reasoned article.
It is sad that 29% of black Christians have experienced racism in the church. It is also encouraging
that 71% have not.