3 Words That Could Cripple The Race Crisis
There is something strange about the Charlottesville incident. It’s not as if any of this caught us by surprise. The alt right has been growing. The Klan has been moving from behind the masks and into the mainstream. Donald Trump has never made a mistake that he’d admit. But something about the Charlottesville incident just seems different.
- Perhaps it’s because it shattered our stereotypes about the face of extreme racism. They were younger, wealthier, and more educated than many realized.
- Perhaps it’s because the hatred was so aggressive and transparent. So unwilling to hide.
- Certainly, it’s because a young life was lost.
To me it feels a bit like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day. Every day that the alarm clock rings on race in this country, we seem to jump out of the same side of the bed, relive the same old scripts, and fight the same old battles.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This is a blog, not a Bible. But I am convinced that there are 3 words that could cripple the race problem. What are the 3 Words?
Christians With Courage
I didn’t say cure the race problem, I said cripple it. In other words, there are some problems that defy easy answers and quick fixes. At times, we forget how recent our sordid slave history in America actually is. The Emancipation Proclamation was just 154 years ago and it took an additional 2 years before Texas got the message and freed the last slaves…and it seems like they’ve been trying to get them back ever since.
But I’m the eternal optimist and I think Christians can do what no statehouse can ever do. But it will take courage. A particular kind of courage.
Courage to admit you’re living in a glass house
The church can ill afford to throw stones about race. The only group that came close to the Klan’s support for Trump and his “make America great again” campaign were White evangelical Christians. They supported him at the rate of 81%. Given the racial divide on both sides of the Trump campaign and presidency, the church walked headlong into a racial buzz saw.
As Adventists, we need to clean our own house. We are a remnant with a race problem. We have never addressed racism on an appropriate scale or in the appropriate forum. It’s negatively impacting our structure, it’s the elephant in the room in Christian education, and it’s hindering our mission.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about E.E. Cleveland and his amazing contributions to the Adventist church. I didn’t write about his lifelong struggle with the church to address its unfairness to minorities. Even the meeting he did in Trinidad, which stands today as the first Adventist campaign to baptize 1000, was marred by racism.
I was reminded me that Dr. Cleveland was actually sent to the island as punishment. The brethren switched his assignment from Jamaica to Trinidad, an island that was heavily Catholic. The idea was that he could have no real success there, but God had another idea. He always does. Have things improved? Certainly. But we have a way to go. And God can’t fix a problem that we won’t face.
Courage to confront the man in the mirror
Peter was a courageous disciple of Christ, but Acts 10 revealed that he had a race problem. That’s not surprising. We are all works in progress and dealing with racism is hard work. But it starts with the man in the mirror. What are your feelings about “others?” Better yet, what are your actions toward “others?”
At times a clearer referendum on your racial attitudes is who you listen to, agree with, and disagree with. When I lived in Southern California, a friend of mine sounded more like Rush Limbaugh than Rush Limbaugh, because that’s all he listened to. Whether you are a Limbaugh devotee or not, you must admit that he’s an extremely polarizing figure in the area of race. So, what does your fascination with Limbaugh or any other flame thrower say about you and the race issue?
Courage to say something if you see something
The reason the Klan and Neo-Nazis are so comfortable in public is because they are not being challenged in private. What do you say to the racism you hear in private? Nothing throws cold water on a racist joke quicker than dead silence. How many of those tiki- torch bearing young men in Virginia could have been diverted if a courageous Christian friend had confronted them in private.
I cringe at the thought of how many times I’ve been silent in the face of evil and I’m not alone. Racism has to be confronted and corrected in the context of relationships for it to be effective.
Courage to stop blaming the victim
Perhaps Donald Trump’s greatest mistake in speaking to the Virginia tragedy was his “many sides” remark. “There were good and bad people on both sides”, he said. It’s a false equivalence- describing a situation as if there is a logical equivalence on both sides of an issue, when there is none.
Even if you accept Trump’s statement that there was “bad” on both sides, the sheer numbers and degree of evil on the right was far greater. Not to mention the fact that they were “bad” enough to take an innocent girls life. It allows the President to criticize the alt right and avoids alienating some in his base -but it blames the victim.
Racism in the United States has been a blight on the soul and psyche of this nation. It has infected blacks and whites alike- but not to the same degree. By any objective and reasonable measure, the negative impact of racism has been far greater on people of color, particularly black people. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, redlining in housing, discrimination in college admission, and a list of other evils have unequally impacted black people.
And the negative impact of racism continues to this day. Recently the Corporation for Enterprise Development released a study that showed it would take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth that white families have today. The argument that racism is an equal opportunity offender is a lie that stalls honest discussion.
Even in the church there are those who never miss an opportunity to remind black people that they must deal with racism in their own ranks. I accept that. But it you lead with that, or if you don’t accept the reality that one side has been damaged more and is in greater need of resources, the discussion is dishonest.
Courage to vote
I didn’t plan to but I’ll throw this in.
I woke up this morning to Donald Trump twitter bombing his critics and doubling down on his earlier statements about the Virginia tragedy. Now he’s arguing that the,” culture of our great country is being ripped apart by the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” Confederate monuments. Whether you agree with him or not, you must agree that statements like these and others are terrible for race relations.
Listen, I believe in the sovereignty of God. He has worked out his will in seasons far worse than this. The tweets of Trump are nothing like the madness of Nero and others and we’re instructed to pray for them all. But you don’t just get the government you pray for; you get the government you vote for.