Our top 5 commonly asked questions on racism. When done, check out part II:
- Does racism still exist? Didn’t we solve that problem in the 1960s?
- I don’t see color. Isn’t that enough?
- Why is there a disconnect between white Americans and Americans of color?
- Is racism an individual or a systemic issue?
- What do critical race theory and intersectionality mean? Are they anti-Christian terms?
1. Does racism still exist? Didn’t we solve that problem in the 1960s?
Sunday to Saturday: Yes, racism absolutely still exists. Depending on where you live, racism may be more implicit (subtle and embedded) than explicit (hateful actions and words). As Christians, we believe we are all sinful people and, because of this racism will never be eliminated.
“Historically, when you define racism, it is usually defined by as something that exists because of the majority group that is in power racializing people and then working to make the circumstances for those people who are the marginalized group difficult because of their race. Racism is historically attached to power and privilege.” Dr. Jarvis Williams. “How Race and Racial Justice Can Become Idolatry – Dr. Jarvis Williams” YouTube, uploaded by VergeNetwork 26 Jul 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r9JURkqbn4
“Race remains both a painful and perplexing reality throughout America. Our nation writhes under its trauma—past and present…The media diagnoses our current racial turmoil as malignant, but the Bible calls it far worse. Racism is rooted more deeply than in our nation’s history. It derives from human depravity and the deadly combination of prejudice and power.” Walter Kim, “The Long Obedience of Racial Justice.” Christianity Today, 10, July 2020, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-web-only/long-obedience-of-racial-justice.html
2. I don’t see color. Isn’t that enough?
Sunday to Saturday: No, colorblindness glosses over and does not recognize the history of people of color in America. In addition, we believe God created all skin tones and therefore to be “colorblind” is to ignore what God created.
“The whole notion of colorblindness essentially tries to wipe away racial differences. That is very unhealthy and harmful. For instance, if someone says to me, and I have heard this many times in my life, ‘Helen, I don’t even see you as Asian.’ and they think that that is a compliment. The actual subtext there is ‘Helen, I see you as white. You’ve managed to assimilate into the larger dominant culture and that is great because I can think of you as one of us.’ And for me who is an Asian person and a Korean American; specifically, that cuts to the core of who I am in terms of my identity. It means you are not seeing the particular way that God has made me.” Helen Lee. “Colorblindness Keeps Us From Seeing the Image of God – Helen Lee” YouTube, uploaded by VergeNetwork, 18 August 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFbnVzdh23A
“Colorblindness is a barrier that prevents us from having hard conversations. it keeps us from the difficult reality of the past, the reality of our country’s history, the reality of the injustices that still exist and pushes us to a happy place that is negating the pain that we still have to work through as the church body.” Helen Lee. “Colorblindness Keeps Us From Seeing the Image of God – Helen Lee” YouTube, uploaded by VergeNetwork, 18 August 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFbnVzdh23A
“It’s best that we raise our kids to see color. There’s a beauty in color and there’s beauty in culture…If we don’t expose our children to different colors and to different races then it will be the same thing as a white kid who becomes an adult who won’t be able to decipher between a black man that is a threat and a black man that is just black.” Emmanuel Acho. “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” YouTube, uploaded by Emmanuel Acho, 17June 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfo1XJDJKSU
“(Colorblindness) is a very toxic and dangerous perspective, but I do understand why people say it. I understand, to some degree, the heart of it. They want to sacrifice diversity for the sake of harmony at times. I don’t think they are doing it intentionally, but that is what it is – you are sacrificing authentic diversity and community for harmony when you talk about colorblindness.” Sho Baraka. “Colorblindness’ Is Lazy and Toxic – Racial Justice Series: Part 8 [A Conversation with Sho Baraka]” YouTube, uploaded by VergeNetwork, 31 May 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aBOs87rGag
“Colorblind theology denies Christ’s power to heal racial divisions, disparities, and injustices by ignoring their ongoing impact. Colorblind theology undermines unity in the church by refusing to acknowledge significant ethnic differences or address significant problems.” Eric Mason, Woke Church, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2018), Kindle edition.
3. Why is there a disconnect between white Americans and Americans of color?
Sunday to Saturday: One of the main reasons is white Americans and American people of color do not have a shared history. This disjointed history affects our relationships daily as white people (the dominant culture) can afford to “ignore” race while people of color cannot.
“The United States of America has a white majority that remembers a history of discovery, opportunity, expansion, and exceptionalism. Meanwhile our communities of color have the lived experiences of stolen lands, broken treaties, slavery, Jim Crowe laws, Indian removal, ethnic cleansing, lynching’s, boarding schools, mass incarceration, and families separated at our borders. Our country does not have a common memory.” Mark Charles, Unsettling Truths, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019), 204-205.
“Perhaps this disparity is the result of pride. I don’t mean the simple, blatant pride of self-aggrandizement, but rather the subtler, self-deceiving pride of hubris, the false confidence of believing we understand what we do not…Do we let our hubris tell us we don’t need to re-examine our history, information sources, or culture? Do we let it convince us we don’t need to listen to accounts that unsettle our assumptions?” Bonnie Kristian, “White, Black and Blue: Christians Disagree Over Policing” Christianity Today, 29 June 2020. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/white-black-and-blue-christians-disagree-over-policing.html
4. Is racism an individual or systemic issue?
Sunday to Saturday: Both. As Christians, we believe sin permeates our hearts and therefore our human-created systems.
“Ladies and gentlemen racism is a two-fold issue. It is a matter of hearts and it is a matter of systems. It is sin in hearts and sin in systems. And the sin in the heart is addressed through personal transformation, the Gospel. The sin in the system is addressed by laws. And both of them are equally important.” Dr. Eric Mason. “S1, E4: Dr. Eric Mason.” The Dharius Daniels Podcast, 2 June 2020, https://open.spotify.com/episode/34kyRydF6mTGQRnoSmznFI
“If people are born in sin and people build a society, that society will be structured in ways that reinforce whatever sins dominate the hearts of those who build it. Therefore, even if many people’s hearts change a few generations later, those structures might still perpetuate the problems associated with that society’s ‘original sins’.” Kelly Hamren, “Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics.” Christianity Today, 3 July 2020. https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/reflections-from-christian-scholar-on-social-justice-critic.html
5. What do critical race theory and intersectionality mean? Are they anti-Christian terms?
Sunday to Saturday: Critical race theory is a tool for scrutinizing enduring racial injustices as it relates to power. The theory believes racism is embedded into societal systems in America. Intersectionality is a way of viewing how one’s various traits of identity (i.e. gender, skin color, etc.) open or close particular doors in relation to power and privilege and how the traits uniquely interact with each other.
No, they are not anti-Christian terms, but they are secular terms and with any human construct we must critically use parts of the tools that are useful while rejecting the other parts.
Critical Race Theory: “Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a theory that seeks to explain the problem of racism, how it’s affected society, and offer various solutions. As with any secular theory, there are parts of CRT that go against orthodox and clear biblical teachings, such as its view of sexuality. As Christians, we are to reject those parts. But there are parts of CRT that we as Christians can and should agree with, such as oppression and racism being major issues within our society.” Lamont English, “Critical Race Theory Is the New Boogeyman for the White Evangelical and Reformed Church” Faithfully Magazine, 4 December 2020. https://faithfullymagazine.com/critical-race-boogeyman/
“All these critical theorists would agree that (CRT) is not a basis for building a theory of justice…All critical theory is more diagnostic then it is basing a substantive theory of justice on…At their best these cultural theorists teach us how to ask good questions, make astute observations, locate voices so it can open space for the work of God in Christ to reconcile, heal, make bodies whole, put into place various reactions and other formations…in other words critical race theory is a useful tool for understanding what is going on in society but it falls short of an actual framework for justice itself.” David Fitch “Episode 434: Critical Race Theory and the Christian with David Fitch.” The Holy Post, 9 December 2020, https://www.holypost.com/post/episode-343-critical-theory-the-christian-with-david-fitch
Intersectionality: “Intersectionality, as I understand, is a way of analyzing the words and analyzing a person’s place in the world by thinking about how various aspects of our identity and social standing actually intersect. I am a man that is one aspect of my identity, but you can’t reduce me to just being a man. I am also an African-American man that has meaning. I am also middle class. I am also a husband and a father. So you begin to layer in parts of my identity in terms of gender, race, class, age and so on…Intersectionality allows you to think about who people are in a particular context and how they stand in relation to others vis-a-vis privilege, power, access, marginalization, oppression and so on. For me, intersectionality is a common sense way of complexifying a person’s existence and thinking about the connections with other aspects of existence. That’s not hard to see Biblically (Acts 16).” Thabiti Anyabwile John MacArthur’s Statement on Social Justice is Aggravating Evangelicals.” Quick to Listen from Christianity Today. 12 September 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/september-web-only/john-macarthur-statement-social-justice-gospel-thabiti.html
More curated resources on racism:
BOOK: Jesus and the Disinherited
When a major cultural event, such as George Floyd’s murder, shifts the focus of a country, it is easy to assume that critiques of the American church and racism are a recent phenomenon. Oftentimes we are simply unaware of prophetic voices from the the past such as Howard Thurman and his quintessential Jesus and the…Read more
BOOK: Reading While Black
White men have had a monopoly on Biblical interpretation in the West and the United States for hundreds of years, and many voices of women and minorities have not been allowed to bring their valuable insight into Biblical analysis. Dr. Esau McCaulley’s Reading While Black is his attempt to add to the canon of black…Read more
PODCAST: Is Critical Race Theory compatible with Christianity? Neil Shenvi & Rasool Berry
Christian apologist Neil Shenvi and pastor of The Bridge Church (Brooklyn, NY) Rasool Berry debate the many definitions of critical race theory – what it is, what it isn’t, the nuances, and the sticking points. Shenvi and Berry role model what is it like to have a conversation with a fellow Christian, but disagree about…Read more