Saturday, November 4, 2017

What is the truth about Racism? Fact, Fiction, Myth, and History

CC 2.0 via Flickr
CC 2.0 via Flickr
Today in our world, as born again followers of Jesus Christ there are no more distinctions between peoples: There are no Jews or Gentiles, free or slave, black or white, Asian or Bostonian, democrat or republican, poor or wealthy, famous or unknown, for we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Distinctions are erased in the fellowship of the church, or at least they ought to be.  Are we living that out in our modern day and age?  Or are we struggling and failing to adequately stand as a united church of much diversity, yet infinite unity? 

Today we address the issue of racism.  Racism is unfounded hatred, bigotry, and intolerance toward one group from another, or from one individual to another.  

There are two sides to this argument, with many in-between positions as well.  And we'll be addressing the United States primarily.  One side indicates that racism is a thing of the past.  Racism is a sad fact of previous American life, but it is no longer a clear reality, but something America has put behind itself. Racism was dealt with and defeated in the 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights movements.  Racism is an evil of the past, and we've moved beyond it.  That is their position.

The other position is this: Racism is alive and well in America, if not stronger than it's been in the past.  They believe that racism has "gone underground" after the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and that hatred, white supremacy, white privilege, and other evils of racism are constant in America.  They would say America is fundamentally a place of racism, sexism, and bigotry. Some would even say that all people are racist, no matter what, aside from minority groups.   

Now, I don't want to fall into the fallacy of the false middle point. The truth is not necessary the middle point between these two positions.  

Part of my training right now includes classes that discuss among other topics, issues like multi-ethnic and multi-cultural emphasis in ministry, and addressing racism and bigotry.  And it's spurred me to research this topic more, and try to understand the ramifications. 

I would tend to fall closer to the camp that believes racism is a thing of the past. Though I would affirm that racism does still exist in America.  And I believe we need to address it when we can, and make sure racism has no place in our churches and ministries, or in our government or institutions.  

But I would add that I'm uncomfortable with things like affirmative action, trigger warnings, multiculturalism (in the context of intentionally dividing up cultures and keeping them separate in America), cultural appropriation, and concepts like "institutional racism" and "white privilege."  And I also struggle with the idea that absolutely every church must look exactly demographically like the neighborhood it serves.  There's no reason to think that must always be the case.  But I think it is wise to look to expand outreach to different people groups.  This is a common practice for missionaries to foreign lands, they look to target a people group, and help bring them to know Jesus Christ.

The gospel crosses all cultures, all colors, all people groups, and all languages.  And it will.  The Holy Spirit makes sure of this.  The gospel will reach all peoples, everywhere, and we should do our best to help guide and facilitate that process.

Racism and bigotry has no place in the body of Christ.  None.  There is no room for racism or bigotry in the church.  It has no place in a body that has left behind distinctions of race, class, gender, and ethnicity.  All are to be regarded as equal.  And if racism exists in our heart or mind, we ought to fight tooth and nail, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to see it rooted out, root and branch, completely.  There is no room for it.  And your love is desperately needed, for the lost of this world, of all peoples and classes and types.  Plain and simple.  

That said, let's look at some of the topics surrounding this debate regarding racism.  First of all we'll take a look at the concept of white privilege.  White privilege is the concept that all white people have an inherent privilege in the United States.  I think this concept is total garbage, and unsupported by facts and evidence.  White privilege is a highly political term, supported and propagated by the left in humanities departments on college campuses.  So it's surprising to me that I'm hearing it being taught in classrooms as undisputed fact. 

There is a great deal of debate about white privilege. So we should be skeptical about this concept.  Do white people really have an inherent privilege in western society?  I don't believe this is the case.  

The American society is a "meritocracy" which means people rise and fall in the economic and social system based on ability, and based on how hard they are willing to work.  Now it's fair to say that some have been unfairly treated in this system.  But this is the fundamental system of America, that it doesn't matter who your father is, if your royalty, if your just a common peasant or a rich woman, you ought to be able to rise or fall based on the wisdom of your choices and your willingness to work hard.  

In the past has this system been heavily impeded by backwards laws that mistreated women and minorities?  Yes.  Do those abuses continue in some cases?  The answer is yes.  Is that OK?  Absolutely not.  We should seek to prevent these abuses if at all possible.  But the system is not inherently biased, racist, bigoted, sexist, or evil.  The system is inherently based on merit, though individuals sometimes muck that up.  And that's why we have laws that protect the sacred American concept of equality of opportunity.

So do all white people have a "white privilege" in our society?  Some scholars believe this is so.  Other scholars, academics, and commentators like lawyer, political commentator, and orthodox Jewish speaker Ben Shapiro, a child prodigy, and graduate suma cum laude of UCLA. Additionally, the renowned economist and social theorist Professor Thomas Sowell, an African-American, and graduate of Columbia University and the University of Chicago.  Additionally, he is a current senior fellow of the Hoover Institute of Stanford University.  Additional important cultural, academic, and political leaders in the United States who reject the concept of white privilege include: Milton Friedman (famed economist and Nobel prize winner), Robert George (legal scholar and political philosopher who holds the McCormick chair of Jurisprudence at Princeton University), Christina Hoff Summers (Feminist cultural commentator and author), Dr. Carol Swain (African-American political scientist, author of six books, & former professor of law at Vanderbilt University), Dennis Prager (conservative Jewish political and cultural commentator), Larry Elder (African-American talk show host), Lauren Southern (Canadian political commentator), Jay Fayza (political commentator) and many others.   
Let's look at some statistics. If white privilege is a truism, then one would assume that Caucasian people as a group must have the highest median income in the country right?  Actually that isn't true.  Asian Americans have the highest average median income.  Is this a case of Asian privilege?  Of course not.  

Additionally Asian Americans do better in school, perform better on IQ tests, and according to the Federal Reserve Asian Americans will soon surpass Caucasians as the wealthiest ethnicity in the United States. 

In addition, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Caucasian men make up 7 out of 10 suicides in the country, double the rate of African-Americans.  Only 3 out of 10 Americans are white men, so why the higher rate?  Is this the result of white privilege?  Of course not.  Because white privilege is not based in reality.  (Source: Article). 

There is a sort of privilege that does exist though:  It's the privilege of being in a two parents home/relationship.  If you are raised by a married father and mother, your more privileged than anyone else in American society, and it doesn't matter what ethnicity you are. The poverty rate among married black married families is a mere 7% (Source: Article).  

Additionally, according to a 2013 study by the Brookings Institute "white privilege" is not statistically factual and any person of any ethnic group can join the middle class by adhering to the three following rules: “at least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.” (Source: The Brookings Institute Study). 

According to Western Journalism (2017) "The Brookings Institute referenced its findings, which revealed that nearly 75 percent of American adults who followed those three rules became part of the middle class (defined at the time as earning approximately $55,000 or more per year), and only about 2 percent ended up in poverty." (Source: Article).

It seems that the only privilege that exists in American society is the privilege of making good decisions in regard to education, work, and marriage.
 
Next, what about the concept of systemic institutional racism: Are Americans civic, legal, and government institutions systemically racist, with racism "built into their DNA" as former president Barack Obama said about the United States several years ago.

According to a July 2016 Harvard study that analyzed 1,332 police shootings over a 2000-2015 time frame, the facts showed that blacks are actually 20 percent less likely to be shot at by police than whites (Source: Harvard Study).

This data was corroborated by a study at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice which showed that whites are actually 1.3 percent more likely to die at the hands of police than blacks (Source: Washington Times). 

This article shares seven facts that dispute the concept of institutional racism: 7 Statistics. When considering statistics, the concept of institutional racism should be viewed with skepticism. 

It's important to continue to look at these issues, and continue to learn and study.  But we must base our conclusions on fact and evidence, not feelings and racial identity politics.  It's frustrating when people throw around terms like "racism" and "white privilege" without proper evidence.  And it's very ugly, and evil, when people call someone "racist" without any evidence of actual racism.  Racism is a real problem in the world, and when it's used for political reasons, it cheapens the suffering of those who have struggled with real racism in the past.  But racism didn't go underground in the 1950s and 1960s.  And America is not a fundamentally racist country.  Those statements are not simply not based in fact.  They are based on false assumptions and partisan politics.  

In conclusion, we've looked at some statistics, but we should continue to examine these issues, pray, study the scriptures, and ensure that racism is made a thing of the past in the church first, and in society in general as well.  

Can racism be fully defeated in our time?  Probably not.  The world struggles in sin, and racism is a sin.  But the fact that sin persists on Earth does not mean that we can't make significant progress in building a better society.  

Racism has no place in the body of Christ or in civilization overall.  We should continue to address this issue, pray against racism, and work to make sure our churches reflect the communities in which we serve.  How can we reach out to various people groups and races and serve those in need without discrimination?  It's an important question, and we should continue to wrestle with it and be intentional about our efforts to glorify Christ by serving all peoples without hatred, racism, or discrimination.  

Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

References
Bois, P. (2017, September 20). This 'White Privilege Checklist' For Students Is EVERYTHING. Retrieved from http://www.dailywire.com/news/21339/white-privilege-checklist-everything-paul-bois#
Cohen, G. (2017, July 28). Watch: Ben Shapiro, Adam Carolla Spar with Dem Congresswoman Over 'White Privilege'. Retrieved from https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/gage-cohen/watch-ben-shapiro-adam-carolla-spar-dem-congresswoman-over-white-privilege
Haskins, R. (2016, July 28). Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-should-follow-to-join-the-middle-class/
Mastaler, T. (2017, September 22). Mike Huckabee: I Can Prove "White Privilege" Is A Myth. Retrieved from https://www.westernjournalism.com/mike-huckabee-debunks-white-privilege-myth/
Prager, D. (2016, February 16). The Fallacy of 'White Privilege'. Retrieved from http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431393/white-privilege-myth-reality
Richardson, V. (2015, April 21). Police kill more whites than blacks, but minority deaths generate more outrage. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/apr/21/police-kill-more-whites-than-blacks-but-minority-d/



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