Have we lost the “Dream…”?

In the past two years, three, at least three major incidents have revealed that we have deep racial divides in our country.

Last year, the Duke Lacrosse Case struck close to home for me. I attend church in Durham and have spent some time walking the inner-city by the church building. Though the case turned out to be a debacle, people who picked sides were hurt.

This past July, it was revealed that Michael Vick had been involved in a dog-fighting ring. As a well-written article by Wright Thompson states (found here), people have picked sides on this issue over race. Disappointingly, Vick admitted his own guilt; how did that make people feel? This issue is still being debated.

And currently, “Free Jena 6” is pasted on the front of the latest USAToday (Marisol Bello has extended coverage of the issue, found here; find a reaction to the media coverage here; another post on the events here; follow this page for greater detail here; an alternative local perspective here). Racial injustice is still being perceived throughout our nation and the stirrings that have followed are mere symptoms of a deeper issue within people’s hearts. However, there is nothing inherently racist about the cases themselves (except most likely the Jena 6 case). But when there is any hint of injustice in a legal case against a person with black skin, it pulls the scab off an old, festering wound that just won’t heal. Division is the result.

White people, generally speaking, usually come down on the side of the law, saying we are just upholding lawful standards without bias. Most white people would say that the blacks are being too sensitive and playing the “race card;” perhaps interpreting the uproar as a “will to power” move.

Black people, from my limited perspective, generally see the prosecution of the law as being biased, not necessarily against black people, but unfairly in favor of white people. In the lacrosse case, until the corruption of Mike Nifong was realized, people viewed the players as white rich kids with slick, fancy lawyers. Their ability to manipulate the law rested in their socioeconomic status. Fortunately, Nifong was found a liar; unfortunately, Durham was left SOL. With Michael Vick, it was a little bit different, viewed more as a rush to judgment of a high-profile black male. The media was accused as the perpetrator of an “electronic lynching.” When it comes to the Jena 6, though may have committed a crime, they were unjustly prosecuted as adults while the white kids who, in my opinion, committed a murderous act (what else does a noose communicate) go free of any charge, not even expelled. As Bello put it:

Black parents were outraged by the symbolism, recalling the mob lynchings of black men. They complained to school officials. District superintendent Roy Breithaupt and the school board gave three-day suspensions to the white students who hung the nooses, overruling the recommendation of then-principal Scott Windham that the students be expelled.

White people don’t understand black people on these issues. Black people (rightly) interpret white indifference as racism. My question, will the way these issues are handled lead to brotherhood or increased division?

Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream (hear it, watch it ,or read it here). I, though being White, think his dream was honorable, just, loving, and right. And being White, I sympathize with his dream and long to see it fulfilled. Because, namely, he did not see two different dreams for America, one White and one Black, but one dream symbiotically fused together:

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

He advocated nonviolent resistance because it was the moral high ground and he knew that no reconciliation was possible through the means of violence. Through the moral high ground, he could “convert” the white taskmasters. And we NEEDED conversion. It is not enough to be “separate but equal” but to be unified!!

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

Can you feel his desire for reconciliation? It is not enough that the law see us equal–The law has seen us equal since 1964. It is not enough that the law be prosecuted equally–LORD, May this day come! Yes, “Enough is enough!” as they cry for the Jena 6, but let us not settle for anything less than social unity. Justice is one step in that direction, but it is not an end in itself. Though we have legal equality (even as inequalities persist), we need social, ultimately, spiritual unity.

Why cannot White people join the marches in Jena? Why is it that the white people supported Vick only because he was an athlete without understanding the cries of injustice (though found to be justified)? Why did not white people understand the issues in the Lacrosse case?

It is not just about who was right, or wrong! When these issues flare up, it brings up deep wounds. The Civil Rights Act, though very important for establishing Constitutional freedoms, was only a government enforced band-aid on the gaping hole in racial harmony. Law never creates healing.

How, then, can we move forward bridging the gap?

First, I firmly believe, the only hope for racial reconciliation is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Even though many Christians in the past erroneously supported slavery (many also opposed it), the true gospel is the only way to overcome our divisions. If the above scripture is true, then Dr. King’s dream is possible. And I want that dream.

Second, white people must repent. Whites were the oppressors, they still, largely, hold the positions of higher socio-economic status, they hold the keys, so to speak, of reconciliation. Unless white people humble themselves and initiate reconciliation, I believe it is almost impossible to acheive. I do not mean to reach out in pity or to expect them to do things the way white people do (f0r there are very good differences that each can learn from the other). I mean genuine humility. Seeking to understand African Americans for who they are, as God’s creatures, created in His image (yes, something about them being black reflects his image), created for the purpose of bringing Him glory and humbling yourself, asking God to reveal any hatred (intentional or culturally ingrained) you might have, and confessing that publically to them and repenting of it. White people must take the initiative on this. And not in a general way, but personally in one on one situations. It is arrogant, and wrong-headed, to expect black people to initiate this. (They may if they choose, but what have they done?).

Third, let me humbly state (correct me here) that black people have to cast off fear. Fear is the enemy of love. I can understand why there are feelings of fear, but the end of these feelings is bitterness, distrust, insensitivity, unwillingness to accept genuine repentance, hatred, etc. I can testify to two incidents in my life that were wrongly interpreted as racists that were the direct result of fear of my white skin. Those hurting friends weren’t fearful as in a phobia, or fearful as in timid, but their fear was manifested in their angry accusations and unreasonable behavior towards me. I wrote them both apologetic letters of encouragement after the fact that our conflict was not the result of race. I believe they feared me. But scripture clearly teaches us that:

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit ofadoption as sons, by whom we cry,”Abba! Father!”

Colossian 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.

Ironically, fear is another form of slavery! But freedom is found in love. Trust in the one who has purchased your freedom from fear of death–Jesus.

Finally, the church has to strive for racial harmony. I am a Southern Bapist, from a convention formed, yes for missions, but ultimately over the relationship of slaveholding to missionary appointments. Though racism permeates white culture, North, South, East, West, the racial divide is not seen more clearly than in the lands most Southern Baptist churches finds themselves. How is it that 29% of the population of South Carolina is black, 21% of NC, 30% of Georgia, etc., and most SBC Churches are paler than fresh snow? Dr. King was right when he said “Eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.” He cared for the church and he sought to see Christian brothers and sisters united. White churches would do well to listen and seek reconciliation. The gospel is at stake. Don’t let the HUP (Homogenous Unit Principle) justify your apathy or alleviate your responsibility. It does not. For one thing, you will find nothing of it in the Bible at all. It is a missiological principle for the sole purpose of reaching people within their own cultural context. It does not have any role in defining the nature of the church. On the contrary, the gospel, which gives the church its meaning and purpose, is ultimately opposed to the divisiveness of the principle. The gospel unites brothers, it does not divide them (it only divides unbelievers). We cannot practice church according to this principle. The credibility of the gospel is at stake! We will not see revival in our churches until we repent of this sin! The battle is raging in the world and we cannot sit by silently. Our silence betrays our level of concern for our suffering black brethren.

White brothers, will you repent and seek reconciliation?

Black brothers, will you humbly and lovingly accept our repentance?

Church, will you seek racial harmony for the sake of the gospel?

Will we (black and white) recapture the dream?

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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40 Comments

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  1. Having grown up in Apartheid South Africa and having seen the post-Apartheid South Africa can only echo what you are saying. As I’ve often said: Apartheid is dead. Long live racism! One can stop unjust laws, but only the Spirit can free one of racism.

  2. Blacks behave badly and too much time is spent making excuses. We don’t lose sleep over whites who behave badly. There’s no marches for Robert Blake, Phil Spector, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the rest. But when blacks misbehave too many people bend over backwards to make their bad behaviors the fault of white racism. It’s a joke. The liberals are like Ahab in his search for the whale. Brutal black on black and black on white crimes happen every day. But when the rare white on black crime occurs–and in facdt that’s not even the case here–the media and the civil rights hustlers go into overdrive.

    Blacks should apologize to whites for their toxic culture and their primitive, tribal way of life that endangers them and us equally.

  3. The Spirit, or government intervention.

  4. Arnau, I have several friends from South Africa, and I appreciate your perspective. Only God’s Spirit can overcome the deep issues of the heart.

    I have grown up in an era in America without any direct experience of the struggle for equal rights. All people, except illegal immigrants, are legally equal in America even as these events transpire. But racism plagues us. Oh that we would be free from our slavery to hate and fear! That is my cry. And I believe that when that freedom comes, something will happen in America that hasn’t happened in 150 years, National Revival.

  5. Hey Chris…

    New-G <—*Grabs banana, tribally swings from tree*

    Oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah!

    You mean like that right?

  6. Chris,

    You said,

    Blacks should apologize to whites for their toxic culture and their primitive, tribal way of life that endangers them and us equally.

    What???

    I think this statement has mortally damaged your credibility. Also, I think you misunderstand the whole point. The only reason why these issues have become nationwide incidents is because white people do not understand the pain we have inflicted on the black culture. We have to move beyond the black/white issue. Both Caucasians and African Americans have to move past it. It is only possible through gospel of Jesus.

    Furthermore, and much more importantly, you will be held accountable to God for the hatred that lies behind this statement.

    BUT…Even you can be free! Look beyond the issue to the hope we have as God’s creatures. He not only created us, he designed us to be his worshippers. Even though we became worshippers of ourselves instead, violent breakers of his just law, he freed us from death row by paying the penalty we owed as law breakers–he was executed in our place. He will set us free from his final judgment if we would place our allegiance, commit our lives by faith, in Jesus. Jesus declared his kingdom through miraculous healings, unifying all races through the ministry of his apostles. Trust him today!

  7. thenewg,

    please read previous comment to Chris.

    Also, government intervention can never solve the deeper issue. That is the whole point!

  8. I don’t think it’s racist to say: hey this group of people behaves worse, their leaders make excuses, and I don’t accept this as an equally valid or desirable thing. I’m not saying they’re doing it “because they’re black,” I’m saying they’re doing it for whatever reason and that I don’t think it’s tolerable for them or for us. Now is this everyone, no. But just as rape and domestic violence is mostly men, black crime is an order of magnitude (9.8 times to be exact) higher than whites. And while I don’t have a stat, let’s just say black leaders have an amazing ability to turn to the perpetrators here of a six on one brutal beatdown into the victims.

    There’s a principle at work here that is pervasive in the media: The worse blacks behave, the more their misbehavior will be attributed to the alleged scourge of white racism.

  9. Chris, your first comment was laden with racism, as thenewg noted as well. And, I think you are oversimplifying the issue and not realizing the deep root of the problem.

    Did these guys commit a shameless act? Yes. Even if it were only a schoolyard brawl, they dishonorably outnumbered a fellow student and beat him down. But this incident is a mere symptom of deeper issues. I suggest you read Wright Thompson’s article I linked to in my post over the situation in Atlanta.

    My goal here is not to attack behavior or really to comment on specific issues, but to ask us to think about how we resolve them.

    Indubitably, there is unresolved hate, fear, and anger on both sides. And as long as we’re picking sides, the wounds will never heal but become deeper and may become gangreneous in our culture.

    We need reconciliation, which overall has never happened. The reason why it has never happened is because we are relying on law and government to resolve it. A judge can only say what he or she believes is lawful or not, but cannot force the plaintiff to forgive the defendent or force the defendent to repent. And what happens when there are unjust laws? I’ll repeat it, law can never heal. No matter how just the law becomes, pain abounds because of our history. We have a history of injustice that has been restored to justice legislatively (for the most part), but has never been restored socially.

    I suggest it will never be so until the race who has historically persecuted the other repents of that history and becomes introspective to see where traces of that history exists in their hearts.

    I am asking us to look deeper, beyond the issues in Durham, Atlanta, Jena, with Imus, etc., so that we can rightfully handle the situations so named. As long as we see black on white or whatever, we will never understand the root of the problem–our sin, past and present.

  10. The following is a copy of an email I sent to Wright Thompson regarding his article (sadly he never responded):

    Dear Mr. Thompson,

    Thank you for the touching article about Michael Vick, though really about race relations in Atlanta and the submerged racism of the South. I am white. I can’t change that, born that way, sadly with a lot of bad history in this country. Fortunately, I grew up decades after the desegregation debacle in America (meaning I disdain the racism of my forefathers). However, one of the deep-seated consequences of government enforced Civil Rights has been the subversion of racism. Whereas before the Civil Rights movement, racist acts were external and violent, (I am glad these acts can now be justly punished), after the movement, racism has been submerged and lies not dormant but festering in White American sub-culture. This is a generalization to be sure, but tragic nonetheless. I think, as your article suggests, the conflict over the Vick case result from a Huntingtonian (see Clash of Civilizations) fault line between American subcultures—Southern White and Southern Black. Unfortunately, the race issue may prevent justice in the case. Certainly, Michael Vick deserves due process and is innocent until proven guilty. But this it true because he is a human being, fortunately an American citizen, not because he is black or white. The vacuum of justice towards individuals with dark skin is a situation that needs rectification in this country. However, cases such as the Duke Lacrosse case, and now with Michael Vick, have been used to create a further divide, not bringing people together. Already, people are picking sides based on race. He is not an evil dog-fighter because he is Black, and hopefully, the Justice Department is not rushing to judgment because he is non-White. At least this shouldn’t be the case. I am glad that we can be aware of our prejudices and can critically analyze our justice system—he should not be treated unjustly. But we need voices in America that unite in such circumstances, not divide. Is this possible? I hope so.

    Take the Duke case, for example. Just suppose those guys were guilty, they would have committed an atrocious, racist act. Even so, this did not have to be a race issue for Durham. Those guys were students from up North somewhere. There were no White Durhamites supporting their cause. No one in the Durham DA’s office was supporting them, just the opposite. Nifong was playing the race card to be re-elected in a city where African-Americans are no small minority. Race politics caused the divide. The fact that they were declared innocent, and Nifong disbarred, made the situation even worse. I can imagine that those who rose in defense of the accused feel betrayed, and even those who may have prejudged her based on her race feel justified.

    Could this be the case with Michael Vick’s troubles? Are there anyways we can approach this issue with unity between races? Is anyone asking that question? I mean, if Vick is convicted, will the White people be right, or if he is acquitted, will the Black people have triumphed? If that is the mentality, I say both have lost, and future victory is probably forever out of sight.

  11. Wes,

    Again, we’ve talked about this. I do not think it can be an issue that is resolved in the way you say. First, because there are wounds on both sides. There have been some who have been hurt by racial slurs, events and crimes that have come from blacks towards whites.

    On the other hand, it should be addressed that white’s need to change the way that they think about the race issue, and in that regard, I agree with you.

    Again, maybe we should be asking the question about the race relations in say, Great Britain. Do they have the same problems?

    What about South Africa? What are some examples that we can find from Church History, or Missions History related to this to learn from. Are there any biblical standards we can follow?

    What about Piper’s work with race relations?

    Etc., etc.,

    I think we may need to delve into these things a little deeper before we give such an answer as you have above. Remember, you and I both came from different backgrounds, and my experience in Elementary school and junior high were different than yours. What is it that made the “black” community and the “white” community different in both cases?

    We must do research and back up our ideas. Correct?

    Dougald

  12. Racism equals saying anything critical of blacks or that they disagree with.

    Racism used to mean irrational hatred or belief in the inferiority of another race. Now it means the failure to ignore reality when the same reality points to something negative about a group. Give me a break. Go do some reading on black crime and quit making these worthless criminals your latest cause celebre. Blame the system all you want, crooks are crooks. Just ask the four-times-arrested Rodney King.

  13. Dougald,

    I am not ignoring the fact that there are wounds on both sides. I am advocating a way beyond those wounds. If we focus on the wounds rather than the cure, we lose.

    You said,

    I do not think it can be an issue that is resolved in the way you say.

    What is your alternative? Inaction and silence is no longer an option for me.

    You also said,

    I think we may need to delve into these things a little deeper before we give such an answer as you have above.

    Of course we must do research and back up our ideas,but I think scripture is clear about the attitude we must have here. So action is what is called for, obedience to scripture is what we need.

    I think in our cultural context, things are very different from Britain and South Africa. Though we can learn from them, I think we need to act in love now!

    That is what I say, and I stick to it. As we are acting, we may research and see how others have done it. But we cannot continue in our state until we find out. Let us not fall prey to sequential thinking here.

    I know you have something to contribute, but don’t let your past experiences keep you from this. “Why not be defrauded?” We must keep this attitude. I think this is bigger than you or I, as Dr. Davis said, it’s about the gospel.

  14. Wes,

    I agree, but what do you mean by, “Why not be defrauded?” Defrauded of what?

    So, you bring up our cultural context. What is our cultural context? I suggested some from the book review on C-Span the other day, but you didn’t accept what some of the “black” authors had said.

    Again, the cultural context for both of us is important because it makes up the larger cultural context. Therefore, we must learn why where I grew up the racial tension was low and then was high where I went to high school.

    Then, we must give our answer. I do not give an answer to the problem because I have not researched myself enough. Thus, I do not wish to jump the gun.

    One cannot profit a thesis without first testing a hypothesis.

    That, more than anything else is why I oppose your answer at this juncture. I think you are being very “Wesley” focused in your experience and not listening to others like myself, or the other people from the C-Span book whaterver it was called.

    Second, we must also listen to rational people who have thought threw the issue on both sides. Bubba who waves the confederate flag when he sees black people is not a source of information for me. Neither is the black man who constantly thinks the white man is keeping him down.

    I am urging you to open up your narrow view from your own experience and see how others have worked through this.

    As to your exegesis, I would spend more time there, you have yet to support your case for me to apologize for wrongs that I did not commit…in a non-substitutionary way. 🙂

    Having a good discussion with all of this…I am not meaning to demean your argument here.

    Through Christ,
    Dougald

  15. Chris,
    The point is not the Jena 6, its the reaction. Its what is being communicated here, there are deep unresolved issues. Try to understand why there is a reaction. Two years ago, I myself thought, why are people rallying behind such characters? So I asked myself and thought hard about it. The problem is not regarding law, it is regarding society. Who would defend a criminal? Its not about Mychal Bell or Jesse Jackson or Michael Vick or what-have-you. Its about why white folks tend to defend the law and point to statistics while black people are sensitive to racial injustice and stand together for an individual even if he is most likely guilty (like OJ or Vick or even Bell). We don’t understand each other because our cultures have never been reconciled after years of tension.

    The way we have become accustomed to dealing with this issue further broadens the divide. I am asking if there is another way.

  16. Dougald,

    You make me sad, really.

    I am not ingoring your position, or the position of those authors you pointed out to me earlier. I think we had a misunderstanding there anyway, right?

    Also, this is not an academic thesis. Sorry, this is a life decision. As such, these hypotheses have to be tested in the real world, not in the books. Books have a place here, but in service of action.

  17. Wes,

    http://9marks.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2359832,00.html

    Sorry, I’m not good with links. But, its by D.A. Carson.

  18. Dougald,

    Thanks for the link.

    Carson states,

    Once again if we are interested in integrated local Christian churches, it is high time that we recognize that the challenge extends beyond the black/white divide and that the attitudinal problems are on both sides of most divides.

    I understand what he is saying, but I don’t think white folks should go around expecting black folks to admit it. I fundamentally agree that for it to eventually work, both sides have to humble themselves. But we should never expect them to confess before us. Its arrogant and furthers the feeling of superior/inferior in the issue. In other words, I don’t think he has laid out all the steps toward recovery, only the final step. My view is the first step.

    And to respond to you,

    you have yet to support your case for me to apologize for wrongs that I did not commit…in a non-substitutionary way

    I am not asking you to be the federal head of all white people, or anyone else for that matter. We can only genuinely repent of our own sins. But our forefathers most likely did not repent, and, ultimately, it is the sins of our forefathers that still separate us. I am asking us to be sensitive to that and to humble ourselves before our black brethren. I think if we do, we will see some great things happen.

    Finally,

    Dougald, I was a little offended by your accusations of having not done research or responding narrowly or ignoring your or others viewpoints. I’m not trying to argue with you, I wrote my blog without referring to you at all. This is not a battle to see who wins.

  19. Here’s another quote from Carson that supports what I am saying:

    I doubt that we shall improve much in Christian circles until the parties with the most power reflect a lot more than in the past on matters of justice, and the parties most victimized reflect a lot more than in the past on forgiveness.[10] Perhaps the former need to get down on their knees and read Amos; the latter need to get down on their knees and read 1 Peter. All of us need to return to the cross. For the cross teaches us that if all we ask for is justice, we are all damned; it teaches us that God himself is passionately interested in forgiveness and its price. That is why we cannot expect such responses from large swaths of the secular society, whose categories for redressing social evils, real and perceived, lie elsewhere. Among Christians to expect anything less is to betray the faith.

  20. I forgot to add the footnote [10]:

    10-One of the most moving stories I know in this regard is the account of Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old African-American girl who in 1960 for an entire academic year was protected when she entered and exited a white school after court-ordered integration. Under pressure from the jeering white adults who screamed hate-filled abuse at her every day, she was observed one day to be talking—her lips were moving. “I wasn’t talking to them,” she explained. “I was praying for them.” The story has been told many times (see her own account at http://www.rubybridges.org/story). “Usually I prayed in the car on the way to school, but that day I’d forgotten until I was in the crowd. Please be with me, I’d asked God, and be with those people too. Forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing.” Ruby’s account faithfully reflects on the hatred and fear of people, both black and white, who wanted the Bridges to stop their action; and on the help they received, from both black and white, and not least from her white teacher, Mrs. Barbara Henry, who poured herself into her one first-year pupil, Ruby, all that year and who was let go by the school at the end of that year.

  21. Here’s a link to a post from a black pastor followed by an interesting discussion.

    The Jena Six

  22. Another link from one of our black brothers:

    The Jena Six Issue

  23. Wow! I love to see extemsive discussion on such an important topic! And I appreciate the various points of view.

    Wes, I love you for caring about unity in Christ that does, by its very definition, overcome racial division. Before Scott Markley took his Pastorate (?) in Florida, I made sure to tell him of my admiration for what I perceive as his natural ability to relate genuinely with people of other races in a way that seems rare to me among other Christians I know.

    But, you’re dead wrong on a few things. In my experience with and observations of racism, it is typically Blacks who oppress and Whites who fear.

    African-Americans are indeed made in the image of God in the same way that Whites are. They are also fallen from grace in the same way that Whites are. Blacks have been encouraged by politicians and other power-brokers (not to mention white people who know they are sinners, but insist on trying to save themselves) to indulge their sin nature by being resentful and jealous of Whites, to feel self-righteous about doing so, and to use those feelings as an excuse to become parasites. I’m convinced Dr. King would be disgusted to the depths of his soul at what he would see today in our culture. I thank God that many reject that temptation. But, many cannot reject it.

    Fot this reason, you are right when you say that Jesus is the only answer. But, recent sins do so much more to seperate us than the sins of our forefathers. What had been reduced to smoldering embers has been stoked into furious flame.

    But, this fire is for me! I dare not defend myself against an African-American or report a crime committed by an African-American lest I run the very great risk of being accosted when alone and beaten to a pulp, being vilified in the media, or having some charge (perhaps of hate-crime) brought against me! Blacks are not today motivated by racial injustice. Whites are!

    Even after it was clear to one and all that Michael Nifong had perverted justice, he won the election for Durham County district attorney. It’s obvious he was motivated by his desire to win this very election to take very public action with which nearly 50% of Durham County would find favor whether or not it was just.

    When a black person is, in fact, guilty of a crime, then punishing that person is not racial injustice. It cannot, therefore, be offensive to someone who is sensitive to racial injustice. In fact, if the Blacks who expressed outrage at the accusations in the Duke Lacrosse case are so sensitive to racial injustice, why weren’t they calling for Nifong’s head rather than keeping quiet or trying to defend him as some continued to do? Because they were instead trying to perpetrate racial injustice themselves.

    Your assertion that Blacks fear Whites is at least 30 years out of date. Dr. King’s speech is beautiful and inspring even now. But it does not represent our times.

    I especially enjoy two parts from your quote:

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” “This nation” is my nation and “these truths” are from God. By pursuing such goals, Dr. King did not merely serve African-Americans or the cause of equality. Far more, he served the country and everyone in from his time on.

    “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” This is the secret of his success.

    But discord has been sown, mountains raised higher, valleys made lower by those who pretend to serve minorities, but who in reality despise the self-evident truths of God.

    Welcome to the 80’s, brother.

    And speaking of forefathers, mine came to America in the 20th century. Okay, on my father’s side. But you didn’t know that. You lumped my ancestors in with slave owners (“the sins of our forefathers”) only because I’m white, you racist. But, then again, you were talking to Dougald. So, I only assumed you were including me because I know I’m white and some of my ancestors were slave owners.

    But, at the very least, (and this is the deeply disappointing part) you reveal by your question, “White brothers, will you repent and seek reconciliation?”, your conclusion that all White people are racists. Boy! If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black…

    I have more to say, but only in service to my own ego. I won’t punish you in public. 😀

  24. Wes,

    FYI…I’m somewhere between you and Mark on this one.

    Dougald

  25. Through insolence comes nothing but strife,
    But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.

    Mark and Dougald,

    If I had any inclination that either of you were racist, trust me, we would never be as close friends are we are now. So, I am not asking either of you to repent of any overt racism.

    I appreciate both of your comments as a call for clarity.

    I understand that my original post is full of generalities. I can see the need for precision. But I believe there is a place for passionate statements to get us thinking about the issue. If I had written nothing, perhaps I would have forgotten about the issue myself and perpetuated the problem by my own silence.

  26. So, what I am not saying is that all white people are racists, nor am I saying that no black people are racists. My goal is not to show black people that some white people are not racists. I am not trying to claim our rights against theirs, or anyone else. I am not denying that racism and injustice goes both ways. I am not underestimating the effect of racism towards whites, or visa versa. Ultimately, my goal is to move beyond individual acts of racism.

    There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
    But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

    It is my basic premise that the way we (black and white) generally handle racial tension does not lead to healing, but to greater fissure. When I said,

    white brothers repent and seek racial reconciliation

    I should have been clearer. I do not believe that all white people have something of which to repent. Though here comes my disagreement with you, Dougald, over what the panel of authors were saying regarding ethnocentrism and racism. (I do not intend to bring up a sore subject, though). In contrast to what they may have been saying, I believe that, in America, racism lies at the heart of white ethnocentrism. I understand that our ethnocentrism began through other philosophical and theological streams, but I am not certain that in the 21st century, given the history of the 19th and 20th centuries, that we can attribute misunderstanding among whites of blacks solely to non-racist ethnocentrism. I am asking my white brothers to be introspective here, to understand the feelings of superiority in our own hearts. As such, we may find things for which to repent. If our hearts do not condemn us, then we are free; however, I still believe that white people should initiate reconciliation. Otherwise, I am not certain it would happen.

    You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven; for he causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who hate you, what reward do you have? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    First, black people may initiate reconciliation. As such, many white people may feel justified of their feelings of superiority. Some white people would understand and rejoice. Still, I cannot feel justified in expecting them to initiate. We never reconciled over the sins of our forefathers (by forefathers, I do not necessarily mean physically, my grandfather was not a racist, I can affirm that with a clear conscience, and, yes, I am lumping all white people together because the racism of a few effects us all.) Second, it builds trust. If a few white people really are not racists, this still does not foster racial reconciliation in and of itself. We have to move beyond individuals. We have to understand why racial tension exists. It is inherently the sin of our (white and black) hearts, but I believe it is true that many black people still feel alienated by white culture because we never reconciled. Civil Rights were attained, but civil unity never was. Let us aim for unity! Let us move beyond justice/injustice (though important) to understand why its an issue—we need to reconcile and I am calling on white people to initiate it, for the sake of the gospel.

    If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
    Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Do not think I am saying that black people are not also responsible for reconciliation. I believe it takes two to make a thing go right. As Christians, we are the agents of reconciliation.

    He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    We are ministers of reconciliation through the gospel. And one of the barriers to the gospel in our culture is racial tension. The beauty of the gospel is the unity in brings between disparate peoples. I believe that if Christians (white and black) sought this reconciliation, what a beautiful picture of the kingdom it would be. And I believe that we have to begin with ourselves.

  27. Black and White Christians already have reconciliation. To deny it is to deny Christ.

    I think you also underestimate the extent to which reconciliation occurs in the world. I could have sympathized with your plea 30 years ago, but now I only wonder, “Where have you been?”

    By the way, genuine reconciliation will not occur by way of some official proclamation. It will neither occur in a single moment of time nor will it be permanent (until Jesus comes). Also remember that, as human beings, we are each far more than mere representatives of a particular race. We may have much more than race over which we must reconcile.

    How can I gently point out the irony (or is it twisted logic?) of calling for racial reconciliation to be initiated by members of a particular race? How can we have racial reconciliation if the initiators and recipients of that very event are divided by race?!?!

  28. Mark,

    Among Christians, we have reconciliation in Christ, but we do not have reconciliation in practice. As such, Christians of both races must take that responsibility in Christ. However, in my readings of third world missions, it took the humility of the missionaries, who stood in positions of superiority, whether intentionally or not, to overcome tension between foreigner and national. I believe these situations are analogous to our situation in America. Here is my underlying premise, with which you may agree or disagree.

    In relation to unbelievers, I believe the situation is different. I think the history between white and black cannot be ignored. What happened thirty years ago, in my limited opinion, was not sufficient grounds for expecting racial unity. It only forced the race issue underground. Both blacks and whites now look to law and government to solve an issue that can only be resolved through personal social interaction. As such, I believe white Christians, for the sake of gospel, must initiate reconciliation with black non-Christians. Otherwise, our voices will not be heard.

    I agree that there has been racial injustice towards whites from blacks, but we cannot let this hinder us from our right actions. We must overlook this. In doing so, we paint a picture of Christ who suffered rejection at the hands of men, but who sacrificed himself for the sake of his persecutors.

    I don’t expect everyone to be willing to follow me here, but I believe this is the right course of action. Perhaps, different relationships will require different approaches. But I am calling for humility from my white brothers in service of our alienated black brothers.

  29. We do not have many things in practice that we do, in fact, have in Christ. Racial reconciliation is not remarkable in this regard.

    On point that I have made is that Whites are no longer in a position of superiority.

    Many Black ‘activists’ look to law and government not for a solution to an issue, but as leverage for oppression of their own.

    You cannot reasonably ignore the perpetuation of racism (from every race) that occurs as a result of human sin nature. Racism will exist for as long as sin does. And I don’t believe racial methods can produce positive results against racism. I’m disappointed you didn’t respond to my last question.

    What makes you think our Black brothers are alienated? Is no one else? Am I not alienated?

    Why not call for humility from your brothers? Do you feel less brotherly toward your Black brothers? Are you first a Christian or first a White person?

    If a Joe Blackperson feels alienated from me because of something some other White person did to him or to his ancestors, then Joe’s racism is the problem, not mine. From what exactly do you believe I should repent? My effort toward reconciliation in such a case is not to repent but to forgive.

    Even if it is the history of race relations in this country that leads Blacks to hate, fear, resent, etc. White people, then it is still Blacks who are racists. I resent being blamed for it. However, if you want to accept responsibility for someone else’s racism against you, then you are free.

    But, by God’s grace, we are free in Christ from Satan’s accusations.

  30. Mark, sorry I haven’t responded in a while, I’m still in Minneapolis.

    In regards to your question,

    How can I gently point out the irony (or is it twisted logic?) of calling for racial reconciliation to be initiated by members of a particular race? How can we have racial reconciliation if the initiators and recipients of that very event are divided by race?!?!

    (is the the what you were referring to?)

    I am not ignoring this question, my origina post is an effort to answer this very question. I believe that our racial division can be healed. I still believe that we (as a culture) never reconciled in the 60’s, 70′, or beyond. As a result, our culture has spiraled apart through continued fear, hate, and racism.

    Perhaps my answer is idealistic, but in general, white people are not sensitive to black issues, and visa versa. But I think we have to take the time to heal old, deep wounds. Yes, you have probably been a victim as well. And you must forgive. But I doubt if anyone is going to come up to you asking for forgiveness. I am calling on white folk to initiate this exchange. Because of our history, I think it is appropriate, and necessary.

    Will racism continue? Yes, because of the sin in our hearts, but I think we can make major progress for the gospel if we can get this conversation going.

  31. The current racism is not primarily a result of old wounds, but of new ones.

    Yes, you have probably been a victim as well. And you must forgive. But I doubt if anyone is going to come up to you asking for forgiveness. I am calling on white folk to initiate this exchange.” I (as white folk) should “initiate this exchange”? That is, I should ask for or demand repentance since I cannot expect to receive a request for forgiveness? I think that would have to be my action if I were to initiate “this exchange”.

    But I’m not looking for an apology or a request for forgiveness. More importantly, I don’t blame Black people I know for what some other Black person did to me. That would be racist! Just like the racism you say I should respond to by asking for forgiveness!

    You’ve got it backwards. When someone sins against you, of course you can forgive. But, neither love nor rational thought would move you to apologize to someone for their sin against you.

    I wouldn’t say your answer is idealistic. I would say it is racist and irrational. You’re telling me (your white brother) that I must ask Blacks for forgiveness for what other White people did to other Black people. You’re not saying this to me because I actually had anything to do with the injustice that was done. You are saying this to me only because of the color of my skin. You are, in essence, saying that I must apologize for being White. You have catagorized victims and perpetrators based entirely on skin color. This is the essence of racism.

    Your idea is not at all a new one, by the way. Let me emphasize that you have not come up with anything new or different. In fact, it’s older than you. Having been propagated by communists and atheists, and perhaps others, whose goal is to perpetuate racism in order to use it for political gain or furtherance of a destructive social agenda, it has already taken hold in many influential quarters (e.g., government education) and has led to much of the ‘new wounds’ that perpetuate and exacerbate racism in this country. It is being used this way precisely because, as a racist policy, it promotes racism. If the required rejection of rationality doesn’t deter you, then at least the identity of your bedfellows ought to give you pause.

    A real solution will not begin with getting a “conversation going”, but with positive, effective action. Then, there will be something to talk about, share, and propagate.

    A real solution might be for you to trust God enough to abandon your fear (and resultant compulsion to grovel) in order to love people without regard for superficial differences.

    Having written so bluntly, I might serve you (and myself) well by reminding you that I love you and take joy in your desire for the Body of Christ to behave as one in Him, as we truly are.

  32. Mark,

    Have you heard the recent remarks by John Edwards on this subject?

    He has said that if he is not elected black people will end up dead or in jail.

    That is a funny thought. Yeah, he’s trying to use the race issue to his advantage now. What has he done in NC for racial issues?

    Hmmm….

    Wes,

    I agree with Mark on this one. Here is a story for you. Where I used to work there is an African lady who has girls who are in public school. These girls work hard at school and get good grades. The other black students pick on them and say to them, “are you trying to be white?”

    My question to you is, what “black issue” am I not understanding here in relation to this story?

    What causes this type of question to be asked to these girls?

    This is a true story. I’m not making this up.

    Why is Obama said to be a “white candidate” by a black person (maybe its because he’s more popular than a previous presidential candidate)?

    Anyways, what in the world have I personally done to cause black people to think this way?

    These are questions that I have. Again, I agree with Mark, we are in a different situation. There are now wounds on both sides. The racist are the ones hanging nooses (did I spell that right) from their trucks. The racist are the ones that assume that one is a racist because they are white. It doesn’t just encompass whites anymore. Nor, do I think it ever did.

  33. Mark, I am not asking you to repent of other peoples sins, but I am asking you to be aware of the history. You may in fact have to ask a person to forgive you (even though you didn’t sin) for those sins, since those sins are a barrier to your relationship. Acting on that history out of love, humility and concern may break down those emotional and psychological barriers.

    Also, I am saying that indifference and silence on issues that affect our myriads of black neighbors may be interpreted as racism. (I am asking us to have an other-centered point of view here). I am asking us to understand why so many black people feel alienated in our country or feel that they are being served an injustice when they may not in fact be, in some cases.

    As such, I am not promoting racism at all. I am not using these issues for political gain or even social gain. Rather, I am asking us to be sensitive to the pain behind the racial tension. I am not so much talking about individual events, though individual events display the symptoms of deeper problems. I see the way things are handled by the media, both liberal and conservative as dealing with the symptoms while the disease rages underneath. I really don’t care what some extremists may say about acting black or acting white. We can see through this stuff. I care about the wounds that exist in our culture and between our subcultures. White people are largely ignorant or indifferent to those wounds.

    Let me repeat, if you have nothing of which to repent, then don’t feel obligated. You are not my primary audience. There are many people out there that hide behind principles, politics, or ignorance that need this message. We will continue to have greater conflicts until we decide to understand the deeper issues. That is my whole point. I think the gospel is the cure for these deep issues and I believe wholeheartedly we need to be actively dealing with these issues so that the social barriers dividing us may be traversed for the sake of Christ!

  34. Dougald, I equally disdain psuedo-people like Nifong and apparantly now Edwards who use racial tension for personal gain. Shame on them.

    I also disdain other psuedo-people who say things like “he’s acting white…” That is arrogant and racist as well. But even these are symptoms of a culture that cannot trust white people because of past/present history.

    I’ll repeat, I am not talking about specific issues, but problems of culture. We need cultural healing in America. The gospel can bring that healing.

  35. Wes,

    But it is generalities that have gotten us in so much trouble in the first place. And, these are general statements made by specific people.

    So, you don’t want specifics…Let’s build the case for generalities.

    1) Jesse Jacskon calls Barak Obama White.

    2) A Senator (somewhere out in the midwest if memory serves me correctly…it might even have been Obama) was pelted with Oreos because he didn’t vote “black” on a certain issue.

    3) The story related above as well as many others that can be told just from my personal experience concerning good grades made by a black person.

    This seems to be a general thing. I disagree with your notion that this is a result of past history. It is PRESENTLY a GENERAL problem.

    You say, “But even these are symptoms of a culture that cannot trust white people because of past/present history.” Really? How do you make this connection? If this is a case of mistrust based upon someone’s color then how is that my problem?

    I don’t disagree with you about cultural healing, but I don’t think it is a white man’s burden. But what do I know. Ignorance is bliss I suppose. But, according to the statements made in my examples above, I guess I’m acting black.

  36. One more thing…if you cannot convince the average person that this is “their” problem…then you won’t convince anyone to heal cultural wounds by apologizing.

  37. Suggesting I should ask for forgiveness for something I didn’t do is no less ridiculous than suggesting I should repent of something I didn’t do.

    I’ve neglected to ask you this so far because I thought the answer to this question was obvious to you, but we’re still talking about this so I’m beginning to wonder: Why do you believe the sins of other people are a barrier to my relationship?

  38. You asked the right question. Because this is where I believe our fundamental disagreement may occur.

    I believe that other people’s sins may be barriers to your relationship on a cultural level. The types of racial differences that we face today occur on cultural levels. Black and White cultures are not homogenous. Culture is ultimately a representation of worldview. Worldviews are shaped by history and tradition as much as they are shaped by language, religion, politics, family life, heredity, etc. Thus, part of the worldview of many African Americans has been either directly or indirectly affected by past acts of hateful racism. Part of the worldview of some Causasian Americans has been either directly or indirectly been affected by past acts of hateful racism. I admit, this racism in our time is going both ways. However, I find it hard to believe that the majority of it is against Whites. Even if it were, though, on a worldview level, the scale is tipped well in the favor of African Americans. Historically, their culture has suffered more at the hands of Whites than visa versa.

    Therefore, though barriers may exist for some White people to trust Black people, I believe there are more barriers for Black people to trust White people. You know what, I may be wrong, but I can’t conscientiously assume that.

    I am asking us to be aware of those barriers. And I believe that if White Christians would initiate, then the barriers may be broken. But by initiating the healing process, this is not an admission of personal guilt as much as moral cultural responsibility.

    Am I making more sense? What do you think?

  39. You didn’t answer my question. I don’t accept your idea that other people’s sins are a barrier to my relationships. I don’t accept it yet, anyway. I’m asking you why you do think so.

    Let me ask another way. Why would a Black person feel some barrier to interacting with me, a White person? How and why would a Black person associate me with the wicked behavior of a White person toward a Black person 50, 100, or 150 years ago?

  40. Get over it people get a job and start living and stop [censored].

    NOTE FROM WLH, please don’t cuss here. You are free to comment, but please don’t cuss.

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