Whites, Blacks, Slavery & Reconciliation

Several weeks ago, in response to thoughts I had over the racial problems we have in our country, I posted on recapturing the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Find that post here. I also offered some suggestions for doing so. So far, I have not received any interaction from my black brothers and sisters, but I have received feedback from some dear friends who feel one of the problems we have in this country is racism towards whites by some black people. Though I do not deny that racism goes both ways, my basic premise is that Christians should take action in overcoming racism. One of my major goals is to encourage my white brothers and sisters to initiate the conversation. I believe that the three or four hundred year history of white domination has to be reversed. I do not mean that we should now have black domination. That would be the same sin. (I remember my senior year in high school, my friend John Green, who I respected greatly, and who is also black, called out the teacher over the term “Reverse Discrimination” as being racially charged. In other words, he meant racism is racism. Only someone from a superior position could call it reverse; thus the phrase is implicitly racist. I’ll never forget that day).

I am calling white Christians to become servants, to become slaves, to their black brothers. The history of slavery in America, followed by unjust Jim Crow laws, and the subversion of racism in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, has created deep wounds in the culture of America, especially between whites and blacks. I believe that the current racial crises in America are symptoms of this deep cultural divide. To overcome this divide I believe white Christians must initiate. If you have been either overtly or internally racist, you should repent and doing so publically may be painful for you, but will lead to healing. If you have not been racist, but find yourself living in a world that is being shaken by these events I suggest you read the following response:

Dear white Christian brother, who has not committed racism overtly or in your heart,

A black person may feel a barrier to you either consciously or subconsiously. If it is consciously, then they are being racist, and I believe they need to repent. But your humility towards them may lead to their freedom. If it is subconsciously, (this is one probable cause of the overt racism as well) it is due to cultural wounds or to their worldview. If they feel no barrier, and many people are this way, it is probably because they have seen the problem with the worldview, whether the cause of seeing this be education, upbringing or self-reflection, or the counsel of a friend.

But, If they feel this barrier towards you, who has done nothing to deserve it, unless they realize the cause, then your relationship will be severely hampered. We don’t have to be friends with everybody to the same degree, but, as it says in Romans, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. As Christians, we have the “ministry of reconciliation.” Overcoming these barriers is a witness to the gospel whereby God destroys our barriers to him and brings us into his family.

If you desire a deeper relationship with someone, then you have to deal with the issue. Having the freedom to talk about the elephant in the room is the first step. As a Christian, if you sense that race is the issue, then showing some genuine understanding (emotionally) of the history is a first step towards growth. They probably assume, as is the case in every situation involving cross-cultural communication, that because you are not like them, then you probably don’t understand. In other words, its because you are white and they are black. But as we both know, the gospel transcends those categories. We have to put the gospel into practice and gently break down the barrier. In this sense, you are a servant of your black brother. We become their slaves for the sake of the gospel.

God became our Servant

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  1. “my basic premise is that Christians should take action in overcoming racism”

    I wholeheartedly agree “that Christians should take action in overcoming racism”, but I disagree as fervently about what the action should be.

    “One of my major goals is to encourage my white brothers and sisters to initiate the conversation.”

    By “initiate the conversation”, you mean you want Whites to apologize for things they didn’t do instead of sharing the Gospel. That’s too bad because racism is sin, and apologies, even for genuine guilt, will not make sin go away. Only Jesus does.

    In addition, you have excluded your brothers and sisters in Christ based on the different color of their skin. Black Christians are every bit as indwelt by the Spirit of Christ as White Christians are and every bit as empowered for obedience and effective ministry!

    By the way, the “ministry of reconciliation” of which Paul writes (is that who you were quoting?) is between God and man, not between man and man. There is a tremendous difference.

    You talk about slavery and Jim Crow, but you’re still pretending the enormous effects of the past 30 years don’t exist.

    You know, I have an idea. It’s just a suggestion. You go ahead and talk about the “elephant in the room”. By itself, that could be a good thing if there actually is an “elephant in the room”. But understand that it’s your elephant, your barrier that you need help with so that you can have healthy relationships with Black people. If a Black person doesn’t like you, don’t assume it’s because he is Black (and is justly or excusably racist because of slavery). After all, do all White people like you?

    You may never forget that day, but you seem not to have learned anything from it.

    P.S. What is with the HUMONGOUS typeface???

    • 1.
      Have you ever read of the Europeans that were taken from Europe by Islamic groups/raiding parties and sold as slaves in African and Arab countries ? You need to brush up on your knowledge on the history of slavery. Africans don’t have a monopoly on being slaves. Every European country has had more than it’s share of people taken as slaves. You, I hope , noticed that I said taken. Unlike Africa where the families and tribal chiefs traded children for trinkets or a little gold. I would have rather gone with the slave trader than stay with a family that sold me for a little of nothing.
      2.
      If racism was such a one sided affair, why are “whites” called honkies,crackers,whitey etc. with as much hate as the usage of the n word by whites. Blacks can use the n word or any of the white names on a regular basis without fear of reprisal , but let a white person say the n word and you want prosecution for racial intimidation.
      3.
      The bottom line is that anyone can be a racist if taught to be one no matter what race.
      4.
      If you want to argue minority, an Irish American, a Scottish American, a German American, a French American etc. are all smaller minorities than African Americans. Have you ever thought about being an American . All the folks in the U.S. from all the small countries around the world want to be Americans and for the most part Identify themselves as Americans. Why not be part of America and be an American . We’re all minorities. If you were born here you are an American. We are all brothers. If it is your religious belief that makes you hate other colors , you need to seek a church that believes in love, not hate. I’ve never seen a “White Person”. We are all different colors. If a person was blind and disliked certain races , how do you think the person acquired their dislike for those races. They had to be taught to dislike or fear something or someone. We are not born to hate.

  2. Mark, sorry about the typeface, it comes with the new template.

    By “initiate the conversation”, you mean you want Whites to apologize for things they didn’t do instead of sharing the Gospel. That’s too bad because racism is sin, and apologies, even for genuine guilt, will not make sin go away. Only Jesus does.

    I am not saying that we don’t share the gospel. When I say initiate the conversation, I mean getting on a deep level with someone. Cultural barriers may preclude deep conversations from occurring. These would be conversations between Christians, or between non-Christians. If its between non-Christians, then the ultimate goal is the gospel. What I am suggesting about racial reconciliation is not the gospel or a substitution for it, its breaking down barriers for the gospel.

    You know, I have an idea. It’s just a suggestion. You go ahead and talk about the “elephant in the room”. By itself, that could be a good thing if there actually is an “elephant in the room”. But understand that it’s your elephant, your barrier that you need help with so that you can have healthy relationships with Black people. If a Black person doesn’t like you, don’t assume it’s because he is Black (and is justly or excusably racist because of slavery). After all, do all White people like you?

    This is not only about me. I don’t think race is my barrier. I have had friendships with many black people, I have seen the reactions of black people to white people, I have been reacted against enough to see that there is a barrier there. Many black people do not think white people do or even care to understand them.

    Perhaps I am going a little too far on the history thing, though I believe the history affects us all on cultural levels.

    In addition, you have excluded your brothers and sisters in Christ based on the different color of their skin. Black Christians are every bit as indwelt by the Spirit of Christ as White Christians are and every bit as empowered for obedience and effective ministry!

    I believe that black christians are equally as capable and empowered for effective ministry. I believe there are black Christians involved in this ministry. One of our family’s good friends has struggled through her education at Southeastern because the ratio of whites to blacks is seriously out of proportion. Many white students did not understand her, nor did many of her black friends. But I believe she has the right heart and I respect her and her convictions.

    But white people have rarely been in the position to understand. My goal is to ask my white brothers and sisters to try to understand. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to call out and encourage my black brothers and sisters at another time, but I must start with my culture.

    I am not giving the complete solution at this time, just starting at home.

  3. “My goal is to ask my white brothers and sisters to try to understand.”

    Is that your goal?!?!

    This is the first mention I’ve seen of this goal (that I remember). But I don’t know what it means.

    “Many white students did not understand her, nor did many of her black friends.”

    How can this be an example of a racial issue if both Blacks and Whites don’t understand her?

    “But white people have rarely been in the position to understand.”

    To understand what?

    God has made us all so very different that the varieties of characteristics just among individuals who share African heritage are humanly impossible to enumerate. Those individual distinctions are given by God for a purpose, perhaps no more than to demonstrate his vast capacity for creativity. The beauty of God’s creative work is done grave injustice by lumping people together based on an arbitrarily chosen common characteristic.

    But you insist.

    You say some Blacks like you and some don’t. But, again, do all White people like you? Or do all White people dislike you? If, as I suspect, some Whites like you and some don’t, then why must you make a racial distinction?

    “Perhaps I will have the opportunity to call out and encourage my black brothers and sisters at another time, but I must start with my culture.

    I am not giving the complete solution at this time, just starting at home.”

    Apparently, only White people are part of your culture and only White people are “at home” despite your having “had friendships with many black people”. I can appreciate your desire to overcome what seems to be your deep sense of seperation from Black people. But you won’t overcome that feeling by accomodating it. Neither will you overcome it by “calling out” others. I’m convinced you will have more success overcoming your “lack of understanding” if you begin not with your culture (which you have defined as White), but with God’s. How can you truly understand anyone if not from God’s perspective? Scripture explicitly refutes the notion that God’s culture should be, or even can be, defined by race. You already know where.

  4. Bah! I botched my code somewhere. It was bound to happen sooner or later. How do you do that green quote thing??

  5. From this post

    As a Christian, if you sense that race is the issue, then showing some genuine understanding (emotionally) of the history is a first step towards growth.

    From original post

    White people don’t understand black people on these issues

    Again, from original post (emphasis added)

    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 (for 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

    from one of my responses on the earlier post

    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.

    Asking for understanding has been one of my primary goals. It is the starting point of reconciliation. Admission of that understanding is the second step. Confession, if necessary, is the third. Etc.

    You said

    Apparently, only White people are part of your culture and only White people are “at home” despite your having “had friendships with many black people”.

    I need to clarify, my number one cultural influence is American culture, which is a hodgpodge of several subcultures. One of those subcultures is white subculture. Though I do not regularly associate myself based on this subculture, because of my skin color, I will always be associated with this subculture. Yes, thats a racist attitude, but its a reality I cannot deny. As such, I have the opportunity to address others in this subculture as an insider. Anthropologists uniformly agree that an insider has the greatest opportunity to bring about cultural change. My aim is to initiate change in the White subculture. I understand that even within this subcultures are other subcultures, microcultures, even idiocultures. As such, some things will still be too general. But I think I can be effective.

    In my own personal life, I have tried to live a life defined by diversity because I believe that in Christ, all class/racial divisions are destroyed. Yet, this is not an effort of cultural affirmative action on my part. I accept people for who they are and try to understand their viewpoint, as much as I can. I’m not perfect here, as is no one, but I’m making efforts. So, I love black people as equally as I love white people, as Asians, as even, yes even, Mexicans (few people show them the dignity of being human). Nonetheless, I understand that there are cultural distinctives between every group, which I’m not going to pretend that they need to be erased. I think cultural distinctives in many cases reflect the beauty of God’s colorful creation.

    So, we are left with different cultures that are formed by similar, yet different worldviews, which were formed by a common history that were based on division of class and race. This division has been legally erased, but culturally it still exists.

    How can we overcome that division?

    Yes with the gospel, but as we both know, the gospel affects the whole of our life. Part of the gospel will be a recognition of our division and an effort to overcome it.

    How shall we overcome it?

    Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree over my suggested solution.

    What are some alternatives? I’m open here.

  6. Racism is sin. As such, it can be forgiven, but has no excuse. Let’s try to understand that!

    Diversity is a red herring. People learn to accept differences in others by focusing on what they have in common rather than how they are different.

    “why so many black people feel alienated in our country” This premise is false or grossly overstated, at best. Those who do feel alienated have been persuaded by the encouragement to do so offered by people pushing your “solution”.

    “as even, yes even, Mexicans (few people show them the dignity of being human).” This is grotesquely false. Hyperbole much?

    I’ll skip the immediately preceding compound assumptions, but:
    “based on division of class and race. This division has been legally erased, but culturally it still exists.” False. Segregation that can be observed today is freely chosen by Blacks, which makes it an entirely different matter than the legal and cultural segregation that existed prior to the 1960’s.

    “How can we overcome that division?” When you say “we”, are you again starting only with your White culture? If so, then you can’t.

    “alternatives?” Obey scripture and stop thinking of people and treating people as if they are different from you because of one aspect of their appearance. Of course, this would exclude your proposal. It also excludes favoritism, which would inevitably result in accusations of not caring to understand.

    If it were possible to overcome sin and produce unity and peace without salvation, then we wouldn’t need the Gospel. Obviously, that is not at all the case. Reconciliation is impotent to “open the door” for the Gospel. The Gospel must “open the door” for (precede) reconciliation.

    Disagreeing with me is no big deal. Disagreeing with God could be.

  7. My addition to this discussion is simply this.

    1) The gospel is cross-cultural and multi-ethnic. I propose that what you are seeking is a bandaid on something that needs surgery. The gospel must be preached. Racial reconciliation is part of the gospel only after it has been accepted.

    2) You keep talking about barriers…can barriers be set up with false pretenses? If so, are there any barriers set up with false pretenses in this issue? Do we need to apologize for those barriers that are based upon false pretenses? What about barriers from scars caused by black people? (OMGosh, does this happen?! Yes! But that does not mean that everyone who is black causes them)

    3) I would charge you that we should be a servant to all…regardless of race.

    The gospel is the central issue, and I think that what you are trying to do is admirable. This is a hard statement but I feel I must say it. It is not the gospel.

    I concur with Mark that the gospel of reconciliation deals between God and man. And also the dividing wall between Jews and gentiles deals with God and man (check the grammar there and you will see). Racial reconciliation should be a byproduct of the gospel, not its end. And, I will add, even if we try to reconcile and are rejected…does that mean I don’t understand or this is caused by the white man. We cannot call one sin out and not call out both. If the gospel is cross-cultural we should be able to preach it and let the Spirit work to convict the hearts of all races of their racial preferments.

  8. Dougald,

    Regarding your third point, Recommendation #1 on my original post states:

    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.

    Racial reconciliation is not the end of the gospel, but the gospel is the primary means towards achieving racial unity. At the same time, racial disharmony is a barrier to the work of the gospel. I am not trying to elevate the race issue as the only issue, but I am trying to elevate it to an issue. For many white people, there is no race issue. But I believe it is still an issue. One that hinders the gospel.

    However, that being said, one can be an effective minister of the gospel without ever crossing racial barriers. We could go on reaching our own, and never acheive the beauty of the kingdom that would exist if we ventured to live in harmony and love. We both think that the HUP, though, serves to paint a distorted picture of the gospel. As if DaVince could paint only with one or two colors rather than with all.

    Regarding your set of questions under point number 2. What do you mean? I could use a little more explanation. I understand you last question, but the previous questions please clarify.

    Regarding the issue of barriers created by black people against white people. They exist. And yes, that means that some white people may also feel alienated, or fearful, towards black people. As such, healing there has to take place, but I’ll refer to my initial response on this post, I must begin with my house. Otherwise, I one might be tempted to overlook our problems. This is very similar to missionary who learned to be very critical of another culture, but failed to question his own.

    In other words, I question my own culture first.

    Regarding your first point, I both agree and disagree. Seeking racial reconciliation in itself is but a bandaid on the gaping wound of one’s sin toward God and man. I believe the racial reconciliation may be a bridge for the gospel, though, as I believe the lack thereof is a barrier. True, racial reconcialition will only be finalized by the gospel, but it can be initiated along with the gospel as well. It does not have to be sequential.

  9. “the gospel is the primary means towards achieving racial unity.”

    The Gospel is the only means for achieving racial unity, but racial unity is a trifle compared to (and utterly worthless without) the purpose of the Gospel, which is for achieving human unity with God.

    “I question my own culture first.”

    No you don’t. I would not at all have objected to questions. I question myself and my own motives all the time. That’s just a matter of healthy circumspection. It’s healthier still, I think, for us to ask questions together.

    You, however, have accused first — and not your own culture, but your own race.

    Don’t assume anyone is part of your culture just because they are White. That would be judgement based on race, which is racial prejudice (its very definition, in fact), if not racism. That is prejudicial in the same way that assuming, merely because of his skin color, that a Black person is a participant in a particular sub-culture would be prejudicial.

    “I must begin with my house.”

    Then you must resolve your own racial prejudices before “calling out” or offering advice to others. Or, do you think “your house” is all White people? It might be helpful for you to understand that other people’s sense of identity and self are not always so tied to race as yours seems to be.

  10. Mark,

    From a cultural anthropologists’ perspective, race is a cultural category. So on a broad level, I am part of white American subculture.

    Culture runs deeper than self-perception, though self-perception is a indicator of culture. For instance, if you feel you are “this” and not “that”, then your culture is probably related to “this.” This is how cultural anthropologists, and missiologists distinguish people groups. For a hundred years, in China, missionaries only identified one group as the Yi people. Missiologists have come in and seen that they are in fact dozens of distinct groups. This could be done with white American culture as well.

    Part of the problem with what I am saying is that I am grouping a bunch of subcultures together. As may you.

    For instance, its not that all black people are racists like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc. Neither is black culture to be equated with hip-hop culture. On and on we could go. The fact that the hip-hop culture devalue women and support a immoral lifestyle does not mean that all black people are this way or even that they support it.

    I understand it is true of white people, that not all white people have the same attitude towards black people, and that some white people may be the true victims of some racism.

    But I still believe there is a cultural divide. I believe that the gospel is the answer. As I spoke with Dougald last night, he sees the gospel as the center and works out toward the edge, I prefer to begin at the edge and work towards the gospel. Its just a matter of perspective.

  11. Not hardly. It is absolutely not just a matter of perspective. I’m surprised and dissapointed that you cannot or will not see what is so obvious.

    You are, in fact, working in the opposite direction. You will work against Dougald because he desires to promote the Gospel, which has and continues to break down racial barriers. Likewise, your approach, which as I said before is far from new, has already served to promote racism.

    You are an intelligent man. This cannot be such a mystery to you. Your proposal defines individuals based entirely on race. That is the definition of racism. Can your proposal be a solution for itself? And, again, your proposal has already been successful in promoting racism. How can you suggest to solve racism with a proposal that has proven to promote it?

  12. Mark, I think we have to disagree. Its not a matter of intelligence, but one of perspective. I do not think my solution works against the gospel, but flows from it, nor do I equate it with leftist political strategies.

    At this point, we must agree to disagree, because I am not willing to change.

    I still love you dearly as my brother, but we can disagree here for now.

  13. You’re right. It is not a matter of intelligence. That’s my point in mentioning that you are an intelligent man.

    Your proposal has already been successful promoting racism. This is a reality in no way dependent on what you “equate it with”. And you’re not willing to change.

    I love you also, brother. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

  14. can’t we all just get along?

  15. hmm, great suggestion… if you could just change it to say ‘all christians’ white, black, or otherwise shaded… be humble, kind and serve others as Christ showed us? By asking ‘whites’ to do what you’ve asked us to do I suggest you read the scriptures that speak about the beam and the speck again. Change can start with anyone of us but it has to be reciprocated. It’s not that complicated, kids do it all the time who aren’t screwed up by what their parents may have taught them. We just have to put away our pride and vengeance. Forgive those who you think have wronged you or your forefathers. Maybe that’s not easy, but it’s simple. Peace brother.

  16. i want to return to africa to serve black peole there for past injustices to black people by whites and think we owe them

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