Christian blogger Nicola A. Menzie is the proprietor of Faithfully Magazine, an online web site, that seeks to, “capture, curate and contribute to conversations about the intersection of race, culture and Christianity.” According to Menzie, the reason that her web site exists is because, as she says, “Contrary to what some people might think — Christians do not have it together when it comes to race…”
Amen and I couldn’t agree more.
Menzie also says that, “Christians need to talk about race, “ adding, “because understanding, awareness and opportunities for healing and unity can only come when we choose to talk and share our perspectives and experiences.”
Menzie highlights several examples to demonstrate just how all over the racial map Christians continue to be on racial matters. The first case is an episode involving James White and his now-deleted commentary on social media about a random and disrespectful black teen he recorded with his dash cam.
Another is about Christian, Native American blogger Mark Charles and his mission to shape Christian minds in regards to white privilege and supremacy inherent in the Doctrine of Discovery.
And still another case refers to something called “kinism,” which is apparently a group of white Christians who continue to hold tightly to a form of Christian miscegenation and segregation. They believe that though God created everyone in his image, these “kinists” don’t believe that people of different ethnicity should intermarry.
In addition to these examples, Menzie lists a series of questions that explores the intersection of race and Christianity in hopes to find answers that can provide guidance for the church as it navigates and faithfully confronts racial issues.
Of the three examples she provided as evidence of Christian inconsistency on racism, the James White example stood out most.
Dr. White – an evangelical apologist and director of Alpha and Omega ministries, in a now-deleted Facebook post – detailed a dash cam video he took which recorded a black teenager engaging in immature behavior that included “flipping off” a police officer, sagging his pants, and littering. As a result – and based on several statistical indicators – White offered his own unsolicited social commentary about the boy, speculating that he (again, predicated on statistics) was born of illegitimacy and didn’t know his father, causing a lack of moral guidance. Assuming the boy (and others like him) is fatherless, and presumably will not learn proper expressions of masculinity and respectable social behavior, White predicts that the number of black children who are born outside of marriage will increase; that this boy’s generation will not only repeat the mistake of having children outside of marriage, but that a significant number will end in abortion. White further speculates and laments that those that aren’t aborted will also experience fatherlessness and broken families, which almost assures that they too will continue the cycle of moral poverty reflected in this young man – a symbol and product of a dysfunctional culture overall, but particularly of that which is found in too many black communities.
Predictably, many black Christians were “offended” and “hurt” by White’s commentary. Some white Christians took offense as well. Because of the commotion, White offered an explanation of his commentary and defended himself against charges of racial antagonism. Too many people have feigned indignation, and have condemned White’s reflexive generalizations of black youths. Not knowing the specifics of this young boy’s life, many of White’s critics felt he was wrong to assume the worst of – and for – this young man, and should have used more caution in his analysis. Or, many argued, he should’ve skipped the desire to publicly comment at all.
Granted, White didn’t know the details of this kid’s life story, but so what? All generalizations are just that – generalizations predicated on varying levels of truth based on reasoning and experience. If one knew specifics, one wouldn’t need to generalize or assume.
The fact that roughly 73 percent of black children are born to unwed parents; that many children grow up in multi-partnered, female-headed households with siblings from other men, that only a third of black children grow up with two parents in the household; and the fact that non-Hispanic black women of childbearing age – a demographic representing 3-4 percent of the population are responsible for a third of all abortions, gives a morsel of credibility to White’s commentary, regardless of how “hurtful” it may be. The lack of fathers in the black community, and the lack of social stigma associated with men abandoning their responsibility as fathers (and by extension, women abandoning their sexual ethics) are past crisis levels and should be called out by Christians and non-Christians alike.
This cultural dysfunction that stems from moral poverty is uncomfortable for everyone, but a well-known social proverb is pertinent here – facts don’t care about feelings.
That White’s critics intentionally chose not to focus on that which debases black communities – the self-inflicted wounds that directly contribute to the dehumanization of blacks, internally, while said acts of dehumanization legitimizes racial stereotypes externally, is really confusing. The reality is that statistics and generalizations represent real people. When someone is acting in a way that reinforces generalizations, especially people we don’t know – and that we don’t have the time or opportunity to get to know, that’s all we have to go on.
Are Christians, regardless of color, supposed to hold their tongues when it comes to blacks engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors? If so, why and for what purpose(s)? So blacks don’t feel bad? So blacks aren’t “offended” and “hurt”? How exactly does that help? Excusing and lying to blacks about painful racial realities isn’t a form of love or compassion. Neither is the moral posturing that condemns those courageous enough to tell blacks the truth. Maintaining separate and lower expectations for blacks is patronizing and wrong.
And indeed, it’s racist.
That White’s critics piously condemned him (and by extension, other “white” Christians) for acknowledging and commenting publicly on painful racial realities serves no purpose but to shame Christians into silence. It also encourages rationalizing and justifying self-destructive and self-debasing behaviors that stigmatize black culture.
Increasingly, it appears that more Christians deliberately ignore reality in favor of sidestepping the central issues that grossly affect the quality of black life – taking the easy way out by condemning those like White (or any Christian, color notwithstanding) who comments on black misbehavior. If this is the kind of mentality common or expected in the church – which mirrors the insincere mentality that exists outside the church relating to racial issues – then we may as well abandon blacks (and other racial minorities) altogether and allow them to fend for themselves against chance and fate.
White’s post is only “hurtful” to those who refuse to confront the hurtful attitudes and behaviors that destabilize black society. Ignoring or excusing problems, or hoping worsening problems magically solve themselves, isn’t a pragmatic approach for anyone, particularly Christians.
I hope that sometime soon, Christians reject the overemotional position of racial solidarity and racial sympathy, in favor of a Christian ethic that loves black neighbors and empathizes with black neighbors, at the same time loving them by telling them the straightforward truth about behaviors that undermine black self-respect. The Christian ethic of love also rejects the temptation to castigate and ostracize those who reject the predominant yet dishonest racial narrative.
It’s actually disheartening that fellow Christians who offer social observations and analysis along sensitive racial fault lines are automatically condemned as racist if they’re white, and are judged guilty of harboring and engaging in an internalized version of white racism and anti-black violence if they’re black. We are now at a point where Christians, regardless of color, are morally chastised by other Christians simply for acknowledging that moral degeneration is prodigious in undermining black well-being – much more so than any racism purported to be “systemic.”
Obligatory disclaimer: this isn’t to suggest that racism doesn’t exist. It is to suggest, however, that we will never know to what extent racism exists if we don’t engage in honest collaboration with blacks, encouraging them to control what they are capable of controlling, to identify, isolate and mitigate clear examples of racism.
It’s a shame that defending black humanity and arguing in favor of black self-determination to change and influence black lives and environments – in other words rejecting black powerlessness – is chided as the equivalent of minimizing, ignoring, or contributing to the presence of racism.
In his most recent book America’s Original Sin, Jim Wallis commented that white Christians should be less white and more Christian. I’d like to publicly offer a rejoinder which has permeated my research for the last decade – maybe it’s time for black Christians to be less black and more Christian. Christians, regardless of color, should reject racial solidarity, racial empathy and conformity in favor of Christian solidarity and Christian empathy.
I agree with Menzie. Christians don’t have it together when it comes to race and we may never get it together on this side of heaven. But we surely won’t get it together as long as we continue to regurgitate racial narratives that dis-empower blacks from taking control of their fate, while disproportionately depending on whites to solve a racial problem no one really wants solved. When it comes to the Christian black-white binary of solving racial issues, it should be a collaborative effort that demonstrates true racial equality in the multi-ethnic brotherhood of Christ.
Everything else is just talk.
Comment by Jacob Liston on May 1, 2016 at 9:07 pm
The soft bigotry of low expectations. Great piece Mr.Green.