I am apart of the richest and most comfortable generation that has ever lived.
Much of our “success” has simply been enjoying the success and hard work of previous generations.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a productive citizen who works, pays taxes, and contributes something valuable to society. But I’ve been able to do this work with comfort and ease; knowing that if I fail, I have a pretty big safety net. My wife and I have generous parents who we know would help us if we really needed it. We have a really strong network of friends and family who love us and support us.
But then there’s the net itself. I mean the color of the net. Mine happens to be white.
I heard someone say recently “If you are a white male born in America, you won the lottery.” There’s truth in that.
Whether I realize it or not, I started with a head start. My head start, no doubt, comes from my “middle-classness”. And because of the historic racism that drew economic lines along racial lines… my “middleclassness” cannot be separated from my “whiteness”. They are, in sociological terms, one and the same.
White people have had the advantage in America since it’s inception. Still do. Period. And while the comfort and security of our race has stayed the same over the years, the prospects for people of color have only gotten “less sucky” with each passing generation.
Of course, none of this is my fault, as my fellow conservatives will point out. And I completely agree! But if you drove by a car wreck and someone needed your help, would you refuse to assist them because it “wasn’t your fault”? Of course not.
And then there’s the argument I’m ashamed to say I’ve made. We hear complaints about racism, and we throw our hands in the air and say “It’s not 1960 anymore! And it’s DEFINITELY not 1860 anymore!!!”
This is what I would imagine a person of color hears when we say that. “Stop complaining! At least your not a slave! You can even use the same restroom as us!!!”
The abolition of slavery and de-segregation were wonderful achievements. But I wouldn’t exactly consider them as being high points in American history, as much as they were just putting a stop to barbarism. Should we be patting ourselves on the back for doing one of the most basic things that God expects from us?
“Hey look at us God! We’re not selling black people as property anymore! We’re not even spraying women with firehoses! You’re welcome!”
When evil is overcome, it is always something to celebrate, but we must not let the gains of the past blind us to the injustices of the present.
Where do we start?
Well as obvious as this one is, it’s suprisingly hard to do in reality: we, as white people, must admit that there is a race problem in America.
My generation has been told over and over again. “Slavery is over!” “Segregation is over!” “Institutional racism is over!”
Well, racism is not over. It exists in a thousand seemingly innocent forms. And the hardest one for us to admit as white conservative Christians…is it that it exists in institutional forms. This we vehemently deny.
Here me out for a minute…
The most basic form of “institutional racism” is simply the residual affects of racism from previous generations. i.e., the “white flight” of the mid-20th century, leaving black families in zoned ghettos with bad schools… leading to a cycle of poverty and all of the things that accompany it… fatherlessness… gangs which grow from desperate young men looking for identity and some sense of control. People of color are not more prone to crime and violence. Every Christian knows this instinctively. So what is behind the destructive patterns in black communities then? Could it be cycles set into motion largely due to racist policies and laws from our not so distant past? Circumstances that the enemy took advantage of to steal, kill and destroy? I believe so.
This is the part where we yell “BEN CARSON!!!!!!”
He no doubt has an inspiring story. But the very fact that it’s inspiring proves my point. Look at all of the ridiculous obstacles he had to overcome! Obstacles the average white person does NOT have. So yes, Ben Carson’s story is amazing. But rather than proving “Race isn’t an issue, just work hard.” It proves “Race IS an issue, so black people have to work harder.”
After admitting racism is a problem, our next job is to simply try and understand. What has it has felt like to be black in America for the past 40 years? What has racism looked like for the average black person AFTER the civil rights movement? That is the car wreck we are passing. We can’t turn our eyes from it just because it’s awkward and messy. And sometimes unfruitful! You may try your best to understand a black person only to have them laugh at you. First of all, welcome to their world! Secondly, if you are serious about racial healing, you will be in it for the long haul. And your love for people will not be based on how well they are receiving your love. You will simply love. This is the key to transforming our society.
Thanks for reading. I’ll follow up with another post soon.