“White people deserve to die,” declared Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at a recent event.
I lived just 18 blocks from his national offices on the South Side of Chicago for 6 years. In fact, we frequently drove past the nearby Nation of Islam Mosque Maryam as a family. At the adjacent stoplight, African American men in three-piece suits distributed free copies of Farrakhan’s newspaper The Final Call. Most drivers received a warm greeting and a smile. Our minivan full of white people rarely got eye contact. Occasionally we’d get a frown or a scowl. And we were never offered a free newspaper.
Then there was the time my wife went to a Sears near our house to make a few returns. We were likely the only white people who shopped at this location. Store security blatantly followed her around while she shopped, obviously concerned she was trying to steal something.
Experiences like these living in an African American community are the catalyst for my passion about race issues. The topic arises frequently on my Christian morning radio talk show. In response, a listener wrote with a concern worth addressing:
I have listened to your shows on race relations. As a Caucasian person I feel blamed for all their misfortunes. I don’t feel that is the intention. That is why I’m writing. The other half of the discussion has been missed. REVERSE RACISM…I don’t see African Americans denouncing reverse racism…We cannot only talk about one side.
This note is particularly timely in light of a horrifying Facebook Live incident in Chicago. A group of four young African Americans kidnapped, tortured and humiliated a white teen with special needs. Then they proudly streamed the incident on social media. This shockingly abhorrent incident includes multiple levels of evil. One of them is undeniably racism. Chicago’s police chief acknowledged that the suspects made “terrible racist statements” in the video.
Before digging into this issue further, the word “racism” has to be addressed. Far too often, conversations about this topic get lost in the weeds of terminology. Both sides use definitions as a weapon to dismiss each other, and distract all of us from the real issues at hand. I’ve seen some writers claim liberals intentionally misuse the term “racism” to silence their opposition. Others declare racism against white people can’t exist due to technicalities of the word’s definition. Merriam-Webster, Oxford Dictionary, and Dictionary.com can’t even agree about the meaning. In the end, it’s most helpful to cling to common usage, because that’s what most of us really mean. In this case, Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism for kids makes the most sense: “Discrimination or hatred based on race.” I might simplify it even further by saying today’s common use of the word “racism” is basically treating someone differently primarily or solely based upon their race. We all know that’s what most Americans mean when talking about racism anyway.
With that in mind, I can address this listener’s concern.
Yes, racially motivated negative actions against white people exist. My personal stories prove it. But I’m convinced it’s an insignificant issue in the context of modern conversations about racial reconciliation. Comparing fleeting incidents against whites to the experiences of millions of African Americans for hundreds of years is unhelpful at best. It’s like complaining about a paper cut to someone in a horrific car wreck. Technically, both are considered injuries. But one simply isn’t proportionally comparable to the other.
Stick with me.
You see, we cannot forget that our experience in America is historically and culturally unique. A wider view of time is necessary to form a full understanding.
The first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown in 1619. Freedom wasn’t a reality until the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Legal equality wasn’t realized until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That’s 246 years of brutal slavery and 100 years of legalized oppression. Clearly, overt dehumanizing discrimination formed the very foundations of every aspect of this nation for 346 years. Since laws don’t change hearts, the undercurrent of racial division still moves along swiftly beneath the surface. The history is so recent and the wounds so fresh that the daughter of a slave just participated in the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. [For a brief but more detailed look at this history, click here.]
The full weight of American history stares deeply into the eyes of modern society, and the scars of the past won’t soon fade from memory.
Consider the national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Once completed, it will be the first attempt at formally acknowledging the more than 4,000 lynchings that took place across the South. Some as late as 1950. Many perpetrated by mobs of “respectable citizens,” and joyfully attended by families with children. Few were prosecuted for their crimes, leaving justice glaringly absent for countless families for multiple generations.
Hurrying along the healing of our past would be both irresponsible and unhealthy. So would insinuating that racism is an equally paved two-way street.
Whether we like it or not, the imbalanced scales of racial history in America can only be overcome by an equally imbalanced effort toward reconciliation. Healing can only fully come when whites realize that we must bear the bulk of the burden. And armed with the unifying power of the Gospel, white Christians have the opportunity to show the entire country what corporate repentance and restoration really look like.
18 thoughts on “What About Racism Against White People?”
Beautifully wrote! We can’t forget the struggle but we got to stop
blaming things on others and do some forgiving and restoring ourselves as black people.
Thank you again Brian for beautifully articulating the sentiments of many.
Truly my pleasure, Brenda! Thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement. I’ve learned a ton from bold Sisters in Christ like you, and miss my friends in Chicago. Blessings!
First of all very poignant. But if a white person is a racist and call themselves a Christian does that mean that this person needs ddeliverance(2cor. 10:3-5), has that person died to the flesh .
and asked God for forgiveness and come out of agreement with racism. And for that one does not believe that what they are doing against someone because of skin color what then is it called patriotism. It is not going to be dealt with collectively just as a person must accept Jesus on their own that is how racism must end,individually. 1 John 4:20. Reverse racism means that someone is admitting racism exist,but its not happening to me i don’t see it. We talk a good game claiming to love Christ ,but I doubt many of us are willing to walk the path he did. Now if the person is not a Christian then they have to seek truth. We have forgotten who saten is the worlds biggest deciever and the god of this world. And how Christians acknowledge racism and the world does is different. But if we find ourselves pulled into it we have to walk in true repentance it is a spirit that deals with your heart. We are set apart and should be setting examples for the world.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Regina! You’ve made some good points here. And I agree that we should be setting examples for the world!
Why do I as a white male need to apologize for something I did not do?
Why do I have to lead reconciliation for things I did not do?
What biblical verses would back either of these viewpoints?
You ask a really important question. Likely too big of a question for me to fully respond to here. But I addressed the larger issue in this previous post: http://briandahlen.com/2016/07/like-presbyterians-repent-racism.html
Appreciate that, but any biblical verses to back apologising for things they did not do and/or offering reconciliation for something one did not due?
Thanks, Michael. I really appreciate your willingness to dialogue. It’s most certainly possible that you have nothing to apologize for in this area. Many years ago, I searched my heart and discovered it to be exceedingly sinful in a long list of ways (Jeremiah 17:9). I discovered I didn’t even do the things I want to do, as my sinful nature is an ongoing problem (Romans 7:15). I want to love my neighbor, but I fail. I began to see that I am a transgressor of the law in more ways than I realized (James 2:11). I wasn’t using racial epithets, but I discovered fears and biases that were driven by racism. Then I remembered racist jokes I shared and laughed at as a child. Then I remembered my Grandfather who was unashamedly racist. Then my eyes were opened to way that our nation historically brutalized African Americans, and my family did nothing to press for justice. Then I saw racism still impacting culture today, and I’d said nothing about it. I hadn’t hungered and thirsted for justice as Jesus said I should (Matthew 5:6)
What else could I do but confess, repent and turn from my sin? Biblical humility and love of neighbor drove me to hear the cries of my African American friends, and believe them. And weep with them. And seek Biblical reconciliation.
Again, you may never have thought, said or done anything racist. Your family may have avoided it as well. But I think there’s lots of people out there like me. So that’s why I write posts like this.
Hope that helps, my friend! And I hope our paths cross again soon.
I appreciate your clarification. Your original post came off at least to me as apologizing even though you have done no wrong (consciously or unconsciously).
However, you are dead on that when we do sin we need to repent as the Lord brings it to our thoughts.
It’s an important difference between the two. 🙂
Here are a few:
1 John 4:20
2 Corinthians 5:18
Very good read bro!
Thank you for your eloquence, you Do have a talent here, and the obvious passion that God has placed on your heart in this respect.
As much as many of us would immediately say, I’m not biased or prejudiced, the alarming fact is, in some small way, We Are!!
We all need a reality check👍
Thanks for your kind words! I’m grateful! And you summarized the needs of the moment well. If we all can recognize our biases and flaws, we can begin the reconciliation process.
On my way into work this morning, I tuned in to hear you sharing your experience of what it felt like to live as a white person on the predominantly black South side of Chicago. Racism is something that no one should ever have to experience. What you felt was real, to the point that it left an imprint on your memory. I am glad that you shared your and your family’s experiences. You went on to mention that someone wrote in about reverse racism. I said to myself, “Those are “fish bowl” experiences, when compared to the “sea” of racism that people of color and various cultures have to deal with daily. Then all of a sudden the program took a turn when you were given the boldness of Holy Spirit (Joshua 1:9) to say reverse racisms “paper cut” cannot equate with the deep wounds of racism . As an African-American woman born in the 60’s, I have experienced racism countless times. It put the freshness of slavery into perspective, when you said that the descendant of a slave was part of the opening ceremony for the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Brian, what you said today could not have been easy. It was a hard message, but a very important one that had to be delivered. Change is an uncomfortable process, because it involves looking into our hearts; it also usually requires taking up or giving up something. Healing prayers and asking Holy Spirit to help us put God’s Word into action can catapult us past our comfort zones, into a world that needs a lot of love, and a lot of saving. The desire to be delivered from the grip of racism is possible if we want it. Otherwise, if we’re not careful we’ll find ourselves wearing the very traps that Satan sets, as badges of tradition, pride, and honor. But thank God that He gives us a way of escape :).
As Paul told the church in Corinthian, “And yet I will show you a more excellent way”.
Blessings to you Brian and Kathleen for doing God’s work
(Liberty Hill Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio)
Thank you so much for your kind, wise and insightful thoughts. I’m so grateful, and encouraged! Your life experiences and personal reflections have helped me better understand this issue. May God bless you and yours!