On Race: Progress is Not Enough- Agitate

I can’t prove it was racism, but it looked like it.

While getting my shoes shined, a pleasure I rarely get, I was behind an African-American gentleman waiting for the same service. The attendant finished his first costumer, left to take care of some “business,” and only came back when the other gentleman was gone.

I don’t see slights everywhere but something about the body language of both men suggested I had seen an old and ugly American story.

It reminded me of the stories I hear each year of the experiences of colleagues and students. They don’t get similar service in certain neighbors. They expect worse care. The insidious thing about these constant slights is that they are not provable. Each individual case could be “just in the head” of the person. There is no sense complaining, but the cumulative denigration of common humanity takes a toll.

I cannot hope to understand it, but I can hate it. Christians cannot tolerate any failure of charity or of reason. Racism or irrational prejudice based on race is both.

Race is a concept not even found in Scriptures. It is an invention of pseudo-science and a fraud. Would that we could forget it and simply become color blind. It is not enough, yet, to ignore the “color line,” because it still exists and is still hurting my brothers and sisters. We cannot be post-racial in such a circumstance.

Does the hidden nature of much present racism make it harder to weed out? Do policies designed to help hurt? My friends impacted by subtle racism point out all the “cures” carry with them their own downside. The excellent scholar is viewed as an “affirmative action” hire, but sound diversity practices, not quotas, at least do something to counter-balance subliminal racism that is proven to exist.

As a Christian, I cannot be content to judge others, but must look to self. There is a facile and trendy uselessness in Christian colleges to the statement: “We are all racists.” We are not all racists in any meaningful sense of the term, but we are all irrationally prejudiced in some area or another.

Nobody escapes their culture easily and our culture has been, for centuries, steeped in racism. I am not a racist, but I am positive I have unexamined assumptions in this and many other areas.

Today, whatever actually happened, reminded me yet again that the work of reconciliation is not done and I am called to examine my own heart and be part of the solution.

I must speak up and agitate for change. Frederick Douglass was right: “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

I want the fruits of freedom and I will plow my own heart to get it.


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