Give Me a Racist Over A Racist System Anyday by Randy Woodley

“Now brother Woodley, Rev. _______ will share his apology with you and then you can apologize to him.” These are last words I needed to hear to understand the jist of  “platform reconciliation” about twelve years ago. “Why in hell would I want to apologize?,” I asked myself. I then left the event and vowed never to enable this type of trite confession offering cheap reconciliation again. Over the years the movement has become more sophisticated but the core is still sick, missing key components of actual shalom reconciliation including active and ongoing relationship building (friendship), immense re-education (the real narrative), equal reciprocity and restoration of the loss to the offended party. Addressing racism and attempting reconciliation seems to be big business in Christianity these days. As it stands (usually as either cheap reconciliation or tokenism) I would argue that for the most part, it only deepens the divide. Why? In the words of Jeremiah 6:14

They offer superficial treatments
for my people’s mortal wound
They give assurances of shalom
when there is no shalom

Why is it that good Christian folk can’t get together and really do these things in a way that honors God and empowers everyone? I believe there are at least three major roadblocks in the Western worldview preventing true reconciliation:

1. The dualism which provides a so called “spiritual” escape from people dealing with real life issues. To many Westerners, the problem is primarily “spiritual.” Yet, the wrong that has been done is real to minorities. Generations of people have been affected by the trauma and losses of systemic racism. People who have for generations experienced White privilege don’t realize that they have benefited greatly from that privilege. Systemic racism in American has been a zero sum game. Whites won, others lost. It is real.

2. The individualism that causes people to neglect the systemic causes and issues. Western minded Americans see most everything through a lens of individualism. If they don’t have prejudice or racist feelings against minorities then they feel they are not part of the problem. Yet, the real problem exists because of their denial. The socio-historic policies and laws that favor White males have been in place for over 200 years. They favored one group and excluded others who could not become American citizens or they repressed voting rights when citizenship was granted. We are all in this together. Western Christians need to learn to understand community! If some of are oppressed and others are free-no one has shalom.

3. The hiding place of devaluation of experience over belief. Ever argue with an Christian who won’t listen to your argument but keeps stating their belief? In Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism and I dare to say, Americanism, belief always trumps experience. Bible doctrine , the Constitution, Requirements for Church Membership, etc., all reinforce a graphocentric culture of belief over experience. We feel our beliefs will somehow triumph over our actual experience but church history proves this wrong in every generation. No, our beliefs should be what we do, not what we think. Don’t tell me what you believe, I already know what you believe by what you do or don’t do – so just do it!

I am the first to admit, it is tough to actually address these historic wrongs and find a better future. Real love is really difficult. But love is never passive. It takes true courage to love my neighbor. And love does not just care for individuals and their needs, it stops the systems of oppression that continue to damage people. Gotta, jump in the fray – and that’s where I always find Jesus! The sidelines are not an option.

Given the choice, I prefer a racist (prejudiced person) over a racist system 7 days a week! I can eventually find commonality with a racist on a human level and maybe even cause them to like or admire something about me. A racist system though, prevents equal opportunities on a grand scale for generations to come and it leaves the historic wrongs of the past undone. A racist system makes it seem normal to dehumanize the other. Once that happens, you can think or do anything to that person or group and justify it. Hope we can stop this soon.

  • NathanSmith79

    This was helpful. All three points are intertwined but distinct. Thanks Randy

  • Rebecca Trotter

    Thank you for this. Excellent points.

  • Jason Clark

    I am still frustrated by being labeled a privileged white oppressor and not ever given any real answer about what I should be doing differently. That is why I have a hard time taking this systemic racism seriously. It seems to me that people want me to feel ashamed of myself for being born a white male. I honestly don’t get it. It seems like a problem without a solution. If I can’t do anything about it, why do people insist I accept that I am intrinsically a big bully who should be ashamed of myself for being born white?

    I am not disputing anything in the article, just wondering what the solution is supposed to be.

    • Itsrealfunnythat

      Well… try to look at it this way. Imagine a billionare complaining because he has all these diamonds and doesnt know what to do with them so hes going to glue them to his yacht but the diamonds dont always stay on so hes lost a couple… The billionare thinks that people who get upset with him are just mad because theyre jealous and its not his fault hes so rich. Even if you arent taking advantage of the situation youre still a white guy, and even if youre not racist the odds are still in your favor. You dont have to feel guilty for being a white male, you just have to accept the fact that others have problems you will never have, and not make assumptions about why those problems are just in their head.

      • Jason Clark

        Thanks for the explanation. I still don’t understand what the solution is supposed to be or what I am supposed to do different. I really don’t believe that I am all that priviledged from the system. I was born into a poor white family and still don’t have much to my name today. There is nobody standing around giving me handouts and favors. It is true that minorities are not always treated fairly and that is wrong. The only thing I can do about that is to treat all people as fairly as I can and keep from coveting the rich man’s stuff.

        • Itsrealfunnythat

          There’s not really a solution, like there isnt a solution for racism. Of course even being a white male doesnt ensure riches, just like being a black male doesnt ensure poverty.

          • Colleen Kristich

            There are solutions though! Not magic bullet ones of course, but real, difficult, time-consuming heart-wrenching ones. First you need to understand why it’s important to recognize that you’re white. Here is an excellent article about recognizing your own identity as a white man: http://www.christenacleveland.com/2013/07/whiteidentity/
            Secondly, we all need to take the time and effort to really listen to people who aren’t our skin color. Read blogs about race written by people of color. Read books like “killing rage” by bell hooks. Meet people of color. If you don’t know many non-white people, go to where they are. Volunteer at an after-school program in the inner-city. Build relationships with people of color. That will bring you further along this road of self-discovery and cultural awakening than anything else you can do. Align yourself with people who have traditionally been oppressed.
            Finally, once you see life from the angle of someone of color you will be amazed at how different our society is-how disconnected many white people are from the plight of minority groups and how alive racism is today in our systems of government, economic distribution and education in particular. And when you see how it really is its your duty as a compassionate human being to vote, speak, write and talk to your friends about tearing down walls of injustice that keep people down.

        • Matt Cumings

          That is the first thing we (us white males) think of when we find out about a problem. What is the solution? Lets fix this!…The solution is being led by people of color, that is how we can reconcile relationships. When we hear stories of injustice from those we have formed relationships with we can take their direction and act against systematic racism.

          • http://www.jcooh.com/ Bill

            I thought the U.S. was being led by a “person of color.” Look how uniting that has been.