Racism seems to be a proverbial boogey man under America’s bed. When activists and spokesmen against racism cry out, they are usually met with the same suspicion as a young toddler who claims there is a monster under the bed. “Okay, son. Let’s check this out. See, there’s no monster under the bed. Go to sleep. Everything is fine.”
Those who point to racist acts, or a racist system, are summarily dismissed and encouraged to go along and get along with the times. We are living in a post-racial America. Something about this strikes a subtle but dissonant chord among the many who see racism interwoven throughout our political and economic system. Not only that, but it is also seen in the outright and unmistakable acts of terror committed against people of color in general and African Americans specifically.
A General Overview
For example, from 1999 to 2014 there were over seventy unarmed Black citizens murdered at the hands of the police. Some of these people were criminals or had a criminal record. Others were ordinary, upstanding citizens who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time—and the wrong color. These people were objects of a racist-tinged system that immediately perceives Black as bad, no good, and evil. Many were just in the wrong place at the wrong time but that has something to do with their Blackness and being at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Their social location made them casualties of war.
So, there’s that. And then we come to the highest appointment in the land and in the world: The Office of President of the United States. From the beginning of the campaign until now, President Barack Obama has been suspected of being everything from an undercover Muslim extremist to the Antichrist and leader of the One World Government. Now, every president that has been in office in my lifetime has been accused of being the Antichrist, but the first Black president has been accused of not only being a Muslim extremist but also not being a citizen of the United States. No one questioned any of his predecessors’ citizenships. They only questioned his, because he did not fit into the neat “WASP” (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) category that so many of our commanders-in-chief have in the past. The last one who didn’t, John F. Kennedy, was shot. Hmmm…
Racism is now seen as the conspiracy theory that Black people rely on when things don’t go their way. The truth is things do not go anybody’s way all the time. We live in a world of pain and suffering. Ever since the fall of man, our world has been plagued by failure and disaster. Job put it simply that man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of suffering (Job 14:1). On the other hand, Black people in America and around the globe have had more than just a few days of suffering.
When a group of people as a whole are met with oppression and made to be scapegoats for 500 years, then that’s not the everyday suffering of an individual but the collective oppression of racism. It’s not that everyone’s racist. Believe me, I have better things to do than play the victim and go around blaming people for attitudes that I can’t see. That’s not how I roll. No racist blaming here. What I focus on is this: racism is not dead. Racism is an invented social hierarchy that is still in place today. You may not be racist but that doesn’t mean you are not affected by racism. Everyone is affected by it. It has colored our view of the world so much that if you are directly or indirectly benefiting from it, you can’t see it. It’s those who are affected by it that see it best.
The Proof is in the Facts
It’s hard not to notice that one out of five African American applicants face discrimination at job interviews. It’s hard not to notice that when a company receives a resume with a “Black-sounding” name, the applicant is 50% less likely to get a call back than one with the same credentials but a “White-sounding” name. It’s hard not to notice that Black drivers are twice as likely to get pulled over by the police than White drivers. It’s hard not to notice that Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than Whites. It’s hard not to notice these statistics…unless they do not affect you.
As a Black man, I see that police murdered 70 unarmed Black citizens within the last fifteen years and it alarms me and scares me and makes me think: that could’ve been me. I see that, even after careful research done on the people of ancient Egypt and the genetics of the first humans, a movie focusing on those times such as Noah or Gods of Egypt can depict only White men being in power. So, when I walk into a room I’m not seen as someone who can lead but someone who will be on the bottom. I see that the median wealth of White households is 13 times more than the wealth of Black households since the Great Recession of 2007 and I have to ask myself, “How did we get here in the first place?”
A Historical Context
Well, way back in the 15th century when the European world was being awakened to the vast riches and natural resources beyond its borders, the then mostly Christian nations of the time needed a theory. They needed a theory that allowed them to justify them subjugating and oppressing those who were “other.” Out of that need for a theory racism was born. A social hierarchy was created where the fair-skinned people were on top and those who were darker were on the bottom.
Out of this social hierarchy came slavery, genocide, colonialism and the conquest and rape of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It’s not pretty but it’s something that we have to deal with. This same social hierarchy persisted into the Jim Crow era. It gave license to separate but unequal schools, housing, health care, jobs, and anything else you could think of. This social hierarchy gave a blank check to the Ku Klux Klan terrorism and lynching.
This same hierarchy is embedded in the fabric of our nation. It can be seen in the mass incarceration of African Americans. It can be seen in the huge gap in African Americans being hired for tech jobs. This hierarchy creates a subconscious bias against people of color. It causes us to unknowingly—and knowingly—give in to stereotypes. We write our screenplays and vote a certain way because of this hierarchy that has influenced people for over 500 years. You can’t just get rid of something like that without sustained, focused effort.
Renewing of the Mind
It is the kind of stronghold and a principality that Paul talks about in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:12). It’s bigger than just individuals. In the same letter Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” Racism is bigger than people. It is a cultural force that has swept America up in its path. In his book Brainwashed, Tom Burrell talks about the powerful propaganda campaign that has been executed to perpetuate the myth of Black inferiority. He states that, as a Black man, he is personally repulsed, but as an advertising executive, he can’t help but admire the genius of the strategy. Holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” can’t fix it. It takes a renewing of the mind and a casting out. It is a demon that sits in the haunted corners of our national psyche and it needs to be evicted.
Yes, America. You are possessed. There is an unclean spirit in you that has caused you to act against your better self. Its name is “racism.” We can get rid of slavery and segregation, but until we get rid of racism, Laquan McDonalds will still get shot in the streets in cold blood. People will still get called the N-word, even if they are the President of the United States. Our children will not have equal education and opportunities, and many African Americans will continue to hate themselves. As long as racism is allowed a free pass while we hold to not being racist, then we are doomed. It’s bigger than you as an individual. And no, we are not making this up.
Let’s talk about it. What are your thoughts on racism in America? Do you believe that the solution begins with changing one’s current mindset?