On Racism

I’ve seen a lot of people posting about the killing of a black man by vigilantes. It seems always that racial strife comes back each time we think we may have moved past it. Each generation alive, it seems, has to experience racial conflict as a new and shocking betrayal when we are youths, then as a personal pain when we are young adults joining the workforce, then as a sad reminder to us in middle age that humanity really does return to its broken promises like a dog going back to its vomit.


In the face of such a huge and seemingly irresolvable issue, it is common to sink into a kind of hopeless indignation that turns into self-righteous cynicism. Racism always ends up being someone else’s sin, someone else’s problem, because the media provides us with stark, dramatic examples of racism that allow us by contrast to see ourselves as detached from the issue, noting the great gulf that separates us as typical Americans going about our business from the monsters who would kill another person in a blazing act of injustice.

It is hard at age fifty to comment on the topic at all, since I have lived through enough history to know that everything’s been said already and then we arrive at the same juncture again. Heaping more scorn upon the latest bad example held up by the press doesn’t help the situation. Nor does virtuous expression of grief about how much we wish for a world without these conflicts in the future.


All I can add as something that you possibly haven’t heard before is a thought about racism drawn from a Bible verse that you’ve undoubtedly heard many times. Be faithful in the little things so that you can be counted as righteous in the great things.


That verse means that you should resist the urge to rally for recognition as one of the “good guys” when a huge controversy breaks. Rather, you should show courage and virtue when little controversies break around you. Remember that Jesus Christ asks, on his way to the cross, “if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when the wood is dry?”


God tests us each week with opportunities to show that we can stand up to things that are wrong around us. I know, from personal experience, that many people in my social circles were able to observe the racial injustice wrought by Southwestern Seminary during waves of firings by the Greenway Administration. Greenway’s people basically eliminated an entire generation of senior-level professors of color while hiring a host of white male professors, mostly tied to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


I wish more people would have spoken up about that trend. The liberal-leaning SJWs in the SBC, as much as they like to talk about racial justice, ignored that this was happening. For a brief spell in November 2019 they dug up old memos from Paige Patterson about an African-American SBC president to deflect attention away from Greenway. Conservatives showed interest in decrying the firing of conservatives but mostly did not want to comment on the racial dynamics of what was happening. Students did not want to risk their educations; professors did not want to risk their jobs; many people of color themselves did not want to be seen as troublemakers so they actually rejected me as a friend and colleague for drawing attention to what was happening.


The wood was green then. Now we find ourselves in a state of crisis, racial strife is back in the news, and the wood is dry. If you could not risk something to stand up for racial justice in the small things, how can your voice carry weight in the great injustices like police brutality, blacks being neglected in the COVID response, or vigilante murders of black men?


History repeats itself. The wood will be green again. You will have more chances to show faithfulness in little things once more. Take the risks then. Stand up when you are tested, even if it seems, at the time, that the stakes are too low for you to expect yourself to take any risks. Otherwise, when the stakes are high, your character will have become too complacent, and all you will have left to choose will be varying options of virtue-signaling. I say this with a loving heart.

*****

Since I wrote the post above on Facebook, I have gotten more familiarity with the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. The post by Dana Loesch summarizes a lot of what I have concluded about the case, even though I am not a fan of Loesch. The killing of Arbery does not involve circumstances that can support a conservative reaction against mainstream public opinion, which obviously sides heavily against the white shooters.

I don’t want to parrot the SJW talking points about how white people need to listen more to minorities or about the need for a “national conversation on race.” What I would say is that by now there is almost 100% consensus in the United States that racial discrimination, race hatred, racial targeting, and racial hostility are wrong. We don’t need to argue for or against these things. We need to live out our beliefs. That’s all I can say about it.