What is “racism”? Do you know? Is it the same as “prejudice”? What does it mean to be “anti-black” in today’s world? For that matter, what does “anti-black” even mean?
The questions are serious ones. The mean much more than containing the violence to Ferguson, MO. The affect our relations within the church and the further propagation of the gospel in cultural settings outside of European-skin-based influences in the U.S.
In their piece “Black-on-Black Violence: Pastor Voddie Baucham’s Assault on Black People,” Austin Channing Brown, Christena Cleveland, Drew Hart and Efrem Smith take aim at Voddie Baucham’s “Thoughts on Ferguson” recently published online by The Gospel Coalition.
(This post is not intended to minimize the problem. It is intended to challenge what I consider to be a weak position on the subject. Some of my pronouns address the authors and the black community in general. I trust that the choice of terms will be understood correctly, lest I be termed a racist without warrant. Hey, it happens all the time.)
First let me say that I do appreciate that the authors are raising awareness of the racial issues. I worked for World Impact for just short of two years in the 1970s. For me it was a growing time, but in terms of my personal life and being engaged in a ministry opportunity.
To criticize the piece much can be said. First a theological question, then a quick historical inquiry. The dictionary will also come into play here.
Believing in free will and free moral agency as parts of the Christian world view, one can hardly blame person x for the behavior of person y. That seems simple enough on an individual level. But the writers take it further and make it a class issue, blaming all “white” people for the actions of black people. The effect of this is to deny free will.
“You have, because of the actions of others in the past, no choice but to act the way you do. There is a class of people, defined by their skin color, who are your enemies. They may not have oppressed you and their ancestors may not have oppressed your ancestors but they bear the same skin color. This is your justification for violence against them. This is also your justification for violence against your own people. You are not allowed to change your behavior. You are not allowed to grow beyond your class.”
This reflects, as I read the piece, the authors working theological principle.
What does “anti-black” mean? It could mean that one does not want blacks to succeed. It could mean that one wants blacks to be subjugated to whites. It could mean that one does not want blacks to be allowed to exist. It could mean some combination of any of the above, and more. The problem is, it could mean anything. We just do not know. They did not have the courage to tell us.
Of course in today’s world the approach to attacking anything historically evangelical or politically conservative is to call it anti- something. Anti-woman. Anti-gay. Whatever prefix fills the bill.
The question of “racism” is an important one. The term is new and is probably less than 60 years old. It is the suffix-equivalent of the anti- label.
What the authors left us with is this: White-on-black violence represents white racism. Black-on-black violence represents white racism. In other words, everything is defined by white racism.
There is a mystique painted by the theological and political world. It’s this: Before European colonialism and the rise of slavery the world was a peaceful place. Africa was quiet. The Americas were quiet and peaceful. All was right with the world until Europe brought Christianity to global dominance through violence and exploitation.
The authors do not state this specifically but the hints of its influence are unmistakable. Can I use the terms “code words” or “code language” here? They seem appropriate.
I wonder who sold the Africans into slavery? Was it other whites? Was there not slavery in Africa at the time? Who ran it? Did it precede the American institution? If it did precede what happened here then the cause is not one determined by skin color but by other forces. That is a question of theology and not of economics.
Over-simplification of historical questions ends up as a convenient solution. There is always someone whom one might blame. That’s the exploitation theme. Sometimes it’s economics specifically and other times it’s economics by implication (slaves were purchased to firm up the South’s economic status).
The problem might also be traced to a theological contributor. Thabiti Anyabwile’s “The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity” covers a great deal of the change. Noting the integration of Marxist influences, orthodoxy has been removed in favor of some damaging alternatives. When Christian orthodoxy is removed then the dignity of the individual is lost.
It is not the fault of white orthodox evangelicals that slavery happened any more than it is the fault of white orthodox evangelicals that Boko Haram is butchering people in Africa. There are other worldviews at work. Skin color is a peripheral issue.
This statement is quite bothersome:
By conveniently omitting any discussion of the ways in which the long-standing system of white domination contributes to fatherlessness in the black community, police brutality of black people, negative societal perceptions of black people, the systemic disempowerment of black people, the internalized racism of black people and even Black-on-Black violence, he assaulted the character and worth of black people, suggesting that black people like Michael Brown deserve to be killed. In doing so, he made a statement in support of White-on-Black violence, an argument that many whites have used throughout history.
#1 For the past century and a half there has been an emphasis, by liberals and not simply by “white” people, that women should be out of the home and working at jobs. The economics of Malthus, followed by Marx, Sanger, and Obama (“That’s not a choice we want Americans to make”), the effort to break up the home has been unending.
Breaking up the home eliminates the authority structure of the home. Children are left unguided by fathers.
Set up abortion clinics in black neighborhoods so that one can eliminate children and live independently of men (because women are a different species, a new race). Right now more than half of the black children conceived in NYC are taken through abortion. Other forces are at work to break up black homes.
#2 There’s a history of this attack on the black home. And it’s not by those old Christian white people or the theology they espouse. It’s by the secular liberal who promised a new world where there would be justice and peace. They borrowed Christian theology to advance the power of the state and you are paying the greatest price of all while you pay fealty with your vote.
#3 The manipulation of our economy in favor of borderless nations is also sourced in modern Marxist thinking. Without this the jobs would be plentiful. But to maintain a burgeoning government it is necessary to keep your people from jobs by eliminating them. Jobs are not created by the government. And they do not appear by magic. Jobs, real ones rather than token government pencil-pushing positions, reflect productivity. Right now our system is being gamed to the detriment of the black home, along with other power and control goals.
#4 Now, go attack a police officer. He might seemingly deserve it if he is a jerk. Try to take his gun. The a few moments later charge him. All the while do so with the expectation that there will be no response.
Let’s also go with the fact that even Eric Holder’s departmental review of the evidence is consistent with officer Wilson’s account. Now, Michael Brown did not deserve to be killed because he was black. He earned the consequences of his actions. Those are very different matters. Facts be damned.
Next, in challenging Mr. Baucham’s position this statement is made
The historical and current system of White-on-Black violence sends messages that are so powerful that many black people succumb to them, ultimately becoming defined by them. Internalized racism, a term first coined by black scholar W.E.B. DuBois in 1903, involves accepting a white supremacist social world that places black people at the bottom, and adopting society’s negative stereotypes about African Americans concerning their abilities and intrinsic worth.
I am curious what Mr. Baucham said that diminished intrinsic worth?
If you wish to make a theological point, and that is the point of this article, how do the writings of a Marxist like DuBois fit in? We know that Marxism is built around immutable economic classes. There is something about our social structure, and it is not identified by skin color, which limits economic mobility.
Likewise, DuBois was writing in the era of eugenics, particularly Darwinian eugenics. Even DuBois recognized it (“Evolution of the Race Problem”). Yet those who practice social Darwinism still hold sway. It’s a strange irony today’s liberal/leftists who appear to help you are practicing the structures which assist in maintaining the status quo. I think you might do better in your reason and practice by challenging those who appear to be your supporters for their sin which even DuBois challenged. The situation will not change until minds change.
It is damaging to the church to treat one’s white brothers and sisters as ones responsible for the actions of a few, in other parts of the country and world, and who hold no responsibility for those actions. All of my ancestors, from both sides, came to the U.S. after 1870. And they all lived in the north. But these authors believe that my racial class makes me responsible for Ferguson. Sorry, but that’s not a theologically sound point. It is by definition divisive and, to be generous, just plain wrong.
I find it damaging to the church to suggest that disagreeing makes one a racist. That’s what I get from the political left. For these authors to call Mr. Baucham a racist falls short of the civility suggested.
Minds only change when the heart changes. That is one of Baucham’s points.
The presentation of these four authors is far from orthodox in its doctrine, far from accurate in its history, things which remove it from being a unifying force.
Blame is easy. Solutions are hard.