Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MLK Day ~ My Thoughts: Part Three

It is with a bit of fear and trembling that I post this final installment in my series. I've thought very carefully about what I am to say, but it's not very politically correct. Also, to those who've commented on the previous two blogs, thanks for your thoughts. Please consider this post as my response.

Racism is wrong. It is sinful. To consider any race as inferior or superior is to contradict the Creation account. God created one race. He died for this one race. And to comment on one of my pet-peeves, ethnic nativity scenes, he wasn't white or black. I grew up believing that the black race was descended from Ham, and the color was due to a curse received from looking upon his father's nakedness. Sad. If this topic interests you, check out One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism by Ken Ham, Carl Wieland, and Don Batten.

Racism/prejudice and all the hate that stems from them are born from the union of fear and ignorance. I've heard so many times: "I just can't stand how these Mexicans stand behind me in line and talk in Spanish~ I just KNOW they're saying something nasty about me or planning something criminal." Well, I've been in line before myself, and speaking Spanish, I can assure you that 98% of the time Pedro is asking Luis how much he's paying for that head of lettuce. Fear. Ignorance. They are a big, big deal in this topic.

Leaving political correctness behind, let me say I believe cultures can (and should) be judged. It's much more p.c. to say that culture is to be observed, celebrated, embraced for whatever it is. That the American culture is no better than the French culture or the Iranian culture. The idea that culture is some sort of amoral association which cannot be held to any standard is ludicrous. Behavior is definitely moral or immoral. Is not culture just a collection of shared behavior, belief and history? A culture is better or worse as it lines up against the word of God.


Leaving theory behind, this is where I stand:

I have carefully thought through the following statement. The idea of being color-blind is possible (note comments about children after Part 1), but the idea of being culture-blind may not be possible, nor even wise. If there are a group of men wearing swastikas on their armbands and going around chanting "Heil Hitler", I should exercise caution around them. They are publicly and purposely identifying themselves with a dangerous ideology. Well, guess what? I’m going to stop feeling guilty when I lock my car doors going through certain neighborhoods or beating myself up when I feel the lurch of fear at the approach of a group of hip-hoppers in a dark parking lot. I’m not taking my children to play at playgrounds known for drug-dealing. And I’m not buying property I know will significantly depreciate because of its surroundings. And I’m through feeling guilty about all of the above. I'm judging a culture. Not pre-judging, but judging based on statements it has made about itself.

I am not against blacks. I am against the hip-hop culture and its promotion of sin. I am against infidelity in marriage. I am against violence against the innocent. I am against looking for government handouts when work is possible. I am against using illegal drugs. I am against public profanity. I am against the disease and destruction caused by casual sex. I am for condemning the sin and loving the sinner.

I am for all people receiving equal opportunities in education. I am for all people receiving equal opportunities in employment. (Skill alone should be the determining factor for employment. ) I am for Christians living in unity within the body of Christ. I am for the Church stepping up to help the poor. I am for teaching someone to fish, as well as giving them a fish dinner.

As an admitted ‘recovering racist,’ I am actively seeking to line up my gut-reactions with the Word of God. At the moment, I am also reading through Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White by David Barton. Any thoughts you, dear friends and lurkers, may have are welcome.


Tara said...

You said it all very well. Very candid and straightforward, and not so politically incorrect, after all, I THINK. I think you have a very valid concept regarding judging (not PRE-judging) a culture, not a race. And judging behavior, not ethnicity. I don't see how anyone could disagree with that, other than people who are clearly racist. I applaud you for your obvious careful introspection and self-examination in this area, and also for your study and recommendation of resources. I have thought a few times of your thoughts on affirmative action, which I am inclined to agree with. I wonder if any in our little "blogging circle" or otherwise could give a weighty defense of it.
Thanks again for some excellent writing on a troubling topic. I hope you print it out, to make sure you always have it!

Charity said...

Thanks, Tara, for the encouraging remarks! It's always fun to write to an audience such as yourself~ so much of my day is toddler talk... I think I was a bit overly ambitious to tackle such a topic, but it helped me think through and cement some of my own previously vague ideas.

Wesley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wesley said...

Oops.....had edit a bit, and will probably find more errors after I post!


I agree with all of your statements and believe them to be fair. I think that we have the right to judge a culture, but we have to be careful not to assume that a member of a certain race prescribes to the cultural norms typically associated with thier race. For example, I think it would be incorrect to assume that all black people agree with the messages in gangsta rap and hip hop music, or that all Japanese people are geniuses and work-a-holics, or that all white people are arrogant. All of those behaviors or traits may be evident to a degree in the cultures, but not necessarily in every individual. I'm sure you agree.

We often hear the saying, "You can't judge a book by it's cover," and I believe that it is true. On the other hand, a book cover is usually chosen by an author to convey a message to the would-be reader. So, I think it is a bit tricky. I think that it may be safe to make broad initial assessments about a person based on his or her book cover, but based on behavior, as you said. I would even venture to say that we should only judge the behavior or the "fruit" of thier lives and use an understanding of thier culture to give us insight to thier behavior.

Ruby Payne wrote an interesting book titled, "Framework of Learning and Poverty", if I recall correctly. In it she talks about how children in poverty must learn how to speak "school talk" in order to survive in school. The language and behaviors that middle class adults use is completely foreign to the uneducated and impoverished. After reading her book, I gained a bit of insight as to how learning another person's "language" or culture can explain a lot about how that culture interacts with others. My point being, that we use the same words, yet speak different languages. If we try to understand the culture of those around us, it can help us understand, for instance, why the messages of hate, sex, drugs, etc. has taken such a stronghold in the black culture. Of course, we could philosophize (I may be making that word up.) all we want and then just come to the conclusion that sin is sin and is prevalent in all cultures. And let's not forget about Eminem and Brittney Spears.....just as "white bread" as they come, but still spreading the same messages as many of our black brothers and sisters.

Well, I think I've talked in enough circles for one sitting. Great blog!!! For what it's worth, Tara, I also disagree with affirmative action. I think that the end result is enablement and damage to the minorities in our country.

Josh said...


WOW! What a great post. As someone who also spent the first part of my life in the deep south I find your introspection and candor refreshing! Your insistence that the “union of fear and ignorance” breed prejudice couldn’t be more spot on. While in college I was able to serve as an officer in a support group for Latino and Latino interested students. I too will attest to the terribly polarization (on both sides of the issue) that can result from cultural and linguistic misunderstandings.

I’ve spent over a decade living in an urban neighborhood and daily see strong evidence for your accurate claim that the music and mentality of many in the black community is proving ruinous.

I do however disagree with you on one point. In your second post you claim that affirmative action implies that blacks “can't intellectually compete in our society.” I strongly feel that nothing could be further from the truth. To cite Condoleeza Rice as an example of why American society doesn’t need affirmative action is like claiming Bill Gates proves the value of dropping out of college. She is without precedent.

Affirmative action or “reverse discrimination” as some call it is a flawed, but necessary, solution to the terrible problem of multi-generational discrimination. People like Colin Powell, who was a beneficiary of affirmative action, prove the value of the practice. Without such a program that forced society to look beyond his color, he may have never been able to share his ideals in the broader political landscape.

To claim that affirmative action is subtlety implying people of color to be incapable of competing is only partially correct. Affirmative action recognizes the realities that many minorities face: poverty, lack of educational advantages available to many with whom they are expected to compete and frequent resistance from their own community in pursuing higher education. Hence, AA doesn’t claim people of color to be less intelligent than others, but merely recognizes many minority students are subject to greater difficulties. In short, AA strives to insert a modicum of equality into an already uneven playing field.

Also, Affirmative Action doesn’t just help minority students, but rather enables students of all backgrounds to benefit from a more diverse and socially reflective student body. Something that proves priceless is breaking down those walls of “fear and ignorance” that you so rightly resist.

Again, I very much enjoyed your posts, but wanted to share a few of my own thoughts.

Josh A

Charity said...

Great thoughts, guys.

Wesley: Couldn't agree with you more. My post is a broad-based look at a sub-culture (the hip-hop). There are many black Americans who disagree as strongly as myself with its messages. There is always the danger of over-generalizing and making sweeping judgments. Many think that all Hispanics (keep coming back to this, as this is what I know best) are roving groups of men who live in trailer parks, haunt Wal-mart late at night, and stay in trouble with the law. Truth is those who immigrate are the desperate, the poorer and more needy segments of society. Hence, higher crime rates. They 'rove' together to save money to send home to families they are trying to support. And most have no intention of staying. They want to go home eventually to be with their families. So different than the sweeping judgments would cause you to think.

Josh: great defense of AA. I agree with your assertions that the AA is "flawed, but necessary." It's true that the playing field is uneven, and I'm sure that AA has helped many to overcome that. Although, Colin Powell is probably as unique as Condoleeza Rice ;o) I failed to mention in my first post that I spent several years working in an HR department under a African-American employer. A big chunk of my time each year was spent readying the 'big binder' for the VISIT FROM ATLANTA. We had to report everything! Each interviewee, hire, promotion, fire, rehire, etc. had to be classified by gender and race. If we didn't hire any minorities, we had to explain why. "No minority applicants were available for this position." If we fired minorities, we really had to explain why. On two separate occasions, black men who were guilty of gross sexual misconduct on the job (trading overtime privileges for their subordinates for forced acts, etc) were simply moved or promoted to different departments to avoid the firing of a minority.
And in the corporate world, it's the unfortunate reality that many skilled white males are passed up b/c they are the wrong color/sex. This I've also seen close-up. So... I've been closer to the reverse discrimination side of things for a long time. Hence my one-sided view of AA. Thanks for reminding us of the positives~ BALANCE and truth are crucial.

Anonymous said...

Don't really have anything of substance to add, but I have immensely enjoyed the discussion! Thanks, Charity, for a phenomenal post, and thanks to the rest of you for keeping me thinking!

Liz said...

I've really enjoyed the discussion - you've done a great job putting your thoughts into words - proof that toddlers don't pickle our brains after all! :>)

I don't have anything to add, just concur that after living where I live (low income area of a lg city) and seeing what I've seen in people's lives through the church here, you're right on the mark as far as hip-hop culture. It's effects here are everywhere - gang graffiti, gun shots at night, my 30 something neighbor arrested - still in a gang and selling drugs, teen suicides, it's the picture of my husband struggling to restrain the woman's hand with a knife in it that's trying to get to the police on the other side of him . . .

The saddest part to me is that (in our area at least) the Hispanic teens and Native American teens are integrating more with the hip-hop culture . . . That's very troubling. How do you show them something different?

In our position here, we've had the responsibility of judging the issues of the culture, and then ministering to them, trying to understand and love them the best way we can. The culture is so foreign to me - it's been my biggest challenge here.

Anyway, enjoying the discussion!

Liz said...

Charity, one more thing . . .
I'd have to say that in our area hip-hop culture goes way beyond black skin - lots of white, Hispanic and Indian folks too.

Differentiating between the Hispanic and Am. Indian teens I mentioned in my other comment. It seems some go for the hip-hop culture because it's a place to "belong" - parents can't speak English and aren't integrating into middle - America's culture, or are still lost in Indian traditions (some of that out here - pow wow's and everything) so the kids are finding their own way.

Others just going for hip-hop b/c their parents have to some degree or another - or parents are strung out all the time and don't have a clue.

Does that make sense? I've never put those thoughts into words before . . .

We've had several kids that fit into these categories work with us through community service - that's been the best way to connect and try to help them so far.

Pardon the ramblings!

kayla said...

I have loved reading your thoughts on this subject. Thanks so much for your bravery. I can so relate to being a "recovering racist". When it is ingrained in you from childhood it can be hard to get over the "fear and ignorance". I too hope that we do a better job teaching the next gereration to appreciate the "beautiful rainbow" that the human race is.

Anita said...

What a well thought out and honest post. I appreciate everything you said.

Mary said...

I am a white mother of two black children, and you have touched on many things that we often discuss. There is a lot of evil in the black culture, but it's not because of race or color, it's because of the wickedness of the heart that we were all born with. We actively maintain a friendship with a black family who has rejected the hip-hop culture and are training their children to follow godly principles. We've had some good discussions about black culture.

Thank you for being honest in your posts. I was amazed to read of some of your experiences.

Making Memories 1999 said...

I enjoyed reading your posts re: MLK. Good thoughts.

I am reminded of a "life lesson" which my children and I discussed yesterday. We talked about money and how we view the rich and poor in regards to their "goodness". Money, like skin color, is "amoral". The actions of the individual with the money or skin color (whether white, black, or brown) speaks to their heart condition - not the fact that they have money or color.

Thanks again for your thought-provoking post!