I was on a panel this week at an event entitled Uprooting Racism from the Church, sponsored by the Michigan State University student group MSU Project 1:17. In addition to the live panel, they took anonymous questions from the audience for the speakers to answer online. I’ve realized recently that I haven’t posted about racism / racial reconciliation in a while. Somewhat because I’ve been busy with posts about sexual purity, lust, porn, marriage, etc. that go along with my recent book release. But to my discredit, it’s also because some white Christians who would be interested in buying my book about sexual purity would also be upset about what I write about race. So in my fear of man, I have backed down from speaking the truth (the same temptation I face as a pastor with the topic of race, Lord help me). How quickly and easy it is to fall into this trap! I had also become fatigued with debates and fatigued with people being upset with me, so had taken the easy road. I apologize for that to anyone reading this, especially my friends of color.
I thought posting a blog with my answers to these Q&A questions would be helpful because I’ve already written them, and because I’ve previously articles on these subjects, which you can find at the bottom of each post. There will be 3 of these, with the questions having been anonymously submitted from the crowd at the event earlier this week. The original format for these was on a Facebook event page, which I’ve just copied and pasted here. I’ll post one each day over the next three days. I thought I’d start off with the most provocative of the 3!
If life is so bad for people of color in the United States, then why do those who complain continue to live in the US? Why do they not move to another country?
Lord help me to answer this in love and in a way that truly helps the person who asked it. Help me to believe that they are asking it from an honest place and that they want to learn and grow.
First and foremost, where would they go? African-Americans do not have a home country. African slaves were brought here and separated from their families. Husbands and wives were separated, parents and children were separated. They were mixed up on the boats to remove all personal identity, so their only identity would be as laborers, as property. Then they were raped by slave owners. An African-American does not know what country they are from originally. And even if they did, could they go back to a country they’ve been away from for hundreds of years? This is their home! White people forcibly brought them here and deprived them of everything. To say that moving to a different country is the solution would only be to admit how awful of a country the United States really is — I’m not saying we are that awful of a country, I’m saying that if your solution is people of color should move away if they don’t like being oppressed, then you are saying we are that awful of a country. Hypothetically if Canada was presented as a good option to move to for an American person of color, that would only be admitting that America is racist and bigoted and only cares about whites, but Canada isn’t. I hope that no American really believes that or wants that. The solution isn’t to throw people out of our country who “complain,” it’s to fix what they are “complaining” about. This is especially true for those of us who are Christians. Jesus tells us the 2nd greatest commandment in all of Scripture is to love our neighbor as ourselves. If our neighbor of color is being oppressed, we are to love them and help fix the situation, not throw them out because they don’t like being oppressed. In addition to this, the Bible is full of scriptures about God’s heart for justice and for the oppressed (Isaiah 1:11-17; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). To ignore the cry of the oppressed in our own country, and to be a part of the oppression, puts us directly under God’s judgment. I think the main thing missing from this question is the understanding that people of color are under oppression in our country, they aren’t just complaining about it. We have to believe people of color, otherwise we can never be in Christian community together. To not believe people of color is what creates and sustains the racial division in our country. I typically find that the mindset behind this question comes from a person who is looking at the world through the lens of their political party rather than Scripture, through political jargon of political radio and TV, and someone who is not in community with people of color, someone who has spent most of their life in white spaces and that that’s the only experience they have. The key step is: are you willing to learn and grow? Do you assume that your experience is the same as people of color’s? Are you willing to listen? Are you willing to see how big the world is? To the person who wrote this question, I would highly recommend reading the book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Emerson and Smith if you have a humble heart to be learn and grow in this area.