The Church Needs to Address Racism

Written by AriahFine : November 9, 2007

I admit, I’ve watched an episode Dog the Bounty Hunter. It was just a few weeks ago when I was at my in-laws and someone flipped the show on, pointing out that Dog and his crew were Christian Bounty Hunters (think Cops-Guns+Prayer=Dog).

Well, if you haven’t heard, Dog has been the latest in a slew of well known faces to be caught using racial slurs. I’m not going to link it here, but we’ve had everyone from Gibson to Imus to Richards and more. This isn’t a new phenomena, just one that’s been brought to the public eye thanks to camera phones, recording, and the power of the internet. That these public incidents involving celebrities is not an indicator that celebrities are prone to racial rants; it’s an indicator that a lot of racism still exist in our society. And for every outspoken incident, there is a lot of under-the-surface-but-never-voiced racism and discrimination that exist.

What’s appalling to me is the silence of the church. To be more specific, it’s the white church–churches with white leadership and predominately white congregations–that seems to be completely silent on these things. If you go to a church where the majority of the congregation or the people in leadership are people of color, you will hear these things mentioned from the pulpit. The issue of racism is relevant to the church, as much to those in white congregations as the rest. So, where are the voices?

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10 Responses to “The Church Needs to Address Racism”

  1. espiritu paz on November 9th, 2007 3:50 am

    Is there any particular reason, functional or otherwise, that the emphasis is placed on racial slurs or that which comes out of one’s mouth when racism is challenged on an interpersonal level?
    Personally, I think I would prefer other things to be challenged which seem a whole lot more pervasive and wrong. For instance, judgment calls based on race. Latinos soon find out that they shouldn’t play their music in their cars as loud as they are accustomed to because it is considered disruptive and might bring unwanted attention. Then there was the time I was hanging out in the street with my latino friend next to our cars and the cops came and ruffed us up on suspicion of prostitution. The only thing I did that was remotely suspicion was that I was with a man and I looked Latino. The Af. Americans in our neighborhood like to hang out on the front porch and talk boisterously. The new white neighbors from the berbs called the cops on them for suspicion of drug dealing.
    Yeah, I’d like people to quit saying stuff but I’d also like to have a deeper level of change happen. And so my question is, why is talk the primary focus. Or is it a random engagement point.

  2. Ariah Fine on November 9th, 2007 4:17 am

    @espiritu: Your absolutely right on.
    I didn’t mean for it to sound like ‘talk’ was what needed to be addressed. My intention was to point out that these ‘talk incidents’ that have been made known in the spotlight are an indicator, like the visible tip of the iceberg, to the mountain of racism, largely structural, that exist in our society.
    Your examples are great. Keep sharing them.

    When incidents like the Jena Six, Megan Williams, and many others still occur, there is certainly more then just ‘talk’ that needs to be addressed.

  3. espiritu paz on November 10th, 2007 9:34 am

    Sorry about that, I didn’t mean that to be a critique. I guess I’m looking for a self-aware entry point from discussion to reality. Although, all talk and no show, is the “outsider’s” critique of Americans. I guess I’d like to tap into the discussion form of engagement and understand why it is so important. But think of how it can be moved to affecting reality.

  4. Mike Knott on November 10th, 2007 8:16 pm

    Point taken.

    We’re working through Ruth on Sundays as a church and I’ll try to rework some thoughts on faithfulness and sacrificial love to include some of the interracial aspects.

    Good gravy, it sounds so shallow just to say it like that.

    What I mean is that I’ll try to be faithful to the text and to the interracial concerns presented but there is this real sense that stuff said on Sundays is pretty shallow unless it becomes part of us. Or something.

  5. Richard Daley on November 11th, 2007 1:39 am

    I think there’s a problem with the way people view racism. There’s a feeling that if you aren’t wearing a white robe with a pointy hat, or using racial slurs, then you aren’t racist. Most people in the United States do neither, so it is easy for a person and a congregation to decide that dealing with racism is for those people and congregations that have a problem with it, but I/we don’t have a racism problem so I don’t have to deal.

  6. Richard Daley on November 11th, 2007 1:40 am

    P.S. Good to see you here Ariah, I didn’t know you were going to be writing for Jesus Manifesto.

  7. Sara Harding on November 11th, 2007 11:22 am

    Hi, I’m rather new here, but I’ve had this thought going on about racism for some time. What if, by making racism an issue, the church is actually perpetuating racism? What I mean is, we’ve got this long history of black vs. white in America and so, when I talk to someone of another color as an equal, I’m made to feel like I’m doing something wonderful and extraordinary. But I’m not, because we are equal. It’s only what Jesus expects of us. So instead of using the term, “racial slur” maybe we should just completely ignore the racial boundaries and say, “Someone said something unkind about other people.” and address it that way. Perhaps that would be one way to actually end racism (or any sort of elitism) in the church because we would simply refuse to accept those political categories that endanger our unity in Christ.

  8. Richard Daley on November 11th, 2007 7:47 pm

    Hi Sarah, I think I agree and disagree with you in some ways. I agree that it’s not something wonderful and extraordinary when someone speaks to someone of a different race as equals, and I also agree that our unity in Christ should be protected and encouraged.

    I believe that our unity in Christ is not a unity of homogeneity, but a unity of diversity. I believe that the picture in Revelation of every tribe, every tongue and every nation, implies that the tribes, tongues and nations were recognizable as such. What this means to me is that unity on earth should not be reached by ignoring differences, but embracing the beauty of them as gifts from God, including the gift of our ancestry, and the culture we grew up in.

    One of the things that I’ve come to realize is that racism and other cross cultural issues are not just issues of one-on-one relationships, but there are particular issues that come up when two cultures meet (and we should be honest and say that in the United States, cultures are divided along color lines) that need to be dealt with as such, and there are also other problems that arise when one of those cultures has more power, or more representation than another.

    The reason why we need to talk about it, in my mind, is because in general, it is very difficult for folks in the majority culture to see the ways in which a minority culture are not being served. I grew up in Jamaica, where, being of African descent, I was part of the majority culture there. And although I knew that there were no Jamaican Chinese, and only a few Jamaicans of Indian descent at our church, I only recently realized some the ways in which we were being very mono-cultural in the way that we did church, and at times downright racist in the way we talked about different minority cultures in Jamaica.

    The reason we need to talk about it, is so that we can truly start serving all cultures with equality, and to do that, we need to see the ways in which our usual M.O. is culture-specific, and then make steps to reach out.

    The other reason we need to talk about it is, as Ariah said in the comments, a lot of the issues of racism are structural, and thus they tend to be self supporting until someone tears them down.

  9. AriahFine on November 13th, 2007 1:47 pm

    Well said Richard

  10. Jason Barr on November 14th, 2007 9:10 am

    Amen, Richard.

    I might also say that in America the assumption of “whiteness” as normative has such a pervasive influence and substantial weight that we are more likely to propagate a distorted perspective on race if we do NOT specifically speak of racial issues. If we do not actively resist the association of “white” with “normal” then the principle of inertia seems to me to apply - an object in motion tends to stay in motion, heading right in the same direction it was going all along.

    One of the things I pray for daily is that God would “de-naturalize” me from my own ways of being, so that I could see them as ways of being and not as the way of being.

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