On Race

1) The politicians are hurting us:Our political process is such that we give power to those who can whip up social support.  This is much easier and effectively done by exciting people's fear, anger, and pain.  Thoughtfully engaging with complex problems to find comprehensive solutions doesn't get you votes.  This drives the whole conversation in divisive and simplistic directions.  Politics divides us along conservative/liberal lines, but it also divides us along racial lines, economic lines, etc. We need to stop taking our cues from the politicians, and start taking our cues from Scripture, and the wisdom of the church (the global-historical church, not the 21st century American church).

2) Everyone needs to stop talking and start listening:The single largest problem is not that we don't understand each other, its that we don't recognize that we don't understand each other!  Just like in a marriage: its not the places where we recognize our misunderstandings, its the places where we think we understand each other (but we don't) that cause the most damage.  It is a rare conservative that understands liberals, and vice versa.  It is a rare white person that understand black culture, and vice versa.  It is a rare rich person that understands poor people, and vice versa.  But we all think we understand each other!

3) Demonizing your opponents will only make things worse for yourself:Our society will not be able to move beyond our current situation without active participation and engagement from everyone.  Simply put, if we want to see an end to social unrest like what happened in Ferguson and Baltimore, the black community needs to feel included in the consciousness and concerns of white americans.  If we want to see a change in the systemic racial disparities that plague our nation, the white community needs to have their fears and concerns addressed.  Neither of those things will happen if conservative voices continue to paint the black community as criminal and lazy, and liberal voices continue to paint the white community as racist.

4) Liberals ought to stop calling everyone racist:While racism still exists in some individuals and communities, it is no longer acceptable, or prevalent.  As a matter of moral integrity, most white americans are committed to the notions that black and white people are of equal value, that black and white people are deserving of equal opportunities, and that black and white people ought to live together as friends.  Again, this is not universal, but it is the dominant paradigm within white communities, particularly conservative communities.

In recent decades, liberals have shifted the conversation towards issues of systemic racial injustice.  This is proper and good.  The problem however, is that the language of racism has continued to be used.  White people are being accused of racism when they aren't racist.  Again, systemic injustice is real, but it isn't being caused or perpetuated by the bigotry of white individuals.  Its cause lies elsewhere.

This is where liberals need to listen to the voices coming from conservative communities.  Listen and attempt to gain understanding.

5) Conservatives ought to stop denying and/or justifying racial disparities:White conservatives look into their own hearts and think, "I don't dislike or mistreat black people," and then stop thinking about what else might be going on.  Their individualistic view of humanity and society blinds conservatives to the ways in which systems not only exist, but largely benefit white, middle-class, communities; indeed they often do so at the expense of impoverished minority communities.

Conservatives are conservative because they believe in the power of individuals to make their own destiny, as well as find solutions to larger community problems.  Because of this they are reticent to look to government to solve social problems, and this drives them to treat all social problems as driven solely by individual action.  This blinds them to the reality of social forces, both the social forces that marginalize impoverished communities and the social forces that empower middle-class communities.

Even more, this is where conservatives tend to ignore the anecdotes of black experiences of systemic injustice.  Conservatives view them as unique instances divorced from a larger social fabric of attitudes and experiences.  What needs to happen is a willingness to listen to the experiences and perceptions of the minority community.

6) We need to call people to personal engagement in cross-cultural relationships:The real path forward is the path laid out in Galatians 2; namely cross-cultural table fellowship in light of our common allegiance to Christ.  I am convinced that this is the closest thing to a silver bullet.  In many ways table fellowship is both the means and the end of the reconciliation process.  A commitment to maintaining unity in spite of difference, or misunderstanding, is the bedrock upon which understanding and communion can be built.

7) Racism isn't the real issue:The real issues driving the problems surrounding race in America are not overtly racist individuals, subconscious bias, or overtly racist laws; the real issues driving these problems are #1 the social/political/economic systems and infrastructure that were built by racists of a bygone era that persist into today #2 the generational effects of historic racism on the Black communities of the present #3 the apathy of middle-class whites to confront the status-quo if any sacrifice on their part is required.

The reason I believe liberals need to stop crying 'racism' is that it is a misdiagnosis.  If I am convinced the problem is that you are racist, then I will try to convince you to change your attitudes towards other people groups.  If I am convinced that the problem is that you are lazy and unwilling to sacrifice to help your fellow man, then I will try to convince you to change your attitude about your own personal responsibility towards those in pain.

8) The playing field isn't level:The reality of life in America is such that white and black individuals do not have the same opportunities.  The various statistical differences between white and black communities with regard to income, violent behavior, education, family commitments, incarceration rates, addiction, etc. are not to be ignored.  This is, however, one of the places where conservatives and liberals talk past each other and to their own constituents.

I have found that conservatives are very uncomfortable talking about an un-level playing field, but they are susceptible to hearing about the plight of children in poverty, and are concerned about injustice.  For many conservatives, so long as they are not considered the cause of the injustice, they are willing to consider taking responsibility for ending injustice.

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