American Racism & The Dangers of Color-Blindness

Topic: Ethnic Conciliation/Reconciliation

(Original Publish Date of 11/16/2016)

The American church (and society) has yet to have a real and honest discussion concerning racism. For one group, there is a tremendous amount of pain. For the other group, there is a tremendous amount of shame and embarrassment. If the American church (and society) doesn’t have a real and honest conversation about racism, it will be do nothing but perpetuate the pain and shame. We have to get to a point where white Christians are able to embrace Historical embarrassment in light of the cross and truly be humbled by it. This humility will allow them to enter into a posture of learning rather than insist that they are the ones who need to teach minorities. On the other side, blacks have to truly bring their pain to the cross and allow Christ to swallow up bitterness and resentment that racism has caused them. Honestly, I am no longer optimistic that I will see this happen in my generation. I believe the American church has had a beautiful looking bandaid placed over an infected wound that has yet to be truly healed. I pray that the next generation will pick up the baton and carry it on. Though I am not optimistic, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the church will reject the secular proposal for racial healing; the unbiblical concept of colorblindness. I am hopeful that the church will reject colorblindness and pursue a biblically informed idea not of color blindness but of beauty in diversity. I am hopeful because the mission of the church is to go throughout the world and proclaim a message that wins people Citizenship to a Celestial Kingdom, not an earthly one. A Kingdom that is made up of every tribe, people group, and language under the sun. America is a racialized wilderness, and for centuries it has watered soil which has had no healthy seeds planted. I pray that the Lord will raise up more voices that will cry out in this wilderness for ethnic reconciliation. I pray that the voices he raises up will plant healthy seeds of a robust and consistent Gospel that will not shy away from a willingness to remove the bandages and actually deal with the wound that plagues this nation.

There is no way for racial healing to take place without honestly dealing with our country’s prioritization of “whiteness.” There is no way to heal our country without honest conversations concerning white privilege and racialized oppression. There is no way to heal our country without honest talks about the history of white supremacy and how deeply it has permeated not only schools, politics, and institutions but also the Church. These are serious conversations that need to be had, but too often, instead of having them, people within the majority culture are offended when they are even brought up. There will never be progress until the majority culture in this country which has often been the victimizers, stops being offended by the slightest mention of this reality from the victimized. In our country, racism can never be rooted out because the very ones who have a heritage of racism refuse to talk about it. The inability to grow is only enhanced by the fact that these same people consider anyone who does talk about it to be divisive. This denial only breeds bitterness and resentment in minorities. Instead of being listened to they are denied a voice. Thus the wound of racism continues to fester and spread and never begin a process of healing. This doesn’t have to be the case. I may not be optimistic about racial healing in America but I am hopeful. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not only save sinners but it provides them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of love and His ministry is to cultivate divine love within the hearts of the people of God (love for God and love for people). The Church is the only hope for racial/ethnic reconciliation in this country. The festering wound of racism has spread unaided for too long. It has spread throughout the bloodstream of this nation and there are no secular means to cure it. If racism is to be cured in this land, it will be through supernatural love. The only cure for the festering wound of racism in America is the love of the Spirit abounding in the people of God, His church.

The Myth of Colorblindness

America has attempted to heal this wound by adopting the concept of colorblindness. This is a well-intentioned attempt to combat racism. Racism is birthed out of the idea that one ethnicity is superior to another. Color-blindness is an attempt to reject this ideology by not “seeing” color. It attempts to avoid racism by removing its source, color. Sadly, the implications of this attempt actually feed the very thing it is seeking to starve. Color-blind ideology assumes that the the problem is color. It presents the argument that the answer to racism is for people not to see color. What this does, is it normalizes “whiteness” and presents color as a problem that needs to be ignored or overcome. In other words, unity is contingent upon not seeing a person of color’s color rather than through changing the majority culture’s heart towards the colors they see in an image bearer of God. Color-blind ideology  also requires a person of color to deny their color in order to be unified with the majority culture.

The answer to racism is not colorblindness. The answer to racism is to embrace a worldview that says diversity is beautiful. As a Biblical Counselor, I often encourage my counselees to be more aware of the graces and successes in another than they are of the shortcomings and failures. Similarly, America’s problem is that it is more aware of ethnic and cultural differences than it is of the unity we all share as image bearers. The festering wound of racism will never be cured in America until we begin to see beauty in diversity and glory in our unity. When I was a child, there were books called “Magic Eye.” The books had various pictures in them filled with a variety of beautiful patterns of color. Behind all the colors was an image, and if you stared hard enough At the image, you could see it behind all the diversity of the colorful page. Racism isn’t cured through the denial of color. We must not ignore differences; we must embrace them and look hard enough so that we can see the picture behind them, the manifold wisdom of God.

You can follow me on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. Also, check out my podcast Coram Deo Podcast which focuses on issues concerning Biblical Counseling and Practical Theology. You can search for podcast on any major podcast catcher, listen on the web here, follow updates @CoramDeoPodcast, or just click the artwork below.