Racism in America is a machine that has historically been fueled by white supremacy. Black people have never enslaved, publicly lynched, & oppressed/marginalized by racism through the legal system. To believe that the problem in our country is “Racism on both sides,” is to horribly misunderstand the problem and history of race in America. It is impossible to be an instrument for racial reconciliation if you do not understand the differences between racism and white supremacy, and how both have related to the black and white people in this country.
Many critical race theorists have understood this dynamic, and so they have sought to redefine racism and say that minority groups cannot be racist. Their reason for this is because racism in America has always included systems of oppression wielded by those in power. Many critical race theorists will say, “minority groups can be prejudice but not racist because racism requires power.” I understand, but reject that notion. Prejudice is rooted in bias. Racism is rooted in concepts of ethnic/racial superiority (which people of color can have). White Supremacy is rooted not only in the idea that white is supreme, but that whiteness should rein.
With that said, the Bible informs us that all people can be prejudice and racist. We see this in Galatians. The Galatian heresy was a rejection of the “One New Man” in Christ and clinging to categories of ethnic superiority. This is why Paul brings up the scenario where he had to rebuke Peter for looking down on the Gentiles once the Jews came on the scene. We also see this in Acts as the Hebrews were being prejudice and racist towards the Hellenists by prioritizing their own people in the “daily distribution.” This ultimately led to supremacy as one group used its power to withhold goods from another. What was the Apostles response? They gave power to people who belonged to the minority group (they raised up Hellenist deacons) to ensure the distribution of goods would be equal. In most cases, minority groups have been the target of racialization and in response they themselves racialize. The very nature of racism in this country is not one of equal moral equivalency. Responding to sinful racism to racism is not the same as being the initiator of racialization. Both are a sin, but one is operating from a posture of victimizer, and the other is responding to their victimhood through sinning themselves. Calling both to repentance looks differently.
Since racism is something that all people can express towards others, what role does power play? I do not believe that one has to have power to be a racist, I believe having power turns racists into supremacists. In our country, white people have had a deep history of both racism and power. This has led to racism in America being predominately expressed through white supremacy. What we saw over the weekend was white supremacy on all fronts. White supremacy allowed racists with torches to terrorize a campus under the guise of free speech (while BLM is often considered a terrorist group), white supremacy led to licenses being given to domestic terrorist groups to protest with assault rifles while unarmed black men have been killed by the dozens over the past year. White supremacy is what allows Trump, white nationalists, and many ordinary citizens to say, “racism on both sides” despite reality and America’s history. White supremacy is what has revised history to say confederate monuments are about preserving history; despite the reality that the majority of them were erected during Jim Crow and Reconstruction as a means of psychological terror and intimidation towards blacks. The majority of Confederate Monuments were erected at court houses as a means of intimidating Civil Rights activists. Essentially, they were meant to tell black people, that blind lady justice was a confederate. Finally, white supremacy is what will lead to minorities to being criticized, rebuked, and considered divisive for bringing attention to these things.
In short, it is impossible to talk about the race problem in America without also talking about America’s problem of white supremacy. America has a white supremacist problem. History is clear, racism in America has been LARGELY one-sided because those who have the most significant track record of racializing are also those who have had power and have been wiling to do whatever is necessary to keep their power structures in place.
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a Christian counselor. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his associate degree in biblical/theological studies and a bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. He currently lives in Atlanta & is finishing an advanced M. Divinity in Historical Theology and ultimately desires to pastor.