[T]here is nothing wrong with Black people as a group, or with any other racial group. That is what it truly means to think as an antiracist: to think there is nothing wrong with Black people, to think that racial groups are equal. There are lazy and unwise and harmful individuals of African ancestry. There are lazy and unwise and harmful individuals of European ancestry. There are industrious and wise and harmless individuals of European ancestry. There are industrious and wise and harmless individuals of African ancestry. But no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene—not now, not ever. Under our different-looking hair and skin, doctors cannot tell the difference between our bodies, our brains, or the blood that runs in our veins. […] Black Americans’ history of oppression has made Black opportunities—not Black people—inferior. (Stamped From the Beginning, p. 11)
As I’ve stated before, the existence of SYSTEMIC OR INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM, i.e., “polices, practices, and procedures of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities’ access to and quality of goods, services, and opportunities” (Vernellia R. Randal), is a simple deduction from three premises:
- Well documented and vast social and economic disparities between black and white Americans, including de facto neighborhood, school, and church segregation.
- All racial groups are equal; in Ibram X Kendi’s words, “no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene—not now, not ever.”
- The majority of Americans are not overt racists, members of a neo-Nazi party, or intentionally discriminating against black Americans due to conscious prejudice and hatred.
If we are committed to the truth of the above three premises, then we must begin to look for explanations that do not—intentionally or unintentionally—assume the inferiority of any race. And a very short walk back through history gives us all the data we need: four hundred years of legal and de facto marginalization, for the sake of exploitation, accords perfectly with the circumstances we find ourselves in today; in fact, how could we expect it to be otherwise?
Well documented and vast social and economic disparities between black and white Americans, including de facto neighborhood, school, and church segregation.
For the sake of illustration, let us consider two children, one white and one black, born over the last 20 years, and see what the data indicates respecting them.
To begin with, the average white child is born into a family with ten to twenty times the wealth of his black peer (HERE and HERE and HERE). The white child is twice as likely to live through infancy (HERE). The white child is 2.5 times as likely to live in a two-parent household (HERE), though he will likely spend less time with his father than his black peer (HERE). The white child is much more likely to go to a well-funded, academically superior school (HERE and HERE). He is even more likely to be put into advanced coursework, with his black peer more likely to be placed in remedial or special needs coursework, regardless of ability (HERE). These two children are overwhelmingly likely to live in de facto segregated neighborhoods, attend de facto segregated schools, and worship in de facto segregated churches (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). Neither will be educated in black history (HERE). The white child is much more likely to make it to college without being incarcerated, even if he commits the same or similar crimes (HERE); five to seven times more likely for drug use, though used at similar levels (see HERE and HERE). Not to mention that they would likely receive much different sentence for the same offense (HERE). (See also Michelle Alexander’s fabulous book, The New Jim Crow, for much, much more.)
Further, the white child is more likely to graduate from college (HERE). The white child is much less likely to be shot and killed by a police officer in young adulthood and beyond (HERE). His chances of securing a job are greater, even with precisely the same resume as his black peer (HERE and HERE). He is likely to be paid more for the same work (HERE). The black child, on the other hand, is much more likely to accumulate zero to negative net worth over the course of his career—in fact, nearly three times as likely (HERE). And this appears to not be changing, despite progress in other areas (HERE). The white child is likely to have significantly more wealth mobility, while his black peer is more likely to spend what he has to care for his aging parents (HERE and HERE). Home ownership will be easier for the white child (HERE). He will likely have greater access to healthcare, and the care his black peer does receive is likely to be lower quality (HERE). In the end, the white child is even likely to outlive his black peer (HERE).
As the Kerner Commission observed just over 50 years ago, much to even LBJ’s chagrin, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal” (HERE).
To be clear, the disparities along the “color-line” (Du Bois) transcend that of any other method of categorization in American society, including education. Read the links. Let this set in.
All racial groups are equal; in Ibram X Kendi’s words, “no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene—not now, not ever.”
The whole of mankind and every individual is descended from one man, according to the Scriptures:
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth […]. (Acts 17:26)
The whole of mankind are the offspring of this one man, who is himself the offspring of God:
Jesus […] the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Lk. 3:23, 38)
“‘In him [God] we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)
All men and women are equally and individually created in the image of God.
[…] God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
As we outlined in OUR LAST POST, this image includes man’s body, soul, original righteousness, immortality, social relation, and habitation. As everyone should know by now, phenotypical distinctions really are only skin deep, though they have been used for centuries as a shibboleth for marginalization and exploitation. Further, this image includes all that makes soul and body the likeness of God Himself, including man’s will, intellect, reason, and moral consciousness. In Herman Bavinck’s words,
[T]he whole human being is image and likeness of God, in soul and body, in all human faculties, powers, and gifts. Nothing in humanity is excluded from God’s image; it stretches as far as our humanity does and constitutes our humanness. (Herman Bavinck)
Bavinck concludes, “the Scripture knows of no two sorts of human beings” (p. 532).
All men and women have the same moral standard written on their heart:
[W]hen Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them[…]. (Rom. 2:14-15)
This conscience is present in all humanity. As there are not multiple humanities bearing multiple images with multiple types of faculties, etc., so there are not multiple laws of God according to type, nor multiple consciences bearing this Law according to type or genos. In fact, consequent to the fall of man, there are none who keep this law—regardless of race, ethnicity, tribe, or tongue:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one. (Rom. 3:11-12)
There is no racial hierarchy of sinfulness among mankind. There is literally no distinction to be made, hamartiologically speaking:
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus […]. (Rom. 3:23)
The Apostle Paul says of himself, a Jew, and all his Gentile readers:
[W]e all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph. 2:3)
Just as there is no Jew, no Gentile, no Barbarian, no Scythian in Christ, so there is no racially or ethnically diverse distribution of the fallen nature among mankind.
Jesus Christ, born of one tribe and ethnicity, was nevertheless born as true and complete man. He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), was “made in the likeness of men,” and was “found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:5-7). The incarnation of our Lord was a full sharing in the whole human nature of the whole of mankind, being the means necessary to bring salvation to all who would receive Him. The Letter to the Hebrews explains this well:
[S]ince the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:15-17)
Second, given that the Son of God was united in Person with true and complete human nature itself, we must therefore acknowledge that He was not just united by human nature to a set, class, or race of humans; that is, Christ bore the substance of humanity, not any collection of individual subsistences no matter how we might categorize. He did not bear the nature of Peter, James, and John to the exclusion of Judas and Pontius Pilot, nor did he bear the nature of only His tribe, His people, or His genos, even though He was born a Hebrew. The Creeds and Confessions of the Church have made this clear throughout the centuries. We read the following in the Formula of Chalcedon (A.D. 451):
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood.
Jesus Christ, according to His Manhood, is “consubstantial” with us; that is, he shares the substance itself of all mankind and not just the substance-plus-accidents of only certain individual sunbsistences (e.g., Peter, James, and John) or group of subsistences (e.g., Jews, Greeks, Africans, or Europeans). And Jesus is “perfect” in this manhood; the human nature which he bears is complete, with both human soul and human body. And as the 3rd Council of Constantinople makes clear, Jesus even bears our natural will and operations as well:
[B]ut we say that as the same our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures so also he has two natural wills and operations, to wit, the divine and the human: the divine will and operation he has in common with the coessential Father from all eternity: the human, he has received from us, taken with our nature in time. (A.D. 681)
Therefore, there can be no substantial differences among mankind, or Christ is only a savior of some and did not “become man for us men and for our salvation.” In His Jewishness, he bore every race and ethnicity, for there is no hierarchy in any sense of the word among mankind, whether it be according to the Anthropology, Hamartiology, or Soteriology of the Scripture. (In fact, as I’ve ARGUED ELSEWHERE, to suggest there is such a hierarchy is to be involved in material heresy.)
The majority of Americans are not overt racists, members of a neo-Nazi party, or intentionally discriminating against black Americans due to conscious prejudice and hatred.
I doubt the average reader will dispute this, but I am all ears. What I am simply noting is that I do not believe that most Americans are thinking, “I hate black people, therefore I will offer poor prenatal care, make sure they accumulate less wealth, refuse to hire them,” etc. For sure, many such wicked people do exist; but I think most are just following well worn paths of least resistance carved out over hundreds of years. I could very well be wrong, but I don’t think it would prove much more than that systemic racism is actively and intentionally driven by self-conscious racial hatred—a conclusion I dread, but am open to.
So, what are we to conclude? Given the vast, heart-breaking, factual basis of widespread disparities in American society—right along the “color-line”—what explanation can we offer? Can we argue that these circumstances are due to the general inferiority of black and brown people? Is it due to lack of intellect, will, inferior desires, or greater sinfulness, all somehow connected with darker skin? When men of European descent forcibly gathered people from every tribe, nation, and tongue of Africa and subsequently designated them the “Black Race,” did this cobbled together people-group happen to defy Biblical Anthropology, Hamartiology, and Soteriology?
Absolutely and unequivocally not! This door is definitively slammed shut by the Holy Spirit, who reveals all truth.
So, if black Americans themselves are not deficient as a group, what else might explain the existential reality of 2019 America? Maybe a more straightforward question is, why do we continue to ignore the enormous elephant in the national room? “Races” were created for the very sake of exploitation. We live in a country forged by 400 years of history, 90% of which included race-based slavery, mandatory racial segregation, and a whole superstructure of racist ideas developed to justify such practices. Even a halfhearted exploration of American history reveals naked before the eye how these ideas have infected every aspect of American society, including religion, government, politics, law, economics, and the institutions forged thereby. If you are unaware of this history, begin to learn it. Read THIS OVERVIEW. Study THE PRIMARY SOURCES if you are skeptical. But whatever you do, do not violate the clear teaching of the Scripture and do not close your eyes to the disparities outlined above. Read the links; let it set in.
To be honest, it feels like we are playing a national game of Hide and Seek, Dead Ants, or even the Silent Game when it comes to systemic racism in America. It’s time to end these childish evasions, grow up, face the facts as they actually are, and prayerfully and forcefully apply the Scripture’s teaching about man, his fall, his Savior to the existential inequities that are found right along our historically manufactured “color-line.”
[Again, for a fuller treatment of this topic, see “What Is & Isn’t Being Said 7: Individual vs. Institutional Racism.”]