What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 7. Individual vs. Institutional Racism


I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate negros or not; but I know we have a Christian church which is white and Christian church which is black. I know, as Malcom X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal to me about a Christian nation. It means I cannot afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian Church. I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me—that doesn’t matter, but I’m not in their unions. I don’t know if the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobbies keep me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the text books they give my children to read, and the schools we have to go to. Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children, on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen. (James Baldwin, on the Dick Cavett Show)

Racist Ideas, Racism, and Racists

My definition of a racist idea is a simple one: it is any concept that regards one racial group as inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. I define anti-Black racist ideas…as any idea suggesting that Black people, or any group of Black people, are inferior in any way to another racial group. (Ibram X Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning, Kindle Locations 193-200)

We can say further that to believe and confess racist ideas is racism. But to then say that those who hold to one or more racist ideas are “racists,” without any qualification, is often a very slippery slope to irrelevancy; both you and I will be caught up in this dragnet when Jesus lays bare every secret thought of our hearts.

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