After 400 years of blacks being abused in America, it’s time for a more than superficial reckoning. God, Himself, expects more from a nation than merely sweeping injustice into the dust bin of history.
The Civil Rights Movement compelled white America to change the laws that had been used to protect white supremacy through both legally enforced, black voter suppression and racial segregation. Open, public discrimination was outlawed as “hate speech.” Anti-black terrorism was prosecuted as “hate crimes.” Blacks were finally given the legal right to freely access public spaces and to vote. Affirmative Action and voter registration opened doors for many blacks and expanded the black middle class. These were great improvements over blatant racism and public lynching. However, the history and causes of anti-black racism weren’t widely and publicly addressed. Just the opposite. Attempts to talk about the history of America’s racial injustice were often ignored and even mocked.
As a white man, my efforts to expose the racial injustice in our history and in the present day (on social media and in a book that I wrote) have been ignored (and even resisted) by many people I know. Much of white America seems to fear looking at the facts of history. I’ve been accused of trying to make whites feel guilty because I talk about slavery, Jim Crow, white terrorist groups, and lynching. But I don’t understand why whites who had nothing to do with those things would feel guilty about them. They are historical facts that sadden me, sometimes to the point of tears, but I don’t feel personally guilty for them. Discussing them doesn’t make me ashamed of being white (which I am through none of my own actions or choices).
That history is crying out for America to openly examine the way blacks were treated in our past and in the present day. But even more than that, I believe God is calling for a bold and clear repudiation of our nation’s 400 years of degrading His image in black skin. What our nation has done to those it has labeled (because of their skin color) “the least of these.” it has done to Jesus. It’s time for America to renounce the “Curse of Ham” that was used by the abusers of black people in America as an attempt to justify their injustice with the Christian religion. That grievous twisting of the Bible used to declare people with black skin as inferior to people with white skin, though seldom publicly mentioned anymore, still haunts the psyche of our nation, which though legally integrated, continues to keep blacks and whites mostly socially and spiritually segregated.
It’s good for whites to join in protests for black equality. But we need to do much more than that. We need to read about America’s history of racial injustice and let our heart be broken by it. We need to make close friendships across racial lines by asking black people what it’s like being black in America and listening closely to their pain, with a tender heart. We need to continually talk and write about equality. We need to demonstrate equality and respect in our daily lives through what I call “color-kindness.” (This especially applies to the whites, who like me, profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.)
Here’s a fact of history. The anti-black injustice in American history wasn’t caused by black people. They didn’t invent race-based slavery. They didn’t violently enforce color-segregation or anti-black terrorism. It’s time for more white people to overcome false feelings of guilt for things they didn’t do, and to help bring the fuller story of American history to light so that our nation can deal honestly with our past and be more effective at healing the present racial wounds in all our hearts.