“Is the ‘woke’ culture the supremacist movement of the twenty-first century?”
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about “race” lately. More precisely, I’ve been considering how we can live a corporate life where every American, regardless of ethnicity, has an abundant and purposeful life in the freest, most productive, and exceptional nation the world has ever known.
Today, we find ourselves being lectured by the corporate media-entertainment complex, radical politicians, including the Marxist-led Black Lives Matter (video here), sports organizations and players, and various religious “leaders.” We are told that we must “shut up,” listen more and read more. (One commentator said we needed to study “race” for an entire year before talking!)
The instructions are to hear the story of black Americans and “understand” the “systemic racism” and “white privilege” – the nation’s “original sin.“
Fair enough. I was raised in a multi-ethnic city where I was often in the minority in school, and have spent my entire working life in very diverse workplaces. Starting adulthood with less than nothing, I’ve successfully worked alongside, worked for, sold to, taught, and been the boss of men and women from virtually every ethnic group on the planet. Yet, I understand that I’m still a white guy. So I took on the challenge.
I reviewed five popular books on race and society and two books on race and the church. Also, I perused a dozen essays on critical race theory, white privilege, and intersectionality and threw in a few TED talks to boot.
The books were: The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander; Race Talk, Derald Wing Sue; Critical Race Theory, Delgado and Stefanic; White Rage, Carol Anderson; White Fragility, Robin Diangelo; The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby; and Divided By Faith, Emerson and Smith.
(I have already written briefly here concerning the academically discredited New York Times Magazine work, the 1619 Project, now being introduced as a school curriculum resource. One nationally known scholar wrote, “They left out the history.”)
Finishing the reading assignment, frankly, made me extremely sad. It seems clear that there is a real danger that the relationship between blacks and whites in the United States could be set back fifty years.
We are poisoning the soil of hope, brotherhood, and faith.
To summarize much of what I’ve read on both race and society, and race and faith in these books, the general theme would be that if you support the traditional view of our nation’s historical Founding and our Judeo-Christian heritage, you are a racist.
If you believe in individual freedom, free markets, capitalism, self-responsibility, and good citizenship, you’re a racist.
And if you don’t see and acknowledge “systemic” racism and white privilege personally (perhaps because your life has never intersected with overt racism because you don’t hang out with racists?), then you are a bystander who is unwilling to take responsibility for the work of ending racism. Of course, that is an ad hominem fallacy.
Worse still, lamenting the Sunday segregation of blacks and whites into different churches, the books on race and faith seem to suggest that the “evangelical” fixation on “individual salvation” (what other type is there?) blind the modern church to the need for “systemic reform” and social action. The inference is that white evangelicals are guilty of maintaining racism and unwilling to support more government intervention. Yet none of the authors explain what that might really look like or how to accomplish that goal.
Interestingly, the centrality of Christ and the power of His redemption is scarcely mentioned.
Sadly, with at least some ‘woke’ evangelical Christians, there seems to be a promotion of human works and models over the Gospel mandate, leaving the God of Creation an irrelevant onlooker to their human affairs.
Whether intentional or not, it appears that much of the current writing on racial issues encourage the death of history, Truth, free speech, and self. Collectively, these writers seem less interested in ending racism and more interested in incorporating it into the body politic as a tool for continuous corporate self-flagellation – determined to define the culture by ethnicity, not the sum of its parts.
Categorizing all of these books together may seem unreasonable. Yet, thematically they bear significant similarity. Some are only more radical than others.
As an apt demonstration of the critically failed educational system in the United States, there was very little “new” information in these books. Yet, judging from many the reviews, many present-day Americans didn’t grasp the inhuman treatment of many black slaves until they read these books. However, it’s well-documented history with a great deal of detailed, extensive information, first-person narratives, and period accounts, all readily available.
Equally perplexing is how little the bitter history of Reconstruction, the rise of the obstructionist Democrats, responsible for the Civil War, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws, is understood, including the migration of racial exclusions into the judicial and administrative systems. Nor how the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, passed after a 57-day Democratic filibuster by the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), was broken by the support of the minority Senate Republicans, changing the nation forever.
Neither has the history of extrajudicial vigilante lynching (never confined to America history, of course) ever been a secret. Between the end of Reconstruction and 1964, there were nearly 4,800 lynching’s documented (26% were whites), a great deal of it described in newspapers of the day and other contemporary accounts.
There has also been an extensive body of knowledge on the Tulsa race war, the 1919 “red summer” race riots in Chicago, Washington, D.C, and Arkansas, as well as other racially and economically inspired violence early in the last century.
Nor was the facilitation and support of slavery, violence, and “separate but equal” laws by many religious leaders and congregations from the Colonial era, right through the civil rights era of the 1960s, unknown. The information has always been there.
Less known evidently is the remarkable rise of the abolitionist movement throughout the early 1800s, and the thousands of Christians it mobilized. The abolitionist movement divided Christian communities into dynamic new churches, eventually followed by the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party, and its first president, Abraham Lincoln. The results were the Emancipation, the Thirteen, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments, and in the modern era, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
If pastors and congregations supporting slavery, then Jim Crow and segregation are a dark stain on the Body of Christ – which they are – then the pastors and churches that led the fight for abolition and human freedom are the more powerful, fruitful expression of that same Body.
The harsh reality of the segregation that blacks faced in transportation, lending, housing transactions and ownership, sharecropping schemes, travel, and public facilities deep into the twentieth century have also been well documented and studied.
Today’s disparities between whites and blacks in income, wealth, homeownership, education, and access to the legal industry are also well understood. They remain real problems for which the government can and has outlawed certain practices and set goals. Yet, the last fifty years have seen staggering changes. If you have been involved in managing government programs and how they work out when applied in the private sector, you know that the actual toil and hard change gets done at street level, one person at a time. It’s a process, not a slogan.
To label the current disparities in outcomes as entirely discrimination, isolated from the realities of the incredible and ever-escalating progress, and the complexity of the issues involved (and the extreme damage done by some misguided government actions), isn’t a solution to the legitimate problems that remain, which these authors suggest.
Perhaps nothing exemplifies these “new” writers and their intellectual acolytes in the streets of 2020 America than the rejection of the Founding of the Republic and the American heroes who made it possible. The mindless destruction of history and the dismissal of the great men and women without the context of the world in which they lived is absurd and intellectual self-absorption.
(One is reminded of Karl Marx’s statement on the requirements for a communist revolution, “The first battlefield is to rewrite history.“)
The brilliant economist, scholar, and prolific author, Professor Thomas Sowell, in his marvelous book, The Thomas Sowell Reader (here), summarizes that history of slavery best for the twenty-first-century mind:
|“Everyone hated the idea of being a slave but few had any qualms about enslaving others. Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century – and then it was an issue only in Western civilization. Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other American leaders. You could research all of the 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there. But who is singled out for scathing criticism today? American leaders of the 18th century.”|
Emphasizing this, the British in 1806 outlawed the slave trade, and in 1807 the U.S. Congress banned the importation of slaves, the first major nations to do so. (By 1817, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, and France took steps to end slavery.) Between 1808 and 1860, the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron, operating from Freetown, Sierra Leone, seized approximately 1600 ships involved in the slave trade and freed 150,000 Africans. In 1818 the U.S. Congress declared the slave trade “piracy,” and the U.S. Navy established its Africa Squadron working off the African coast and captured over 100 ships, freeing thousands of Africans.
[In 2020, there are numerically more slaves than at any time in history. Over half of the world’s countries, 167, have no law against slavery, which exists across many parts of Africa, the Middle East, China, North Korea, and Cuba. The U.N.’s International Labor Organization estimates include 50 million people in forced labor, forced sexual labor, and state-sanctioned forced labor. Some observers contend that China may have that many in forced labor alone.]
For me, I keep coming back to two certainties that I did not find represented, or at least well, in these books, which collectively presented very few concrete proposals or solutions.
First, the division of people by their ethnicity is an ancient spiritual legacy that has been practiced by every people group across recorded history. Ethnic, religious, and sociopolitical slavery, segregation, and subjugation are tools that tyrants, kings, depots, totalitarians, and “supremacists” have always used for their empowerment and enrichment.
Isn’t this precisely what is happening right now? Systemic racism, white privilege, and critical race theory are presented as watertight facts instead of conceptual assumptions that are themselves racist. They propose that ethnic identity should now displace every devotion to the nation, common purpose, and even individual rights, such as freedom of speech. With that, someone else must bear the burden of guilt for every sin, real or imagined, for which they had no hand in creating, enforcing, or perpetuating — the cancel-culture waits for the non-compliant.
Is the ‘woke’ culture the new supremacist movement of the twenty-first century?
The other certainty I have is that since ethnic hatred is a spiritual sickness, it can’t be erased or resolved by one, a dozen, or a thousand laws, programs, reconciliation sessions, models, or street protests.
First, the truth of plain words has been hijacked. There is no such thing as “race” in the human family. There are only homo-sapiens of various ethnicities. All human beings are of “one blood.” It is both a Biblical truth (Genesis 9 and Acts 17) and the sum of scientific facts found in the biological evidence.
Because the unambiguous meaning of Scripture was rejected or altered by some Christian pastors and leaders in previous eras, does not invalidate that truth in our time. Likewise, because some in the scientific community tried to “classify” ethnicities by physical differences, such as the quackery of “craniometry,” doesn’t revoke the biological fact of DNA that we are one race, one people.
If ethnic and tribal hatred is a spiritual issue as old as humanity itself, then the answer probably won’t be found with ourselves.
But, we are not without hope. The most critical three sentences in understanding the human story ricochet throughout history – astounding and inexplicably profound. They come from Jesus of Nazareth, found in the Gospel of John.
Pilate, the all-powerful Roman Governor of Judaea, was interrogating Jesus on the day of his execution, who answered Pilate’s question with an eternal response; “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
There are truth and error. Good and evil. Right and wrong. Sometimes separating these is very difficult in this life, but they never comingle in peace. The two always war against each other until they are brought into the light of Truth.
If we want ethnic reconciliation, then this is the only address where it exists.