Ferguson and the problem of Racism in America

RacismIs racism a problem in America? Absolutely! And it is a problem that seems to be getting worse everyday. We talk more about racism now than ever before but the more we “talk” about it the greater the divide between the races seems to grow and the “solutions” we offer seem only to exasperate the problem of racism in America. Why is that?

I believe that much of the reason we have failed to address problems of racism in America today is because we have failed to understand the motivation for the racism that exists in our culture today. The motivation for the majority of racism we see today is very different than the motivation for the racism that existed in America when slavery plagued our country, but we are still offering the same kinds of solutions that were used to address the racism found in the pages of our history books. What’s the difference you may ask? When America endorsed the evils of slavery, significant portions of our population truly accepted the idea that black people were inferior to white people. Our country decided that a black person would be counted as 3/5 of a white person, our courts said that a black person could be deemed the property of a white person, our government prohibited black people from voting, etc… At that dark time in our history, racism was actually seen as something good rather than evil by much of America.

While there are fringe groups that are still motivated by a “white supremacy” ideology, these groups no longer represent the mainstream of racism in America today and their ideology is recognized as evil by most of Americans. Today’s racism is different because it is largely a reaction to unjust treatment rather than the result of a belief in the superiority of a particular race and today’s perpetrators of racism are no longer limited to only one race. Today’s racism stems from a growing frustration and anger over seeing “privilege” given to others in our society only because of the color of their skin. And because our anger has far too often distorted our own perception of “justice,” we often fail to see “privilege” given to those who are members of our own race while far too easily seeing “privilege” given to those of another race, sometimes even when no “privilege” was actually received.

If we are going to address racism in our society today, we need to look to the root of the problems we face today and come up with solutions that address these problems. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Recognize our own propensity to see the “privileges” that others have received while failing to recognize the ones we have received. It is far too easy to only see the advantages that others have received while failing to see the advantages that have been available to us. Take time for self examination and remember that it is often easier to see the spec in someone else’s eye than it is to see the “log” in our own.
  • Don’t assume that every advantage given to someone of another race is because of their race.  While some people do receive advantages because of their race, not every advantage is a result of racism. The world we live in is far more complex than this and conclusions that fail to recognize the complexity of the world we live in will almost certainly lead to injustice.
  • Don’t rush to judgement until all sides have been presented. Proverbs reminds us that “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” If we, as a nation, had heeded this advise when the events in Ferguson had first begun to unfold, we could have avoided many of the tragedies now before us. While there are still many questions about what really happened in Ferguson, it is clear that much of the information that we heard at the beginning was inaccurate. Sadly, very few were willing to wait to hear both sides before making their judgements and now people are so entrenched on their “sides” that it is unlikely that the facts about what really happened, when they are known, will change anyone’s perception of what “justice” should look like in this situation.
  • Support only people and organizations that stand against all forms of racism. Any organization that exist to protect the rights of only one race is itself a racist organization and we, as a country, should no longer support these organizations. We need organizations that look to protect the rights of all our citizens regardless of the color of their skin!
  • Punish individuals rather than corporations for racism. Racism is never a crime committed by a corporation, it is crime committed by an individual who work for a corporation. If our goal is really to end racism, we then should be prosecuting the individuals who committed the crime rather than the companies for whom they work. If individuals truly had to take responsibility for their own unjust acts towards members of another race then there would be a much greater incentive for change. The way we handle racism in the courts today is not designed to stop racism, it is designed to be a money making endeavor.
  • Punish those who practice racism regardless of the race of the perpetrator. Those who suggest that only members of one race can be the perpetrators of racism are themselves expressing a racist ideology and it is an ideology that should no longer be tolerated. Treating anyone unjustly because of their race is racism and nobody, regardless of their race, should get a free pass on this.
I too have a dream that we will one day live in a nation where people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, and I have an greater dream that we will one day learn to truly love all our neighbors as we love ourselves. But these dreams will never be fulfilled until we, as a nation, are willing to confront the sin that exists in our own hearts today instead of wallowing in the mire of sin committed by generations past. Only then will be able to forgive, love, and cherish everyone from every race that God has brought into our world.
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