In his book entitled “Shame”, Shelby Steele gives us a conservative viewpoint about white guilt in America, persistent racism, and the failure of liberal ideals to solve these and many others social-economic problems of the past sixty years. Before I read the book, I didn’t know it was written by a conservative–the title made me mentally prepare for another Liberal attack about how horrible America is, how all our institutions are systematically racist, and perhaps some critical race theory thrown in. Steele’s analysis is closer aligned to the opinions I’ve held for the past twenty years.
Ever since the George Floyd incident, the anger of ongoing racism in America has boiled over. I have stayed out of the conversation. This book has been the first book I have read that addresses any of these issues. I’m glad I read it. I grew up in a Christian home and never witnessed racism first-hand. I learned in elementary school that racism is wrong and of course, agreed with my teachers. From first grade to sixth grade the subject was brought up each year and reiterated. In middle school the subject was also brought up each year and it was taught passionately that racism is wrong. I never saw any racism in my middle school, either. In high school racism was also addressed each year and it was strenuously taught that racism is ethically wrong and no one should be racist. I never witnessed any racism in high school. I grew up in Colorado where most of the student population was white, but approximately 35% of the student population, if added together, was African American, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.
When I attended university, I was also taught that racism is wrong. Although I heard about some racism happening with the members of the football team, I never witnessed racism on campus personally. In seminary I also learned that racism is wrong. In my gainful employment since graduating from seminary, it was impressed upon me and my co-workers by the human resources department that racism is wrong and the company is an equal-opportunity employer. “Racism would not be tolerated” has been the consistent message of all my employers my entire life.
So, to be clear, I am not a racist. I have been taught well. It seems so very logical to me that all people are created equal and it really shouldn’t matter the pigment found in one’s epidermis. My Christian faith certainly is in agreement with this. We are all God’s children, dearly beloved and worthy of redemption. Christ died for all and Christianity is not a white man’s religion; it is a faith for all the world. Perhaps because I believe these things so clearly and deeply, that the entire national conversation America has been having since George Floyd has bored me, and I have not participated in any book readings, blogs, podcasts, letters-to-the-editors, small groups, or on-line discussions airing out my opinion. Here is my contribution: “Yea, racism is wrong, everybody knows that.” It is so basic, so simple. Maybe we could discuss the multiplication table next? Let’s review counting by five’s…
I would bet there isn’t a single person in America that has not been taught racism is wrong. Not one person out of four hundred million. Multiple times through the stages of life, everybody has been taught this, just like me. Education is NOT the problem. So why does it persist? Because of the sin, the darkness, the evil, of the human heart. Racism is the symptom of a deeper disease; the disease of sin found in everybody. And the cure for that is Christ. That is the message that society desperate needs to hear–and The Cross is the solution. But do you hear that in the national dialogue? No way, that is just religious fundamentalism, small minded and over-simplified. Faith continues to be pushed aside. Can you imagine faith in Jesus being discussed in this context on CNN, Fox, or the BBC? “Breaking news, there has finally been a solution found to the on-going problem of racism: it’s Jesus.”
Never, that’s the church’s pressing responsibility. So, let us be bold and tell people that Jesus will solve ALL the nasty problems that persist in the human heart and in society. Let’s keep pointing all these terrible, racist sinners in the world to Christ. What we Jesus-followers have, the world desperately needs.