Jim Denison: What Does the Bible Say About Racism?

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

Nelson Mandela

Trauma surgeon Dr. Brian Williams was in charge of the emergency room at Dallas’s Parkland Hospital on July 7, 2016.

That night, fourteen police officers were shot in the line of duty; five of them died. It was the deadliest attack on law enforcement in the United States since September 11, 2001.

Seven of the officers were brought to Parkland. Dr. Williams choked back tears as he described how three of them died at the hospital: “I think about it every day, that I was unable to save those cops when they came in that night.”

But there’s more to his story. As an African American, he has a unique perspective.

Dr. Williams told the Associated Press that he has been stopped by police over the years and was afraid each time that he could be killed. At one traffic stop, he ended up “spread eagle” on the hood of the cruiser. A few years ago, he was stopped by an officer and questioned as he stood outside his apartment complex waiting for a ride to the airport.

After describing his grief over the officers who died, Dr. Williams made this statement: “I want the Dallas Police Department to see I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you. That doesn’t mean that when you approach me, I will not have a visceral reaction and start worrying about my personal safety.”

In his Associated Press interview, Dr. Williams said he couldn’t help but wonder why he was working that night. He was in Parkland’s emergency room only because of a last-minute schedule change.

He said, “I wonder if this was the reason that in the midst of all this racial tension and dead black men and violence against cops—was I the one put there to experience this and tell my story and get the conversation started?”

Racism in America

According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 42 percent of Americans worry a “great deal” about race relations in the US, up 7 percent from 2016 and a record high in Gallup’s seventeen-year polling trend. It was the third straight year Americans said they increasingly worry about this issue.

A generation after the 1954 Brown school desegregation decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, racial discrimination continues in our country. According to the FBI, 57 percent of hate crimes are racially motivated. Hate groups are active in every state in America.

Racism and indigenous Americans

The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

By this definition, mistreating people of a particular race is “racism” to the degree that the perpetrator considers his or her victims to be racially inferior. We find such attitudes on the part of Anglos toward non-Anglos since Europeans first landed in the New World.

Many European explorers characterized the indigenous peoples they encountered as “heathen” and considered their race and culture to be inferior by nature. Many claimed that such people could be transformed by the introduction of Christianity and European customs.

One colonist described native Americans as “having little of Humanitie but shape, ignorant of Civilitie, of Arts, of Religion; more brutish than the beasts they hunt, more wild and unmanly than the unmanned wild Countrey, which they range rather than inhabite; captivated also to Satans tyranny in foolish pieties, mad impieties, wicked idlenesse, busie and bloudy wickednesse.”

Racism and Africans

Many who supported the enslavement of Africans likewise viewed them as inferior to white people.

An Anglican minister in Barbados claimed that “Negro’s were Beasts, and had no more Souls than Beasts.” Africans were considered intellectually and morally inferior to whites; some declared that they were descended from apes.

Such horrific claims were used to justify the system of chattel slavery (the personal ownership of a slave) that enslaved millions of Africans. Many slaveholders convinced themselves that slaves, due to their supposedly inferior nature, were better off and better cared for in bondage than in freedom.

This racist ideology led directly to America’s “original sin,” the institution of slavery in the New World. The first group of African slaves—four men and women—arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Planters quickly realized that enormous profits could be gained from importing enslaved laborers.

Africans could be made to work much longer and harder in the fields. Since they were so far from Africa, they could not easily escape and return home. In addition, African slaves came from a variety of nations and cultures and thus could not easily communicate with each other to organize resistance.

Most slaves came from West Africa, where some tribal leaders were willing to capture and sell other Africans for profit. Slaves became especially important to the economy of the South, where the climate and topography were more suitable for tobacco and cotton plantations.

By 1860, the United States was divided into “slave” and “free” states. That year, census takers counted 3,950,540 slaves in America.

While the Declaration of Independence claimed that “all men are created equal,” the US Constitution determined that enslaved persons would be counted as “three-fifths of all other Persons” for purposes of government representation and taxation (Article I, Section II, Paragraph III).

The Constitution permitted importing slaves until 1808, with a tax of $10 per slave (Article I, Section IX, Clause I). And it required those living in free states to return escaped slaves to their owners (Article IV, Section II, Clause III).

Slavery was legal in America until 1865 and the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) guaranteed the same rights to all male citizens; the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) made it illegal to deprive any eligible citizen of the right to vote, regardless of color.

However, segregation in schools was not made illegal until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation were overturned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Denison