This week the SBC in its annual meeting called on its congregations to discontinue displaying the confederate flag. While some may see this as mostly a symbolic gesture, it is a great step in the right direction. Racism is as important and pervasive a sin for America as any other of the big, culturally shaming ones we combat. And, contrary to a lot of other sins, it is one that the church has tolerated or even embraced.
Many argue that racism is old news. That it used to be a problem back in the days of segregation, but we’ve moved beyond all that. That is simply not true. Sure, the level of institutional racism has declined in the US. But the prejudices, the hatred, and the injustices continue. I remember as a young man ready to start college moving back to the States and being shocked at the level of racism. Especially among Christians who should know better.
It isn’t that racism is something exclusive to the United States. People everywhere fight a default position to trust people more like themselves and to fear “the other.” But in the United States you have a historic level of institutional racism, where one group of people were allowed to own another group as property, that takes the smear on our nation to another level. And you would think that having acknowledged our error we would be more sensitive to the root causes and try to avoid them. But in many ways the institution changed but the culture didn’t.
The fact that we have now had a black president would lead you to think that things are getting even better. But in many ways, the racial tension over the past eight years has merely been exacerbated. Both “sides” of the racial divide have become more entrenched. We seem to be still be a long way from the days when a president will simply be a president and their race will not factor into things. In the same way that crime reports still feel acceptable as reporting the races of the perpetrators. The difference between “black man kills cop,” and “man kills cop” may seem small but it isn’t. The race of the killer is a detail in the crime, but not the defining issue.
And if you are still wondering if racism really is such a big problem in the US, just look at the election coverage this year. The fact that an openly racist candidate has presumably won the Republican nomination doesn’t just tell you that we still have a racist in the country. It demonstrates a huge racist backing. Because you don’t embrace one evil to oppose another. Or put another way, if you find racism palatable enough to endorse it, maybe you don’t really see it as evil.