The Tenacity of Racism

When we elected an African-American President I anticipated changes for the good in race relations. It has not happened. It seems that race relations are now worse. Why is that?

I haven’t done any kind of study, but it seems there are more racially caused riots, crimes with a racial component, and a greater number of racial comments in social media. Having a black President has not brought us closer together.

I think the problem is that having a black President has revealed a rampant racism that many of us thought had ceased to exist, yet it is still there. Let me explain this by telling about my own experience from many years ago.Monkey

I grew up in Denver and went to High School in the north part of the city. The school was located in an industrial area, and the student body was an eclectic mix of numerous races and ethnic backgrounds. The junior college I attended was just down the road, and it was no different. That was my world. I thought racial prejudice had ended after the work of Martin L. King, Jr. I was pretty naïve.

The college I graduated from was in West Texas where there was only one race so it did nothing to change my perception. However, I then went to seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Big change! To be honest, I was shocked to learn that churches still did not allow blacks to attend, or that schools, in spite of laws, were still segregated. I told you I was naïve.

Nearly four decades later we elect a black man to be President, and once again I thought we had made progress, but we haven’t.

Racism is the only way I can explain the anger, hatred, and vitriol people have toward the President. I completely understand political differences of opinion. I am even on board with passionate arguments in support of your beliefs and opinions. It is great when we have opposing viewpoints; that is how we experience creativity. But what I see and hear directed toward the President goes far beyond differences of opinion.

Honestly, when I look at the situation in our country I don’t understand why.

  • Not every indicator is positive, but how can you say our economy is not in good shape. There are certainly still problems, but compared to where we were a few years ago, things look pretty good.
  • We can definitely improve the health care law, but it is hard to feel too bad about what we have considering the number of people who are now insured, and it hasn’t ruined the economy like many feared.
  • We are still concerned with terrorists, but most of us feel safe for our day-to-day activities. Hey, I can still remember when putting a bomb shelter in your back yard was considered a good thing.
  • There is still turmoil in the world (and always will be), but the number of troops we have deployed is much lower, and even military spending is way down over the last decade.
  • I understand that we all want secure borders, but even though they are not air-tight, illegal immigration numbers have been reduced in the past few years.
  • Gas prices are stable at a much lower level, and there is renewed emphasis on developing alternative sources of energy.
  • The President professes Christian faith and his lifestyle seems consistent with that belief. He appears to have a solid family (no scandals, drunken uncles, or criminal history).

I don’t agree with everything the President supports. Sometimes I don’t even agree with everything I support. Why so much anger?

The only conclusion I can come up with is that having a black President has exposed the amount of racism still in our country.

I’m not speaking of those who claim that Obamacare will fail and cost billions of dollars, or even those who disagree with the President’s stance on moral issues like abortion and gay rights. Those are good discussions to have. My concern is the outright hatred for the man. Comparing him to Hitler, calling him a terrorist, accusing him of trying to destroy God-fearing Christians, and identifying him as the Anti-Christ, are all expressions of hate. There have also been racist cartoons (i.e. portraying the President as a monkey, clearly a racist image) circulated around social media.

I’m certainly not smart enough to do this, but a recent study (CLICK HERE TO READ) has concluded that racism cost Obama at least 4% of the popular vote in his two presidential elections. In other words, 4% of voters did not choose him because he is black. That is a significant number.

Many of those who simply do not support his policies have associated themselves with racists because of their “common enemy.” In other words, they have passed along or laughed at racist images and articles because they think it helps make their point.

I have already admitted to my naiveté over the years when it comes to racism, and perhaps that is still the case. However, I think we can do better as a country. We can debate the issues without hate. We can make our case without denigrating an entire race of people. We took a positive step in electing a black man to be President. It is time to take the second step and allow him to serve. If his policies fail they will do so because they are bad policies, not because he is black.

Years ago my wife and I spent about 2 weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Most of that time was with a good-size church. It was an interesting congregation—dark black skinned people with red hair, pale white people with kinky black hair, brown people with African features, and even many who were obviously white or obviously black. It was quite a mix of races.

Several times we were asked about racism in America. It was like they couldn’t understand how races don’t get along. I suspect there is a racism problem in Brazil, just like many other places. However, this one community had learned to erase the lines and live together as people of God.

We can do it here if we want. If Christian people would take the lead in stopping hatred based on race or ethnicity, much of it would stop. Debate the issues; take a firm stand for what you believe, but do it because of reasoned ideas, not because you hate the other person.

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