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What is Racism?

September 21 2016
September 21 2016


What is racism?

One of the most offensive things that can said of you is that you are a racist. That you exude racism. It is one of the things that can be said to us that immediately make us the most defensive.

It is ironic that that word is so explosive, because as we have discussed: race is a construct. It is not a real thing. Race is not about ethnicity or culture - it is about the color of one’s skin. That is why this is such difficult work - We are battling a myth of race, a man-made construct, a ghost.

I believe it is still wise to adopt the language of race or racism because of its a cultural prevalence and relevance. It is a way to communicate about something we all know and experience.

The problem is that myths can be very, very powerful. And that is what we’re dealing with when we talk about racism. A powerful myth.  And this myth is so powerful that right now, in 2016, it is being experienced by thousands in our city.

A definition of racism

Racism is a belief, a heart attitude, or a practice that makes a qualitative, distinguishing, and valuing of a race, ethnicity, culture, amongst (or in contrast to) another race, ethnicity, or culture.

The distinguishing of ethnicities isn’t a problem. The Bible presents real and distinct ethnic and cultural categories.  In fact, Revelation tells us that every tongue, tribe, and nation will worship Jesus in the end. That God would make us all individually unique and different with gifts and strengths and abilities, and would also weave these into cultures, traditions, and ethnicities is beautiful. But the valuing of these things (specifically, the valuing of race - a social construct built around the color of skin tone) over or under another is racism.

How does racism manifest?

Racism can be both explicit and implicit. Racism can be both individual (personal malice or bias) but also can be institutional - meaning that an entire system can be bent or legalized in cultural norms and policies that value one race, ethnicity, or culture above others.  This becomes a kind of feedback loop that confirms and perpetuates the very ideologies and attitudes of superiority (or inferiority) that created the problem in the first place.

So we face a problem here. Because racism can be known or unknown, explicit or implicit, individual or institutional, but in any and all forms, it is simply racial sin. And to be honest, in the context of the church, “racial sin” is the term I prefer.  Racial sin - any want of conformity to, or transgression of,  the law of God with respect to race, ethnicity, culture, language in relation to people.  Any omission of or commission against the final scene of every tongue, tribe, and nation worshipping God together.

Here is a link to a video on Facebook that I recommend, about overcoming racism.


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