Home > I Might Be Insane > I Might Be Insane: Odd Thoughts On Race

I Might Be Insane: Odd Thoughts On Race

In the last post on Jeremiah, we talked about the way Jeremiah was the only right person in a wrong world, and that actually made Jeremiah look like he was crazy and wrong. After writing, I thought about some of the things I think are crazy about the way the world works. I’m not sure if the world is crazy or just me. This is the first post in a series interlude.
​I’ll begin with a brief summary of what I think about racism: thinking less of someone because of their color of skin is the lowest form of humanity and it is absolutely deplorable. There, now that’s done.
​Other than that issue, I don’t care about race. I don’t think it matters. I don’t think it’s even something worth discussing in society. I don’t care about African American poverty. I don’t care about Hispanic education. I don’t care about wage differences between races. I don’t care about census bureau statistics regarding race. I don’t care about racial diversity in schools. I don’t care about racial diversity in churches.
​I do care about people in poverty. I do care about people not getting educated. I do care about people getting paid fair wages for the jobs they do. I do care about schools accepting all comers with no thought to race. I do deeply care that churches give no thought to someone’s skin color as they invite them in as a brother or sister.
​The focus in our society on race, racial equality, racial quotas, constant accusations of racism (crying wolf sometimes), and highlighting racial differentiation is often unhelpful. In the world of my imagination, here is how talking about race should go: Person A: “So, race, huh?” Person B: “Why should we care about someone’s race?” Person A: “We shouldn’t.” Person B: “Agreed.” But all over the US, including in churches, we think and act in a way that differentiates between people because of color of skin.
​There are a few reasons why I have thought about this issue. One, society’s view on race contrasts with its treatment of race. It doesn’t seem intellectually consistent in society to talk about how race shouldn’t divide groups, how all races are equal, how someone shouldn’t be judged based on the color of their skin, and then to have such a strong focus on racial issues (there is a distinction between racist issues and racial issues, and where racism is, we should call it out immediately). It feels like many people act like race is an issue that matters and yet says that race is not an issue. If race doesn’t matter, then it really doesn’t matter.
​Second, I believe there are situations where focusing on race and differentiating people based on race function to increase racism. A couple of stories will help highlight my point:
​I had a friend in high school who was trying to get into a good college pre-med program. His grades bordered the requirements. They asked him what his race was because if he would have been the right race he would have been accepted. He was the wrong race and was rejected. Why does this happen? In many situations, colleges (sometimes companies and other employers) have required racial diversity. In these situations, individuals are
​sometimes judged by the color of their skin. My friend was discriminated against because of his skin color. Sick. In an effort to create racial diversity and get rid of racism, those who make regulations like these are being racist. It’s perverse.
​I also was with someone in a church service after which they left with confusing feelings about themselves and frustrations about the sermon. In the sermon, the speaker repeatedly talked about this future church he and others were about to plant and the church’s biggest focus: racial diversity. He talked about the importance of being racially diverse, how they were starting in a racially diverse community, and were going to specifically reach out to people of different races. The person I was with was of a minority race. They were frustrated at the idea that someone would reach out to them because of their minority status so that person could succeed in starting a racially diverse church. My minority friend was uneasy at the idea that someone might only be treating them a certain way because of their race and not because of who they were as a person. The idea of seeking racial diversity for the purpose of diversity felt like a violation of their individuality.
​Finally, focusing on racial diversity undermines the individual. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times,* People are people are people. They are all valuable because they are individual human beings. Being a member of this or that race in no way defines who they are and says nothing about their infinite worth. It’s cool that there are people of different colors. It’s cool that people look different than other people. However, beyond that, it doesn’t matter. By pretending the race of someone is an aspect of great import, we use it to define individuals by unnecessarily grouping them and in so doing and violate their individuality. Let’s stop caring. Please.

​*This saying makes no real sense.

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Categories: I Might Be Insane
  1. Jen
    February 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Yes you may be. It is often good to look at children and the way the more innocent ages approach things. At six, Graci does not see race. She just never addresses it, doesn’t mention it, doesn’t see it. A friend is a friend is a friend. She just doesn;t like bullies.

    • jeremiah
      February 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      No doubt Jen. It would be nice if it was as much of a nonissue with the rest of the world as it is with children.

  2. S
    February 8, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I think you have spoken about race as if we should all be “color blind” and fail to acknowledge the cultural ties and backgrounds that accompany race. Sure, it definitely shouldn’t be something to keep someone from a job; it shouldn’t be a sign of different treatment. However, I can’t agree when you say it should just be dropped completely. Trends among different racial groups are different and they are valuable if we want to understand people and the way they think – which seems to me to be a big deal if we want to reach out to all people groups with the good news of Christ. We should definitely try to eradicate poverty and make education in this country better for everybody, but to do this we need to understand the problem. Sometimes, it is a failure to reach different racial groups.

    Race should be treated with dignity and respect; I can’t agree that it should be ignored. Race is often associated with culture; for many first or second generation Americans it is a visible marker of the culture they have come from. And I don’t think I am exagerrating in saying that it is something that people are proud of. We should be seeking to learn about different cultures and learn about where people come from with open minds and open hands. Differences should be celebrated openly – yes even differences in appearance – so we can fully praise the creative power of our great God. This conversation will probably have something to do with race eventually, but it can be talked about in a way that is dignified and accepting and loving.

    Just a few thoughts. Thanks for your post!

  3. February 8, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for your response. It seems like you are assuming that race is an indicator of culture. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. The way people dress is also sometimes an indicator of culture. Sometimes not. It is presumptuous to assume either. The best way to figure out how people think is not to recognize their race and assume they think like the group trends of that race indicate, it’s to ask them how they think. The goal of reaching all people groups for Christ is accomplished by trying to reach all people for Christ regardless of what people group they happen to be a part of.
    People can be proud of their culture without being proud of race. I am definitely down with celebrating differences between individuals including race. In my experience however, the difference in race is not celebrated the same as differences in nose size or eye color. I definitely agree with learning about people with open minds and open hands, but where people come from and what their cultural and family background is, is not determined by race.

  4. Dan
    February 8, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). The full title of Darwin’s book. If there’s a reason for the perpetration of race issues, is it that society has accepted that the roots of our existence is by evolved animal instincts, and natural selection. Though I do not agree with the evolutionary world view that we have evolved from animals, most of our society does believe this way, and are taught in opposition to the intelligent design world view for over the last century. I believe this is the disconnect happening, it’s brought about by our educational system that boils us down to evolved animals, and animal instincts. If I feel that a different race than mine is a lower evolved species based on different factors, I am justified to believe and state that their existence is only there because of my human evolved feelings of acceptance and allow them to co-exist. My race is justifiably superior than theirs and have been throughout our human history, usually the dominate species kills off the weaker species. Science has told us Cro-Magnon man gave way to todays more modern evolved humans through evolution, was it racism or survival of the fittest to not share in resources so both kinds could co-exist? Does that instinctual desire to compete for resources still reside in our human brains? Is what we call racism, the absence of compassion to love equally regardless of ability to survive. I would suggest by world standards, from which I do not share completely, there are reasons for this animosity towards certain races today. That we acknowledge that the existence of certain races are only still in existence today is because those explorers and world powers at the time chose to spread christianity and God’s word, instead of just dominating and eliminating those un-favoured races. What right did the africans or native people have to survive against a more developed and educated european counterpart? They europeans had technology, ships to cross oceans, and the others had tiny rafts for fishing rivers and streams. The europeans had better evolved weaponry and firepower, the lower forms had spears, and bow and arrows. It was an evolutionary mismatch that if left to natural selection they would all be destroyed an not left to be mentioned in history as we know it today. It’s as if there was this gift of grace and compassion, which is counter to the instincts of natural selection and the basic needs of survival, something that must be a design of a creator God who also has such qualities. I would say our secular society is to blame for the propagation of these ideas of racism. This is a fairly large topic I think I will fail at getting my point across, but my summary above is capable of being better and clearly expanded, but I probably lack the words to do it justice. But you can’t get rid of weeds without first pulling out it’s roots, and understanding where we come from, will clearly lead us where we need to go.

  5. jeremiah
    February 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    That’s an interesting point Dan. I believe that some degree of racism would arise out of natural selection. Also, I could see how showing grace could arise out of natural selection. Someone showing grace is helping others, in helping others, others see him/her as a benefit to them and keep them alive and around, thus showing grace could also help someone survive to the point of passing on their genetics. I think this is a really interesting direction to take the topic.

    I wouldn’t myself go as far as blaming secular society for racism. Lots of Christians had slaves that they treated miserably. Lots of Christians formed the constitution that said blacks were 2/3 of a person. Lots of racism existed before secular ideas about natural selection were around. I could see how belief in natural selection could lead to a racist ideology, just as belief in the Bible has led others to a racist ideology. I also don’t think that belief in natural selection and that humans were created by God in His image are mutually exclusive.

  6. February 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    “It doesn’t seem intellectually inconsistent in society to talk about how race shouldn’t divide groups, how all races are equal, how someone shouldn’t be judged based on the color of their skin, and then to have such a strong focus on racial issues.”

    Agreed. Some of my friends and I wonder if “race tensions” would largely alleviate in the public eye if people stopped fueling the conversation by making every issue about race.

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