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ATTN. Christian Colleges and Universities: URGENT MASS ACTION ALERT #HandsUpWalkout #Ferguson

handsup walkout

ATTN. Christian Colleges and Universities: URGENT MASS ACTION ALERT #HandsUpWalkout #Ferguson

Hello Current Students and Alumni of institutions belonging to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities! Also, a special hello to my alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois!

This message is for you IF AND ONLY IF you believe that your faith in Christ should be put into action. This message is for you, especially, if you assert that your motto is “FOR CHRIST AND HIS KINGDOM.”

This upcoming week is your time and your opportunity to join or to continue joining the People of Ferguson IN SOLIDARITY as we all struggle for justice, equality, and freedom. Of course, we are still fighting for justice for Mike Brown.

However, this Movement is NOT only about Mike Brown or the countless others whose lives have been stolen.

It’s about the next one.

As people of faith, this Movement calls you to put your faith into action, to put the love of Christ into action.

In addition to the national FergusonAction.com action (more info below), the grass-roots group, STL Students in Solidarity are organizing actions specifically for college students to be in solidarity with the People of Ferguson/STL in their struggle for justice: For Monday, December 1, 2014, the plan is to walk out and occupy your quad or other significant campus location, chant, use signs, and tweet photos with the hashtags: #HWinTheStreets #STLinSolidarity #Ferguson

If you’re evangelical, you might as well tweet #Evangelicals4Justice to get the attention of the predominately complacent evangelical community.

Other important hashtags: #HandsUpWalkout #NoJusticeNoProfit #JusticeForMikeBrown #FergusonSolidarity #NoCyberMonday #NotOneDime

Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/STLStudentsinSolidarity

Follow on Twitter! @STLinSolidarity

Follow on WordPress: http://stlstudentsinsolidarity.wordpress.com

**If you want to go to an event that is already being planned near or around you, txt “Hands UP” to 90975. Once you receive a text, reply with your zip code.

**If you are in Wheaton, IL, I recommend organizing an action on Wheaton’s campus. It would be incredibly powerful to start the action in front of Edman Chapel. **Remember that the goal of this movement now is to disrupt the status quo.

To go on with “business as usual” as if Mike Brown’s body didn’t lay dead in the streets as he bled out for four-and-a-half hours in front of his family and community, is to be complicit in the murder of Mike Brown.

Hence, mass boycotting chapel and classes for the day would be a powerful response to Wheaton President, Dr. Ryken’s failure to support students who requested a public statement condemning racial injustice, police brutality, etc. (Please See Info below along with my rationale for adding this aspect to the protest. However, this protest does not have to address this issue, either. You can strategically stick to the demands that are exclusive to Ferguson)

For Wheaton College, the march could begin at Edman, and then you could march through downtown Wheaton, nearby. See Resource Links below for advice on how to organize this action. All you need is the word to spread through social media. If you tweet it, those who care will come.

Also, we all know that Wheaton Police will treat Wheaton students much better than Ferguson PD treats black people, so do not be afraid of exercising your constitutional right to protest, especially if you’re on campus. I will send chants and other resources, but even silent protest with signs that say things like, We are Mike Brown; No Justice, No Peace; Every 28 hours a black person is killed by the Police, etc. would be powerful.

By participating in the #HandsUpWalkOut national action, IN SOLIDARITY with the People of #Ferguson, Christian college students across the country (and hopefully professors) will make an urgent moral and theological statement about this injustice. Please be ready to answer this call, at this crucial moment in history. In fact, don’t make it a moment, make it a movement. We are with you, and you are with us. The People united, will never be defeated!

Please email me, tweet me, or Facebook me if you have questions.

It is your right to do this. It is your right to assemble.

But not only that!

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom! It is our duty to win! We must love and support each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!” – Assata Shakur and an important chant for this Movement.

In Power, Solidarity, and Militant Joy,

Daniel Ismael Aguilar@dannyaguilar4 for more info

Wheaton College ‘13

M.Div. Candidate at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

Important Resources from fergusonaction.com: http://fergusonaction.com/hands-up-walk-out/

Hands Up Mass Walkout Tool-Kit: http://cdn.fergusonaction.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Hands-Up-Mass-Walkout-Tool-Kit3.pdf

Principles for Action Ferguson Action Team: http://cdn.fergusonaction.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Principles-for-Action.pdf

On Monday, Dec 1st people around the country will be walking out of their schools and places of work in solidarity with Ferguson communities across the country effected by police violence.

Where? It can be any central location at your school or the area where you work . Consider if there is a place that has relevance to social justice such as a monument, chapel, or scene of previous protests.

When? Ideally, all #HandsUpWalkout events will happen simultaneously at 12pm central time on Monday, December 1st.

How?

The steps for organizing a #HandsUpWalkout are simple:

Before the walkout:

Just register an event asking people to meet at that space on FergusonAction.com.

Make a list of friends and to invite to the event, make calls, email them, tag them on social media, ask each person to invite 5 more people.

Share the event on social media with the hashtag #HandsUpWalkout and the hashtags affiliated with your campus, city, or part of town where you are trying to draw out.

WHY BOYCOTT CHAPEL/WHEATON COLLEGE CLASSES (AND OTHER COMPLACENT EVANGELICAL INSTITUTIONS) FOR THE DAY:

A collective of students recently mass emailed Dr. Ryken “humbly and firmly asking him to make a public statement about the events surrounding Ferguson and racism in America, [similar to] Chandler and Labberton’s [statements below].” Dr. Ryken is not being asked to take a political side, as this issue is non-partisan. This is a human issue, not a democrat or a republican issue. Yet, Dr. Ryken has chosen to not make this statement, despite the fact the several prominent white evangelicals have made statements on this issue, and despite the fact that Dr. Ryken has taken a public stance on “political issues” such as immigration reform. We must demand justice for Mike Brown in Ferguson and in the Federal Government. The action on Monday is primarily about that. However, by walking out before chapel or even after chapel but before the end of the school day, this can be a protest of Dr. Ryken and the Wheaton administration’s continued complacency and politics of respectability related to racial injustice and black genocide in America.

Along with the ones above, I recommend using hashtags such as:

#OccupyMyWheaton #OccupyChapel #MyWheatonForMikeBrown #OccupyCCCU (for solidarity with other Christian colleges), etc. #GordonForMikeBrown #TaylorForMikeBrown #AzusaPacificForMikeBrown, etc…

All of that being said, this protest does not have to be about Wheaton’s failure to stand up for justice, as an institution. The protest can be strictly about Justice For Mike Brown and the fact that Black Lives Matter.

****Below is just some additional information I’m sharing which might help persuade the President that this is in fact an important issue for Wheaton to publicly address:

Dr. Ryken has stated, “Wheaton College generally does not issue public statements about off-campus incidents.”

However, President Ryken does make public statements about “off-campus incidents” (from link below): SEE VIDEO TOO

http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/#principles

EVANGELICAL STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.

We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud.

As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:

• Respects the God-given dignity of every person

• Protects the unity of the immediate family

• Respects the rule of law

• Guarantees secure national borders

• Ensures fairness to taxpayers

• Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

SIGNATORIES

Heads of the Evangelical Immigration Table

  • Philip Ryken, President, Wheaton College
  • Mark Labberton, President, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

PASTORS

  • Matt Chandler, Senior Pastor, The Village Church/President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network, Fort Worth

AND MORE…

Given that Jim Wallis is on the Immigration Round Table and he put out a statement on Ferguson, this might connect with Dr. Ryken too:

“Repentance must begin in the white Christian community for tolerating this offense to our black brothers and sisters and, ultimately, this offense to God. Let me be as honest as I can be. If white Christians in America were more Christian than white, black parents could feel safer about their children. It’s time for us white Christians to repent — turn around and go in a new direction.” – Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/10/14/arrested-ferguson-act-repentance

Fuller’s President Reflects on Events in Ferguson:

http://www.fuller.edu/offices/president/from-the-president/2014-posts/fuller-s-president-reflects-on-events-in-ferguson/

Pastor Matt Chandler Speaks Up About ‘White Privilege,’ ‘Nonsense’ Going on in Ferguson

http://m.christianpost.com/news/pastor-matt-chandler-speaks-up-about-nonsense-going-on-in-ferguson–125048/

 

UPDATE (11/30/14 11:50PM): Several Wheaton College students have planned a #HandsUpWalkOut mass protest and die-in on campus, in solidarity with the People of Ferguson! See FB event page here: Wheaton College protest in solidarity with Ferguson

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou sends a message to students at the Christian Liberal Arts school, Wheaton College, who planned to protest in solidarity with the People of Ferguson and St. Louis for the #HandsUpWalkOut action on December 1, 2014.

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The Evangelical Ethic and the Spirit of Color-blind Racism

 

In the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, sociologist Max Weber sought an answer to an “historical question…as to the reason for [the] particularly strong disposition of the economically most developed regions toward [Protestantism]” (Weber 2002:2). That is, Weber sought to identify the religious origins of an ideal type of “Capitalism” in what he called the Protestant ethic. While some scholars contest the accuracy of Weber’s conclusion regarding the origins of capitalism, it is widely accepted among leading sociologists and other social theorists that religious institutions serve as mediating or legitimating forces between myriad spheres of life (Christerson, Edwards, and Emerson 2005). As such, Weber’s theory suggests that religio-cultural orientations can directly influence the conduct of both individuals and society (Allan 2011:75; Weber 1949). Therefore, studying religious institutions can provide crucial insights for understanding society. As the racial landscape of the U.S. is projected to change drastically over the next few decades, it is evermore crucial to understand the legitimating forces behind racial inequalities, past, present, and future.[1]

As Weber constructed the spirit of capitalism, I am concerned with the historical reasons for the significant disposition of segregated communities toward evangelicalism. Thus, the goal of this essay is to employ Weber’s sociological methodology, of historical concept-formation, to identify both the theological origins and cultural orientations of white evangelical color-blind racism. Also, I will demonstrate how white evangelical color-blind racism contributes to racial inequalities in the United States. In doing so, I will argue that the evangelical ethic (i.e. the “race-neutral” theological and cultural orientations of white conservative evangelicals) has contributed significantly to the spirit of color-blind racism and racial inequalities in the United States.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: HISTORICAL CONCEPT-FORMATION

Following Weber’s methodology, the definition of the spirit of color-blind racism must be composed of “a complex of configurations…in historical reality which we group together conceptually from the point of view of their cultural significance to form a single whole (Weber 2002:8). Thus, we will arrive at “the ultimate definition of the concept…only at the conclusion of the investigation” (Weber 2002:9). Moreover, our definition of the spirit is not exhaustive of all the essentials of colorblind racism. Indeed, the concept of race is perhaps one of the most complex concepts with myriad configurations. Thus, I am merely proposing the evangelical ethic as one significant element in the complex configuration of color-blind racism today.

As such, first I will define the term evangelical. Second, I will identify the direct relationships among conservative evangelicals and racial inequalities. Finally, I will identify the cultural and theological orientations that compose the evangelical ethic and the spirit of color-blind racism, thereby linking the ethic and the spirit to racial inequalities today.

Due to the long documented history of black-white tensions in American history, this essay will focus on the influence of white evangelical colorblind racism on black-white racial inequalities in the United States.

DEFINING CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTS

The term evangelical is somewhat contentious, but the most widely-accepted definitions of these terms, among social scientists and nonpartisan agencies such as the Pew Research Center, are based on either core beliefs,[2] denominations, or self-identification (Brint and Schroedel 2009). In relevant scholarly literature and studies cited in this essay, the label conservative evangelical is often used interchangeably with the label conservative Protestant, and thus these two terms will be used interchangeably in this essay (Brint and Schroedel 2009).[3] Based on these definitions, white evangelicals comprise around 25% of the adult population, espousing “the dominant theological strain of the dominant faith in the United States today” (Lichterman, Carter, and Lamont 2009:189; Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2008).

In 90% of Christian churches today, one race constitutes more than 80% of each congregation; to wit, most white evangelicals attend segregated churches (Emerson and Woo 2006; Scheitle and Dougherty 2010).

EVANGELICALS AND RACIAL SEGREGATION

A study measuring poverty concentration in 2009, found that 36.3% of the total black population lives in high-poverty places, while 49.2% of black or African Americans below the poverty line are concentrated in neighborhoods with poverty rates greater than 20%. For all Hispanics, 23.9% live in high-poverty places, while 33.3% of poor Hispanics live in these communities as well. In sharp contrast, only 11.1% of non-Hispanic whites live in “high-poverty” neighborhoods (Lichter, Parisi, and Taquino 2012). Additionally, research indicates that over 60% of black or Hispanic students attend public schools where the majority of students are below the poverty line; compared to only “18 percent of white students” who attend high-poverty schools (Logan, Minca, and Adar 2012:288).

De facto segregation has been explained through the persistence of discriminatory housing practices such as redlining and restrictive covenants (Massey and Denton 1993; Sernau 2006). These willfully racist practices are indeed significant; yet, white evangelicals, today, need not be willful racists to perpetuate racial inequalities in the U.S.[4] Still, a recent study drawing on the 2000 Census and Church Congregations data, found that the strength of the white evangelical conservative base in a county, had a significant impact on increasing levels of residential segregation for black or African-American inhabitants in every region of the country (Blanchard 2007).

In their book, American Apartheid, Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton concluded that, “Residential segregation is the institutional apparatus that supports other racially discriminatory processes and binds them together into a coherent and uniquely effective system of racial subordination” (1993:175). It should be no surprise that the U.S. poverty rate for African-Americans and Hispanics is 25.8% and 23.2%, respectively; whereas the poverty rate for whites was below the national average, at 11.6% (Macartney, Bishaw, and Fontenot 2013). The life-chances (i.e. opportunities for success) of individuals living in these communities are significantly influenced by, and often limited to, the ties set by their segregated neighborhoods. Therefore, to the degree that evangelicals contribute to racial segregation, they contribute to racial inequalities as well.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RELIGIO-CULTURAL ORIENTATIONS

For Weber, “very frequently the ‘world-images’ that have been created by ‘ideas’ have, like switchmen, determined the tracks along which action has been pushed by the dynamic of interest” (Weber 1949:280). World-images, according to Weber, are “systematized and rationalized images of the world,” examples of which are sets of cultural and/or theological orientations, that guide the ways in which individuals and communities interpret the world (Weber 1949:280). Subsequently, world-images determine the parameters in which humanity’s actions manifest. As such, rather than determine specific actions, their cultural and/or theological orientations primarily set the parameters for how evangelicals tend to behave.

CULTURAL ORIENTATIONS & COLOR-BLIND RACISM

In congruence with Weber’s theory, I will locate the cultural orientations (world images) of white evangelicals that have guided their actions toward color-blind racism. A litany of research posits the following orientations of white evangelicalism, in general:

‘accountable freewill individualism,’ ‘anti-structuralism’ (an inability to perceive, unwillingness to accept, or negative reaction to macro social structural influence), and ‘relationalism’ (assigning importance to interpersonal relationships) (Emerson, Smith, and Sikkink 1999:400; Gorski 2009)

To illustrate these orientations, we will briefly examine recent studies on this subject. A study using GSS national data found that white evangelicals “explain [racial] inequality in more individualistic, [relational], and less structural terms than other white Americans” (Emerson et al. 1999). [5] For example, 62% of white evangelicals believe that “most blacks just don’t have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty,” while only 27% of white evangelicals believe that discrimination plays a role in current racial inequalities (Emerson et al. 1999:404).

In comparison, 51% and 36% of all other white non-evangelicals gave the same, respective, explanations. The gap between white evangelicals who believe that either a lack of motivation or discrimination play roles in current inequalities is 35 percentage points—“more than twice as large as the gap for all other white Americans (15 percentage points)” (Emerson et al. 1999:404). White evangelicals were also more likely than other whites to emphasize dysfunctional familial and social relations as the source of racial inequalities today (Emerson et al. 1999).[6]

The sweeping theme among white evangelical respondents was that “black Americans lack hope and vision” (Emerson et al. 1999:404). To deny systemic racism and place blame for stark racial disparities primarily on “unhealthy” black families and their “lack of motivation” is a form of tacit racism. It perpetuates inequalities by neither confronting nor acknowledging the root of the problem. While most white Americans espouse these orientations, religion nuances and increases white evangelicals’ reliance on them (Emerson et al. 1999).

Conjointly, the individualist, anti-structuralist, and politically conservative orientations of white evangelicals[7] make them more likely to espouse a world-image that blames black people and black families for current inequalities, and to deny the effects of systemic racism or other larger social factors (Blanchard 2007; Emerson et al. 1999). As aforementioned, “world-images…like switchmen, [determine] the tracks along which action [is] pushed by the dynamic of interest.” Predictably, white evangelicals tend to “dampen [or directly oppose] local support for governmental interventions” that have otherwise been integral in reducing racial segregation and inequalities, such as: affirmative action, fair housing policies, and the dreaded “welfare state” (Blanchard 2007; Emerson et al. 1999). Thus, white evangelicals indirectly contribute to racial segregation and inequality via their “color-blind” cultural orientations.

In addition to undermining the potential success of governmental anti-discrimination programs, the “relationalism” of white evangelical congregations “[results] in strong network closure and an emphasis on in-group social ties (Blanchard 2007:417; Emerson et al. 1999). Since 90% of all Christian congregations are over 80% one race, not only do most white evangelicals oppose or dampen support for governmental programs aimed at racial equality, white evangelicals do not even maintain relations with their fellow non-white Christians, let alone partner with them in their church-based efforts to mitigate racial inequality on a systemic level (Blanchard 2007).

The lack of ties with people of other races undermines community and/or faith-based efforts to oppose segregation and inequality (Blanchard 2007; Granovetter 2011; Weber 2011). Conversely, studies have found that externally-oriented and civically-engaged congregations (most of which have been Mainline, Catholic, or other) have been more “instrumental [than evangelical congregations] in developing [community-wide coalitions]” that have “[stemmed] the tide of residential segregation” (Blanchard 2007:419).

Thus, it should be no surprise that according to the aforementioned study, for every 1-unit increase in number of white evangelical congregations per 1,000 non-Hispanic whites in every county in every region across the country, there were significant increases in all measures of segregation (Blanchard 2007). That is, the more white conservative congregations there are in a county, the more segregated the county will be.

THEOLOGICAL ORIENTATIONS

I have heretofore demonstrated how the “race-neutral” cultural orientations of white evangelicals have guided their actions toward color-blind racism. While most whites in the U.S. tend to espouse these cultural orientations, what distinguishes white evangelicals are the ways in which these orientations guide their actions and the ferocity with which they are held (Emerson et al. 1999:400). Our investigation will now adopt a more historical approach to identify theological orientations that make up the spirit of color-blind racism. Because theology is neither created nor espoused in a cultural vacuum, we will see interplay between cultural and theological orientations in the complex configuration of the evangelical ethic.

The following are core theological beliefs generally accepted by most white evangelicals (Ammerman 2009; Gorski 2009; Wuthnow 2009): Inerrancy and/or or divine inspiration of Scripture; Personal relationship with and faith in Jesus Christ as the way to salvation from eternal damnation; “Born-again” converts live repentant lives; and Christians should share their beliefs with others (i.e. evangelism). I will locate the interplay of these beliefs with culture and color-blind racism through an analysis of key events in American religious history from the 18th Century “Triumph of Arminianism” to the 20th Century Rise of the Christian Right.”

CALVINISM, ARMINIANISM, AND INDIVIDUALISM

To understand the significance of what Philip Gorski calls, “the [18th Century] strange triumph of Arminianism,” we will examine Weber’s analysis of Predestination. The primary effect of this doctrine, according to Weber, was “a feeling of unprecedented inner loneliness of the single individual…[who was] forced to follow his path alone to meet a destiny which had been decreed for him from eternity” (Weber 2003:104). Calvinism, according to Weber, created an almost unbearable anxiety for individuals, because there was no way to know if one was “elected” for salvation, and there was nothing one could do if they were not. “Restless work in a vocational calling was recommended as the best possible means to acquire the self-confidence that one belonged among the elect” (Weber 2003:66). A life of hard work and good deeds was not a path to salvation, but it was viewed as its natural fruit. The emphasis was not on singular works, but on an entire life meticulously and consciously organized for God’s glory.

Protestantism also intensified an ethic of asceticism, because only the “eternally damned” were “given up to their own lusts and the temptation of the world” (Weber 2003:101). The combination of hard work, entrepreneurial skills in a special vocational calling, and asceticism—“all to the glory of God”—invigorated the capitalist ethic among Protestants, who understood wealth accumulation as a sign of God’s grace. That is, one way Calvinists were able to quell the anxiety of eternal hellfire damnation, was to rest in the knowledge that if they had a special calling, worked hard, and were economically “successful,” then they were surely among the “elect.”

While Calvinism is now a small minority of the “evangelical community dominated by Arminians” (Gorski 2009:87), both the individualistic work ethic and asceticism espoused by orthodox Calvinists remain among white evangelicals today, albeit for drastically different reasons. That is, as demonstrated above, white evangelicals tend to be more individualistic in explanations for one’s economic status than any other group in the United States. This ethic is related to the evangelical disdain for “idleness,” which manifests today in the individualistic view that “those who are generationally poor are generationally poor because they lack motivation to work hard.”

“Arminianism is the view that God’s grace is offered to all but accepted by some…[Its] universalist and voluntarist soteriology is radically at odds” with Calvinism (Gorski 2009:87). According to Gorski, the emphasis on personal transformation and individual choice turned Arminianism into “a potent weapon” for “heterodox fractions of the clergy and subordinate members of the laity…in a struggle against [New England “elites”]” (2009:87). By rejecting “the importance of hierocratic mediation…to achieving personal salvation,” and highlighting “the centrality of individual choice and self-expression,” Arminianism flourished in a synergistic relationship with the democratic and individualistic ideals of the budding American democracy.

Arminianism influenced the core evangelical belief that, unlike the Doctrine of Predestination, all people have equal access to God and the freedom to choose faith in Christ. It seems evangelicals believe that, “all are equal in the eyes of God; therefore all must have equal opportunity in the world.” This theological shift “paved the way” for the “alliance of conservative evangelicals with laissez faire” individualistic economics and anti-structuralist politics that dampen support for governmental programs for racial equality today (2009:87). Moreover, eternal salvation is still important for evangelicals; yet, instead of being helpless, the onus is on individuals to choose to believe. Since people are free to choose, then the theological requirement to evangelize individuals into Heaven is far more important for white evangelicals, today, than engaging in any anti-racist macro social reforms that appear to be part of the “liberal-agenda.”

SLAVE MASTER’S JESUS VS SLAVE’S JESUS

In my opinion, the root of white evangelical anti-structuralism and color-blind racism is insidiously hidden in the history of pro-slavery “Christianity.” An analysis of pro-slavery “Christianity” will elucidate the Christological differences between Black and White Church traditions today. W.E.B. Du Bois described how Christianity in the Colonies functioned to justify slavery (2000). White Christians claimed that “slaves were to be brought from heathenism to Christianity, and through slavery the benighted Indian and African were to find their passport into the kingdom of God” (Du Bois 2000:70). Eventually, whites were confronted with “the insistent and perplexing question as to what the status of the heathen slave was to be after he was Christianized and baptized?” (Du Bois 2000:70). Many slave owners questioned whether to expose their slaves to Christianity due to “the implications of equality in the Bible and…the fear that education might cause the slave to fight for his freedom” (Cone 1997:75).

The measure taken by white Christians to appease this contradiction is still with us today—that is, the “White” Jesus of the slave master was completely divorced from any implications of freedom or justice related to civic matters (Du Bois 2000; Cone 1997). As such, “It was expressly declared in colony after colony that baptism did not free the slaves” (Du Bois 2000:71). The crux of pro-slavery “Christianity” was to ensure peace, by creating “good slaves” that would emulate “White” Jesus’ “meek-and-turn-the-other-cheek” side. While many abolitionists were eventually motivated (in part) by their Christian faith, the majority of the White Church then, as the White Church today, was silent about the oppressive and racist structures of America (Cone 1997). Like the slave masters’ “White” Jesus, the “White” Jesus of evangelicals today is not concerned with ameliorating the plight of the oppressed on Earth as much as he is concerned with “order” and “saving individual souls” (Cone 1997).

Conversely, black slave ministers emphasized the God of the Exodus who freed the slaves from Egypt. Many black-slave ministers who led slave rebellions identified with the suffering of Jesus and saw his resurrection as the triumph over the oppressive forces of his day (Du Bois 2000; Cone 1997). In addition to eternal salvation, the Jesus of the Black Church tradition is more likely to identify with the poor and oppressed of the land—unlike the Jesus of the White Church today (Cone 1997). In this way, “Black Christianity” has operated as “the expression of…and also the protest against real distress…the sigh of the oppressed creature;” White evangelicalism, on the other hand, even if unintentionally today, has operated as “the opium of the [oppressed] people” (Marx 1975:175).

Many contemporary white evangelicals usually claim “objectivity” in their Christology, but they have forgotten the racist roots of their “White-American Jesus” who is not concerned with social justice. This is why both White and Black Church traditions can be “Christocentric” while having incredibly different interpretations of what it means to emulate Christ, having either concern with saving individual souls or concern for social justice (systemic change) as well as saving souls.

These differing Christologies partly explain the political schisms between white evangelicals and Black Protestants with seemingly similar surface-level theological beliefs. The majority of Black (72%) voters with seemingly similar theological beliefs to white evangelicals either identify with or support the Democratic Party, while only 10% support the Republican Party (Sahgal and Smith 2009). In sharp contrast, 70% of white evangelicals identify with or lean toward the free-market (freewill individualism) and anti-government (anti-structuralist) platform of the Republican Party (Pew Research Center 2012).

BIBLICAL INERRANCY AND THE TRADITIONALIST-MODERNIST DIVIDE

The middle decades of the Twentieth Century imbued evangelicals, evermore deeply, with the isolationist and anti-liberalist spirit that tends to permeate their culture today. By the turn of the Twentieth Century, many Protestants struggled with tensions between modern science and literalist interpretations of the Bible (Brint and Schroedel 2009). From this tension emerged Liberal theologians who “tried to reconcile biblical truths with scientific developments” (Brint and Schroedel 2009:3). Conservative Protestants began calling themselves “Fundamentalists” and pointed to the horrors of World War I as reasons for “returning” to the “fundamentals” of Christianity—one being the literalist interpretation of the Bible (Brint and Schroedel 2009).

The belief in biblical inerrancy prompted the debate between fundamentalists and modernists over the tensions between Scripture and evolution, culminating in the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial (Brint and Schroedel 2009). Despite the outcome of the trial, white evangelicals emerged as “anti-intellectual opponents of science and progress,” and were portrayed as such in many media outlets (Belton 2010a). Since the embarrassment of the infamous trial, evangelicals have perceived liberals and secularist-humanists as enemies of “traditional Christian values.” The solution to the perceived “liberal-modernist onslaught on Christianity” was for evangelicals to retreat from public life and politics, resulting in an isolated, yet prodigious network of “Bible-centered schools and colleges, Bible summer camps…Christian radio programming,” bookstores and strong local churches (Ammerman 2009; Belton 2010a; Brint and Schroedel 2009:3; Gorski 2009).

These networks remain generally isolated from the broader community today, and as aforementioned, the lack of ties with people of other races undermines community and/or faith-based efforts to oppose segregation and inequality. The tension between biblical inerrancy and modernity solidified the wedge between conservatism and liberalism, which manifests in an aversion to any program that is perceived as part of a bigger “liberal agenda,” such as efforts to systemically reduce racial inequalities in the U.S. (Blanchard 2007).

ANTI-STRUCTURALISM AND THE BILLY GRAHAM GOSPEL

Following the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, Americans questioned the modernist claims of “progress” and the “inherent goodness of the human being.” America was ripe for the fundamentalist message to “return to Christian values,” to be “saved from the evils of men.” Even President Dwight Eisenhower spoke of returning to the “Judeo-Christian” roots of the U.S. (Belton 2010b). However, it was the Cold War hysteria that prompted the masses to seek a blatantly “Americanized” version of the Gospel as salvation from the “evils of this world” (Belton 2010b). Much like the “Terror Alerts” of our Post-9/11 World, after the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb, it was perceived that the “world was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust” (Belton 2010b). In this ethos of fear, no single individual did more to marry an individualistic and anti-activist Gospel with right-wing ideals than Billy Graham.

Graham came to be “the primary engine of America’s cold war religious revival” (Belton 2010b). Preaching to thousands, Graham presented the Gospel as the only means of salvation from not only eternal hell, but from the “evil forces of Communism” as well:

The battle is between communism and Christianity! …When communism conquers a nation, it makes every man a slave! When Christianity conquers…it makes every man a king! (Belton 2010b)

The preaching of Graham was noticed by “media baron William Randolph Hearst, a staunch anti-communist,” who instructed his newspapers to “Puff Graham” (Belton 2010b). Hearst’s mass media support provided the medium that “rocketed Graham,” and evangelicals, “onto the national stage” (Belton 2010b). Graham’s anti-communist Gospel contributed to the marriage between conservative evangelicalism and right wing politics and economics, which oppose macro social programs aimed at racial equality today (Belton 2010b; Brint and Schroedel 2009).

It is true that Graham occasionally spoke about “racial tolerance,” but according to Graham, “racism [and all social injustice] is not a social/structural issue; it is merely a symptom of sin;” Therefore, all we need to do to save the country is to convert individuals to Christianity (Belton 2010b). Graham’s simplistic—“All you need is Jesus”—Gospel, required very little more than an outward expression of personal piety and church attendance, systemic efforts toward social justice be damned. Similarly, evangelicals today are focused on a Jesus who has little concern for macro social justice reforms that appear to be part of the “liberal-agenda.”

BILLY GRAHAM’S JESUS VS MARTIN LUTHER KING’S JESUS

It is noted that “one of the feats of Billy Graham…was to refocus the evangelical movement around the figure of Jesus in a way that cut across denominational lines,” thereby creating stronger ties among evangelicals (Wuthnow 2009:29). However, since white evangelicals have failed to take seriously the legacy of slavery, they have failed to deconstruct the figure of Jesus that was promulgated by slave masters in the U.S. That is, the Jesus that Billy Graham made popular among evangelicals was eerily similar to the Jesus who was preached to the slaves—one who was more concerned with obedience and an outward expression of personal piety than he was with any notions of social justice, such as achieving racial equality in the United States.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Graham was trying to create “good” slaves, however, he did very little to oppose other white evangelical “leaders and congregations [that] frequently condoned and sometimes actively supported segregation and subordination of African Americans up through…the 50s and 60s” (Lichterman et al. 2009:192; Vesely-Flad 2011). While Billy may have sincerely wanted to save souls from hell, his obsession with the afterlife and conservative political leanings were more important to him, and most other white evangelicals, than the racial oppression that was happening right before their eyes.

Graham went so far, in April of 1963, along with other white preachers, to call on Martin Luther King, Jr. to “put the brakes on a little bit” regarding direct action to end segregation (Anon 1963; Belton 2010b). While Graham preached a few “integrated” crusades, all he really did was remove a rope that divided white and black people at his crusades. His “efforts” paled in comparison to those of the children who were hosed down, bitten by dogs, and arrested for protesting segregation in the South. The complicity of white preachers, including Graham, in maintaining segregation prompted Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he chastised the “white moderate [and preacher], who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice” (Belton 2010b; King, Jr. 1963).

Herein lies a key theological distinction between white evangelicals and the Black Church today. The Jesus who identified with the oppressed is the same Jesus that motivated Dr. King and many other champions of the Civil Rights era—unlike the Jesus that motivated Graham’s individualistic, anti-structuralist, pro-conservative-politics gospel—which still influences evangelical thinking on race relations today.

ANTI-LIBERAL RISE OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT

The rise of evangelicals out of political inactivity undeniably occurred in concert with the racially motivated Republican Southern Strategy (Alexander 2010; Vesely-Flad 2011). Prior to Richard Nixon’s Presidency in 1968, social unrest abounded in America (Alexander 2010; Vesely-Flad 2011). Earlier that year, Dr. King had been assassinated, and “nearly one hundred fifty cities across the U.S. erupted in racial confrontations and riots” (Vesely-Flad 2011). Adding to the unrest, Vietnam protesters, feminists, and gay rights activists were emboldened to demand social equality (Brint and Schroedel 2009; Vesely-Flad 2011). Conservative whites perceived the movements of the 60s and 70s as an attack on “biblical values,” signs of moral decay, lawlessness and disorder (Brint and Schroedel 2009).

Republican leaders sensed that they could capitalize not only on anti-liberal white Southerners who feared they would have the most to lose from Civil Rights reforms, but they also capitalized on the fears of conservative evangelicals who were dismayed by the “moral decay,” “lawlessness and disorder,” of America. It is no coincidence that Nixon (and eventually Reagan) would make their platforms about “restoring law and order,” which many social and political analysts have interpreted as coded language to appeal to constituencies that were distressed by the progressive movements mentioned above (Alexander 2010; Vesely-Flad 2011). The end of the 1970s gave birth to a plethora of politically conservative organizations such as The Christian Right, the Christian Voice, and the Moral Majority (Brint and Schroedel 2009:5).

Since the 1980s, evangelicals have pledged uncanny allegiance to the Republican Party and conservative politics and economics. I would argue that a theological orientation that required nothing more than a personal relationship with Jesus and a life of individualistic repentance from sin, with no call to social justice, and selectively “literalist” interpretations of the Bible on issues of gender roles, homosexuality, and abortion are the prime orientations that guide evangelicals to detest progressive reforms that they believe are violating “biblical values.” Their propensity for “order” over justice is analogous to the slave master’s Christology, which elevated personal piety over both notions of justice and freedom related to civic matters. This anti-liberal ethos against Civil Rights reforms continues to cloud white evangelicals’ views on racial inequalities today, making them resistant to progressive reforms that they deem are part of a bigger “liberal agenda,” to oppress Christians.

In the decades following the desegregation of public schools (Brown v. Board of Ed.), and the Civil Rights years of the 60s and 70s, thousands of white families, including white evangelicals, moved to “more desirable locations,” and even opened privately-owned all-white “Christian” academies (Emerson and Smith 2000; Massey and Denton 1993; Vesely-Flad 2011). Today, many of these schools and neighborhoods remain just as segregated as they were forty years ago. As previously mentioned, the lack of ties with people of other races undermines community and/or faith-based efforts to oppose segregation and inequality.

CONCLUSION

At the end of our investigation we can define color-blind racism as such: seemingly “race-neutral” orientations that have a segregating effect on people of color, or that oppose or dampen support for macro social efforts to stem segregation and racial inequalities. White evangelical color-blind racism includes: accountable freewill individualism, anti-structuralism, relationalism, and internally oriented congregations. As stated in the first part of this essay, these orientations have had segregating effects in communities and have resulted in social closure of white congregations and the development of strong in-group ties that, even if unintentionally, have negative effects on racial equality today.

The spirit of color-blind racism derives from the evangelical ethic or the interplay between theological and cultural orientations that guide evangelicals toward the definition of color-blind racism above.

First, we have seen that the obsession with eternal salvation, and anxiety of eternal damnation, continues to drive the actions of believers today; in this case, white evangelicals tend to relegate social justice issues as subordinate to evangelizing individual souls into Heaven.

We have also seen how the belief in biblical inerrancy has caused events that have influenced evangelicals to draw sharp lines between believers and non-believers at first resulting in isolation (internal orientation/social closure/and relationalism), then resulting in an aggressive alliance with the Republican Party and anti-structuralist conservative politics and economics.

Most importantly, in my view, we have seen how the emphasis on a personal relationship with a Jesus who is divorced from notions of social justice is rooted in pro-slavery Christianity, which guides evangelicals toward individualism, relationalism, and anti-structuralism, today.

Together, all of these elements constitute what I would call the Evangelical Ethic and the Spirit of Color-blind Racism.

WORKS CITED

Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York; [Jackson, Tenn.]: New Press ; Distributed by Perseus Distribution.

Allan, Kenneth. 2011. The Social Lens : An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory. Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press/Sage Publications.

Ammerman, Nancy T. 2009. “American Evangelicals in American Culture: Continuity and Change.” Pp. 44–73 in Evangelicals and democracy in America, edited by Steven G. Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Anon. 1963. “Billy Graham Urges Restrain in Sit-Ins.” New York Times, April 18, Archives. Retrieved (http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0B15F9385D117B93CAA8178FD85F478685F9).

Belton, David. 2010a. “A New Light.” God in America. Retrieved (http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/transcripts/hour-four.html).

Belton, David. 2010b. “The Soul of a Nation.” God in America. Retrieved (http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/transcripts/hour-five.html).

Blanchard, Troy C. 2007. “Conservative Protestant Congregations and Racial Residential Segregation: Evaluating the Closed Community Thesis in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Counties.” American Sociological Review 72(3):416–33.

Du Bois, W. E. B. 2000. “Religion in the South.” Pp. 69–89 in Du Bois on Religion, edited by Phil Zuckerman. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Brint, Steven G., and Jean Reith Schroedel, eds. 2009. Evangelicals and Democracy in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Christerson, Brad, Korie L. Edwards, and Michael O. Emerson. 2005. Against All Odds : The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations. New York: New York University Press.

Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black Power. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.

Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. 2000. Divided by Faith : Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Emerson, Michael O., Christian Smith, and David Sikkink. 1999. “Equal in Christ, but Not in the World: White Conservative Protestants and Explanations of Black-White Inequality.” Social Problems 46(3):398–417.

Emerson, Michael O., and Rodney M. Woo. 2006. People of the Dream : Multiracial Congregations in the United States. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Gorski, Philip S. 2009. “Conservative Protestantism in the United States? Toward a Comparative and Historical Perspective.” Pp. 74–113 in Evangelicals and Democracy in America, edited by Steven G. Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Granovetter, Mark S. 2011. “The Strength of Weak Ties.” Pp. 589–93 in The inequality reader : contemporary and foundational readings in race, class, and gender, edited by David B. Grusky and Szonja Szelényi. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

King, Jr., Martin Luther. 1963. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Retrieved (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html).

Lichter, Daniel T., Domenico Parisi, and Michael C. Taquino. 2012. “The Geography of Exclusion: Race, Segregation, and Concentrated Poverty.” Social Problems 59(3):364–88.

Lichterman, Paul, Prudence L. Carter, and Michèle Lamont. 2009. “Race-Bridging for Christ? Conservative Christians and Black-White Relations in Community Life.” Pp. 187–220 in Evangelicals and Democracy in America, edited by Steven G. Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Logan, John R., Elisabeta Minca, and Sinem Adar. 2012. “The Geography of Inequality: Why Separate Means Unequal in American Public Schools.” Sociology of Education 85(3):287–301.

Macartney, Suzanne, Alemayehu Bishaw, and Kayla Fontenot. 2013. Poverty Rates for Selected Detailed Race and Hispanic Groups by State and Place: 2007-2011. Washington, D.C.: United States Census Bureau. Retrieved (http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr11-17.pdf).

Marx, Karl. 1975. “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law.” in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, vol. 3, edited by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. New York: International Publishers. Retrieved (http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio6961573.008).

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid : Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. 2008. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Pew Research Center. Retrieved (http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-full.pdf).

Pew Research Center. 2012. Trends in Party Identification of Religious Groups. Washington, D.C. Retrieved (http://www.pewforum.org/2012/02/02/trends-in-party-identification-of-religious-groups/).

Sahgal, Neha, and Greg Smith. 2009. A Religious Portrait of African-Americans. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Retrieved (http://www.pewforum.org/A-Religious-Portrait-of-African-Americans.aspx).

Scheitle, Christopher P., and Kevin D. Dougherty. 2010. “Race, Diversity, and Membership Duration in Religious Congregations*.” Sociological Inquiry 80(3):405–23.

Sernau, Scott. 2006. Worlds Apart : Social Inequalities in a Global Economy. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.

Vesely-Flad, Rima. 2011. “The Social Covenant and Mass Incarceration: Theologies of Race and Punishment.” Anglican Theological Review 93(4):541–62.

Weber, Max. 1949. “The Social Psychology of the World Religions.” Pp. 267–301 in From Max Weber: Essays in sociology, edited by Hans Heinrich Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford university press.

Weber, Max. 2002. The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism and Other Writings. edited by P. R. Baehr and Gordon C. Wells. New York: Penguin Books.

Weber, Max. 2003. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

Weber, Max. 2011. “Class, Status, Party.” Pp. 56–67 in The inequality reader : contemporary and foundational readings in race, class, and gender, edited by David B. Grusky and Szonja Szelényi. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Wuthnow, Robert. 2009. “The Cultural Capital of American Evangelicalism.” Pp. 27–43 in Evangelicals and Democracy in America, edited by Steven G. Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


[1] According to the Pew Research Center, “Non-Hispanic whites, who made up 67% of the population in 2005, will be 47% in 2050” (Passel and Cohn 2008).

[2] Inerrancy and/or or divine inspiration of Scripture; Personal relationship with and faith in Jesus Christ as the way to salvation from eternal damnation; “Born-again” converts live repentant lives; and Christians should share their beliefs with others (i.e. evangelism) (Ammerman 2009; Gorski 2009; Wuthnow 2009).

[3] All research studies cited in this essay either use the terms (conservative evangelical and conservative Protestant) interchangeably or there is enough similarity in core beliefs or denominations to use them interchangeably for the purposes of this essay.

[4] Though I do not deny that willfully racist evangelicals exist.

[5] General Social Survey (GSS)

[6] Additionally, in 117 face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of self-identified white evangelicals, 72% cited either a lack of motivation, cultural deficiencies, or both, as reasons for black-white inequalities (Blanchard 2007).

[7] 70% of white evangelicals identify with or lean toward the free-market (freewill individualism) and anti-government (anti-structuralist) platform of the Republican Party (Pew Research Center 2012).

© Daniel Ismael Aguilar and thetatteredrose.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Daniel Ismael Aguilar and thetatteredrose.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

When the n-word appears on the forum wall

How Christians Might Talk About Race

Tattered Rose

(Published in Wheaton College‘s school newspaper, The Record, during the Spring 2012 semester)

forum wall ntalk

This Fall, the Forum Wall served as a venue for incredibly varied attitudes about the issue of race. Posters, letters, drawings, and a vast array of comments responded to student-led initiatives which attempted to promote racial harmony and reconciliation. The culmination of this discussion was the phrase: “This is Nigger talk.” Those four words were explicitly, and anonymously, scribbled on a letter posted on Wheaton College’s own forum wall. While most members of our community do not espouse the overt racism embodied in this phrase, we still tend to avoid engaging in thoughtful, constructive conversations about racism and prejudice. This aversion to race conversations may be a result of the way the conversation is initially presented. I would like to challenge us to go further and examine the way the race conversation is…

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The Prevalence of Racial Microaggressions at Wheaton College: A Sociological Study

My research partner, Laura Becker, and I sought to answer the question: “To what extent does race affect students of color at Wheaton College (Illinois)?” As the former Executive Vice President of Community Diversity on Wheaton’s Student Government, I was constantly fighting an uphill battle with students who denied there was a “race problem” at Wheaton. The goal of our study was to demonstrate with empirical data if a problem did in fact exist—because Wheaton will never adequately address this problem if most students believe that it does not exist.

As such, we conducted a survey-based study of the daily race-related experiences of students at Wheaton. Specifically, we sought to measure the prevalence of racial microaggressions and their effects on students at Wheaton. Similar studies have been conducted at various types of institutions, but none, to our knowledge, have been conducted in an exclusively evangelical institution of higher learning. Below is a summary of the larger paper entitled: The Prevalence of Racial Microaggressions at Wheaton College and Implications for Broader Society (Aguilar and Becker 2013).

Our research hypothesis was that race has a negative effect on the experiences of students of color at Wheaton College. That is, given prior research on microaggressions, students of color will be more likely than white students to be “stressed, upset, or bothered,” by the prevalence of racial microaggressions at Wheaton College. The null hypothesis is that students of color are not any more or less affected by racial microaggressions than white students at Wheaton.

WHAT ARE RACIAL MICROAGGRESSIONS?

While the elements of racism are almost impossible to enumerate, a growing body of literature suggests that racial microaggressions can have substantial adverse effects on the experiences of students and faculty of color in higher education (Solorzano, Ceja, and Yosso 2000; Sue, Capudilupo, and Holder 2008; Pittman 2012).

Racial microaggressions have been defined as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue, Capodilupo, et al. 2007:331). Additionally, “Racial microaggressions refer to the racial indignities, slights, mistreatment, or offenses that people of color may face on a recurrent or consistent basis. Racial microaggression may represent a significant source of stress endured by people of color [emphasis added]” (Torres-Harding et al. 2012:153). These definitions of racial microaggressions were used to study the extent and effect of such interactions at Wheaton College.

While they may seem trivial, researchers have found that microagressions can, “assail the mental health of recipients” (Sue, Capudilupo, and Holder 2008), “create a hostile and invalidating campus environment” (Solorzano, Ceja, and Yosso 2000), “perpetuate stereotype threat” (Steele, Spencer, and Aronson 2002), “create physical health problems” (Clark, Anderson, Clark, and Williams 1999), and “lower work productivity and problem-solving abilities” (Dovidio 2001; Salvatore and Shelton 2007).  The negative consequences of microaggressions may not manifest immediately, but numerous microaggressions over a period of time can have the above consequences for recipients.

DATA AND METHODS

Data was collected through a Student Government-sponsored web-based survey, which was emailed to all undergraduate students at the college. The survey was created on Survey Monkey and available for one week for students to complete online. The response rate was approximately 41% or 992 out of 2,400 undergraduate students. Total students of color equaled: 226 (≈22.8%); Total white students equaled: 766 (≈77.2%). It is significant that our response rate for students of color was over 50% of the students of color at the college. This will allow us to be more confident in generalizing the experiences of respondents to other students of color at Wheaton College. The demographics of the respondents (N=992) are representational of races, genders, majors, and backgrounds at institutions similar to Wheaton College, specifically, to other colleges in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Thus, these findings will have implications for the experiences of students of color at other CCCU schools as well.

The survey included a 30-item scale adapted from existing microaggression scales in the relevant scholarly literature. Items were reworded to make them specific to Wheaton College, and some items were added to address the faith aspect of Wheaton.  For each item presented, respondents were asked to indicate how often they encountered it on a four-point Likert-type scale (1- never, 2 – a little/rarely, 3 – sometimes/a moderate amount, 4 –often/frequently). Samples of statements on the survey include:

  • People at Wheaton College say that there are bigger things to worry about than issues related to race.
  • People at Wheaton College question the legitimacy of a worship or prayer style that is familiar to my racial/ethnic background.
  • At Wheaton College, people of a race/ethnicity other than my own are impressed by “how articulate” I am.
  • People at Wheaton College tell me I should focus on the Gospel instead of focusing on race.
  • People at Wheaton College say or imply that people of my racial/ethnic background are admitted to the college because of affirmative action.
  • At Wheaton College, I see few people of my racial/ethnic background.

To measure if the item was perceived as a racial microaggression, we needed to measure the degree to which the experience was “stressful, upsetting, or bothersome.” Thus, if a respondent indicated the positive occurrence of an item (1 or greater on the occurrence scale), he or she was asked to indicate how stressful, upsetting, or bothersome the experience had been (1 – not at all, 2 – a little, 3 – moderate level, 4 – high level).

The survey responses (N=992) were analyzed statistically using PASW/SPSS, looking for themes and relationships in the data. Two subscales were created to measure the average levels of occurrence (MCROCCUR) and the degree to which students are affected by microggressions (MCRFX) at Wheaton. That is, two subscales were created that measured each student’s average score for the occurrence and effects of all 30 items on the survey. For example, if I answered 2 (a little/rarely) for 10 items, 3 (sometimes/a moderate amount) for 10 items,  1 (never) for 5 items, and 4 (often) for 5 items, then my average score for MCROCCUR would be [(2×10)+(3×10)+(1×5)+(4×5)]/30 = 2.5, which is greater than “a little/rarely” but not quite “sometimes/a moderate amount.” We would interpret this number by saying that my average score for the 30 racial microaggressions on the survey was more than “a little/rarely.” Similarly, the MCRFX subscale measures a student’s average score for the degree to which the items were “stressful, upsetting, or bothersome.” If a student indicated that they did not experience an item on the survey, then the MCRFX score for that particular item would be “0” since not experiencing an item would mean that they had no negative effects related to that item.

DATA ANALYSIS

Statistical analysis of the data showed a higher prevalence of both racial microaggressions and negative effects among students of color at Wheaton compared to white students. A three-model linear regression analysis confirmed our hypothesis that race has a negative effect on the experiences of students of color at Wheaton compared to white students. The coefficients in Model 3 of Table 1 allow us to predict that, holding gender and number of years completed as a student at Wheaton constant, Black or African American students experience a .727 increase, compared to whites, in the mean scores for the occurrence of all 30 microaggressions presented in the survey. This regression coefficient (B) is statistically significant at the .001 level. For Latina/o and Asian students, we can predict that, holding gender and years constant, there are increases of .472 and .497, respectively, in MCROCCUR subscale means compared to whites. These coefficients are statistically significant at the .001 level. Students of two or more races and nonresident or resident aliens had lower regression coefficients than black and Latina/o students, but still showed an increase of experiencing racial microaggressions, and they were statistically significant at the .001 level. The coefficient for female students was not statistically significant. However, the coefficient for “years completed” tells us that that for every year completed at Wheaton, there is an increase of .045 in the MCROCCUR subscale for students of color. The models presented are statistically significant and confirm that being a nonwhite student will increase the number of microaggressions that a student experiences while at Wheaton College. Each race/ethnicity listed in the models is compared to white students.

Table 1 MCROccur

MCRFX measured the average degree to which the microaggressions were “stressful, upsetting, or bothersome,” for each student. In Model 3 of Table 2, we could predict that, holding gender and number of years completed constant, Black or African American students, compared to whites, experience a 1.042 increase in levels of being “stressed, upset, or bothered” by the occurrence of the 30 microaggressions presented in the survey. This regression coefficient (B) was statistically significant at the .001 level. According to this data, African American students experience significantly higher levels of being stressed, upset or bothered due to racial microaggressions more than any other race or ethnicity at Wheaton College. For Latina/o and Asian students, we can predict that, holding gender and years constant, there will be increases of .673 and .644, respectively, in MCRFX subscale means compared to whites. These coefficients are statistically significant at the .001 level. This means that both Latina/o and Asian students are more likely to experience the negative effects of racial microaggressions than white students at Wheaton. Students of two or more races and nonresident or resident aliens had lower regression coefficients than black and Latina/o students, but still showed an increase in experiencing the negative effects of racial microaggressions compared to white students, and they were statistically significant at the .001 and .05 levels, respectively. Female students experienced a slight increase in MCRFX means compared to males when race and years completed are held constant. We also see that with each increase in number of years completed at Wheaton, there is an increase of .088 in the MCRFX subscale – and this is significant.

Table 2 mcrfx

A comparison of MCROCCUR subscale means found that 65% of Black or African American students, 43.75% of Hispanic or Latina/o students, 40% of Asian students, 28.99% of mixed race students, and 14.29% of nonresident or resident alien students at Wheaton college had an average score for experiencing the racial microaggressions on the survey that was more than “A little/rarely.” Only 4.90% of white or Caucasian students had an average MCROCCUR score greater than “A little/rarely.”

iPhoto Library

Likewise, a comparison of MCRFX subscale means found that 35% of Black or African American students, 25% of Hispanic or Latina/o students, 17.72% of Asian students, and 7.25% of mixed race students at Wheaton college had an average score for the effects of the racial microaggressions on the survey that was more than just “A little… stressful, upsetting or bothersome.” Less than 1% of white or Caucasian students had an average MCRFX score greater than “A little.”

MCRFX pic

An additional question attempted to evaluate the level of “environmental/institutional” racism, which yielded the following results. Students of color (29.41%) were significantly more likely than white students (11.23%) to “Somewhat or Strongly Disagree” with the statement: “College Union activities are generally inclusive of racial and ethnic minorities on campus.” Similarly, students of color (42.35%) were significantly less likely than white students (63.10%) to “Somewhat or Strongly Agree” with the same statement. This data shows that white students are less likely to perceive the negative experiences of students of color related to the lack of an inclusive and welcoming campus environment.

CU Inclusivity chart

 DISCUSSION

This study shows that while many students of color at Wheaton College are unaffected by racial microaggressions, a significant percentage not only experience racial microaggressions but are negatively affected by them as well. These students of color must not be ignored, as their experiences are symptomatic of the difficulty of attending a majority white college as a racial minority. With so few students of color at Wheaton already, it is significant that the majority of African-American students (65%) and 43.75% of Hispanic or Latina/o students, 40% of Asian students, 28.99% of mixed race students, and 14.29% of nonresident or resident alien students experience microaggressions more than just “a little/rarely,” compared to only 4.90% of white students. It is even more significant that sizable numbers of racial and ethnic minorities (35% of Black or African American students, 25% of Hispanic or Latina/o students, 17.72% of Asian students) are, on average, more than just “a little” stressed, upset, or bothered by the occurrences of these microaggressions. As stated earlier, microaggressions can have significant negative effects not only on one’s experience, but on one’s physical and mental wellbeing as well. Thus, the data validates our research hypothesis that, race has a negative effect on the experiences of students of color at Wheaton College. In other words, it is undeniable that racial and ethnic minorities at Wheaton are still more likely than white students to have negative college experiences due to their race.

The unique contribution of this study is the particular application of a racial microaggression scale to an evangelical Christian institution. Because of significant similarities between the social demographics of respondents in the study and students at Wheaton College and other CCCU schools, these findings suggest that evangelical colleges have a significant amount of work to do to become welcoming institutions for their nonwhite students.

One may ask why statements such as “we should focus on the Gospel instead of focusing on race,” are upsetting to students of color. As a student of color, I have heard this sentiment from white students many times, and what it tells me is that white students do not see the connection between the experiences of their nonwhite sisters and brothers in Christ and the Gospel. The statement above invalidates the belief that racial reconciliation and equality are part of focusing on the Gospel. In other words, presumably well-meaning white students invalidate my struggles as a student of color by relegating the need to address them as unimportant and unrelated to being a follower of Christ. This, of course, is extremely frustrating when it happens over and over and over.

Similarly, statements such as “people of color are admitted to the college because of affirmative action,” or “we should not lower academic standards to increase diversity,” imply that people of color are less intelligent and/or less qualified than white students. I hope it is obvious why this would be stressful, upsetting, or bothersome to students of color who have to hear this on a regular basis.

WHAT TO DO?

If Wheaton College and presumably other CCCU schools do not address the prevalence of racial microaggressions and their negative effects on students of color, then racial diversity will continue to increase at an excruciatingly slow rate. Students of color who feel alienated and unwelcome while at Wheaton will be less likely to recommend their alma mater to future students of color, thereby decreasing the potential for diversifying Wheaton in the future. The findings of this study also imply the need for structural reform at the top levels of CCCU colleges and universities.  Specifically, four characteristics are commonly thought to be necessary for nurturing a positive campus racial climate:

  1. The inclusion of students, faculty, and administrators of color;
  2. A curriculum that reflects the historical and contemporary experiences of people of color;
  3. Programs to support the recruitment, retention, and graduation of students of color; and
  4. A college/university mission that reinforces the institution’s commitment to multiculturalism (Solorzano et al. 2000:62)

Addressing college campuses about racial microaggressions should not be solely the duty of the faculty members of color, but should be institutionalized components of college orientations, handbooks, and training for staff such as counselors and student leaders such as resident assistants. Because even seemingly trivial microaggressions have significant consequences for their recipients, members of the majority race at CCCU schools should be introduced to the concepts of racial microaggressions to broaden their understanding of the detrimental effects of these actions and words on students of color.

An infrastructure must be created on college campuses to address racism and racial microaggressions as common practice. Regular classes and forums on race and racism, some optional and some mandatory, would be part of this infrastructure, along with required, in-depth training for faculty and staff members to increase their awareness and sensitivity in areas of racial diversity and inclusion. Additional training would allow faculty members and even staff such as resident assistants to regularly and successfully facilitate conversations about race, both inside and outside the classroom (Minikel-Lacocque 2012).

Campus infrastructure addressing race relations must be focused not only on blatant acts of racism but on the seemingly innocuous forms of microaggressions as well. The idea of hidden or subtle racism should be introduced in classes, student orientations, support groups, and social settings so that racial microaggressions can become part of the common conception of racism.

According to Minikel-Lacocque (2012), White students, faculty, and staff in particular must become well versed in the concept of common, often overlooked racial microaggressions. By valuing the voices of people of color and implementing the concept of racial microaggressions into our common discourse on race relations, we can widen the dialogue and move toward a more harmonious racial campus climate at CCCU institutions such as Wheaton College.

APPENDIX 30 Racial Microaggression Items

  • At Wheaton College, I feel ignored in the classroom because of my race/ethnicity.
  • People at Wheaton College say that there are bigger things to worry about than issues related to race.
  • People at Wheaton College question the legitimacy of a worship or prayer style that is familiar to my racial/ethnic background.
  • People at Wheaton College assume I listen to a particular kind of music because of my race/ethnicity.
  • I feel like people at Wheaton College see me as “exotic” in a sexual way because of my race/ethnicity.
  • At Wheaton College, people of a race/ethnicity other than my own are impressed by “how articulate” I am.
  • I notice that my Wheaton College class worship band does not include worship styles familiar to my cultural background.
  • At Wheaton College, sometimes I feel like my contributions are dismissed or devalued because of my racial/ethnic background.
  • People at Wheaton College tell me I should focus on the Gospel instead of focusing on race.
  • I am made to feel as if the cultural values of another race/ethnic group at Wheaton College are appreciated more than my own.
  • People at Wheaton College imply or state that I am not like other people of my racial/ethnic background.
  • Other people at Wheaton College view me in an overly sexual way because of my race/ethnicity.
  • Sometimes, people at Wheaton College assume that I am a foreigner because of my race/ethnicity.
  • At Wheaton College, I see few people of my racial/ethnic background.
  • At Wheaton College, sometimes I feel as if people look past me or act like they don’t see me because of my race/ethnicity.
  • People at Wheaton College tell me that they are not racist or prejudiced because they have friends from different racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  • People at Wheaton College react negatively to the way I dress because of my racial/ethnic background.
  • People at Wheaton College assume I am good at Math because of my race/ethnicity.
  • Other people hold sexual stereotypes about me because of my race/ethnicity.
  • Sometimes I feel like people at Wheaton College ask me where I am from, expecting to hear a location outside of the United States because of my race/ethnicity.
  • I notice that there are few people of my racial/ethnic background who attend churches that are accessible to me at Wheaton College.
  • At Wheaton College, I feel like my perspective on racial issues is dismissed or devalued because of my racial/ethnic background.
  • People at Wheaton College tell me that they are not racist or prejudiced even though they, intentionally or unintentionally, exhibit example(s) of racist or prejudiced behavior.
  • People at Wheaton College say that the college should not lower standards just to increase racial/ethnic diversity.
  • I feel like people assume I would not be interested in a particular activity at Wheaton College because of my race/ethnicity.
  • When I interact with authority figures at Wheaton College, they are usually of a different racial/ethnic background.
  • When I describe a difficulty related to people in my racial/ethnic background, people at Wheaton College tell me that everyone can get ahead if they work hard.
  • People at Wheaton College say or imply that people of my racial/ethnic background are admitted to the college because of affirmative action.
  • It is hard to relate to a professor at Wheaton College because of our racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  • If someone makes a racially insensitive comment in class, I struggle with whether or not I should say something about it in class.

REFERENCES (Cited in paper)

Clark, Rodney, Norman B. Anderson, Vernessa R. Clark, and David R. Williams.  1999.  “Racism as a Stressor for African Americans: A Biopsychosocial Model.”  American Psychologist 54(10):805-816.

Christerson, Brad, Korie L. Edwards, and Michael O. Emerson. 2005. Against all odds : the struggle for racial integration in religious organizations. New York: New York University Press.

Dovidio, John F.  2001.  “On the Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: The Third Wave.”  Journal of Social Issues 57(4):829-849.

Duncan, Garrett Albert. 2005. “Critical race ethnography in education: narrative, inequality and the problem of epistemology.” Race, Ethnicity & Education 8(1).

Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. 2000. Divided by faith: evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Emerson, Michael O., and Rodney M. Woo. 2006. People of the dream: multiracial congregations in the United States. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Hatuqa, Dalia. 2006. “Evangelical Colleges Gaining Popularity.” The Times of Northwest Indiana, April 9. Retrieved (http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/article_7ecda610-5f17-5805-8411-d9917172fddc.html).

Howell, Brian. 2012. “Racism without Racists.” The Soapbox. Retrieved (http://brianhowell.blogspot.com/2012/02/racism-without-racists.html).

Joeckel, Samuel, and Thomas Chesnes. 2012. The Christian college phenomenon: inside America’s fastest growing institutions of higher learning. Abilene, Tex.: Abilene Christian University Press.

Kaiser, Cheryl. 2001. “Stop Complaining! The Social Costs of Making Attributions to Discrimination.” Personality social psychology bulletin 27(2):254–63.

Lee, D. John, Alvaro L. Nieves, and Henry Lee Allen. 1991. Ethnic-minorities and evangelical Christian colleges. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America.

McCabe, J. 2009. “Racial and Gender Microaggressions on a Predominantly-White Campus: Experiences of Black, Latina o and White Undergraduates.” Race, gender class 16(1/2):133–51.

Minikel-Lacocque, Julie.  2012.  “Racism, College, and the Power of Words: Racial Microaggressions Reconsidered.”  American Educational Research Journal 56(3):1-30.

Nadal, Kevin L. 2011. “The Racial and Ethnic Microaggressions Scale (REMS): Construction, reliability, and validity.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 58(4):470–80.

Passel, Jeffrey, and D’Vera Cohn. 2008. U.S. Population Projections: 2005–2050. Pew Research Center. Retrieved (http://www.pewhispanic.org/files/reports/85.pdf).

Pierce, C. M. 1977. “An Experiment in Racism: TV Commercials.” Education and urban society 10(1):61–87.

Pittman, Chavella T. 2012. “Racial Microaggressions: The Narratives of African American Faculty at a Predominantly White University.” Journal of Negro Education 81(1):82–92.

Princeton Review, The. 2013. Wheaton College Review. Retrieved (http://www.princetonreview.com/WheatonCollegeIL.aspx).

Reisberg, Leo. 1999. “Enrollments Surge at Christian Colleges.” Chronicle of Higher Education 45(26):A42–A44.

Ryken, Phillip. 2012. “Strategic Priorities.” Wheaton College, May 19. Retrieved (http://www.wheaton.edu/About-Wheaton/Leadership/Strategic-Priorities/~/media/Files/About-Wheaton/Strategic-Priorities-051812.pdf).

Salvatore, Jessica, and J. Nicole Shelton.  2007.  “Cognitive Costs of Exposure to Racial Prejudice.”  Psychological Science 16(5):810-815.

Smith, William A., Walter R. Allen, and Lynette L. Danley. 2007. “‘Assume the Position . . . You Fit the Description’.” American Behavioral Scientist 51(4):551–78.

Solorzano, Daniel, Miguel Ceja, and Tara Yosso. 2000. “Critical Race Theory, Racial Microaggressions, and Campus Racial Climate: The Experiences of African American College Students.” The Journal of Negro Education 69(1/2, Knocking at Freedom’s Door: Race, Equity, and Affirmative Action in U.S. Higher Education):60–73.

Steele, Claude M., Steven J. Spencer, and Joshua Aronson.  2002.  “Contending with Group Image: The Psychology of Stereotype and Social Identity Threat.”  Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 34:389-402.

Sue, Derald Wing, Christina M. Capodilupo, et al.  2007.  “Microaggressions in Everyday LIfe: Implications for Clinical Practice.”  American Psychologist 62(4):271-286.

Sue, Derald Wing, Christina M. Capodilupo, and A.M.B. Holder.  2008.  “Racial Microaggressions in the Life Experience of Black Americans.”  Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 39(3):229-336.

Sue, Derald Wing, Annie I. Lin, et al.  2009.  “Racial Microaggressions and Difficult Dialogues on Race in the Classroom.”  Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 15(2):183-190.

Sue, Derald Wing. 2010. Microaggressions in Everyday life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

Sue, Derald Wing, David P. Rivera, et al. 2011. “Racial Dialogues: Challenges Faculty of Color Face in the Classroom.” Cultural diversity & ethnic minority psychology 17(3):331–40.

Swim, Janet. 2003. “African American College Students’ Experiences with Everyday Racism: Characteristics of and Responses to These Incidents.” Journal of Black Psychology 29(1):38–67.

Torres-Harding, Susan, Alejandro L. Jr Andrade, and Crist E. Romero Diaz. 2012. “The Racial Microaggressions Scale (RMAS): A new scale to measure experiences of racial microaggressions in people of color.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 18(2):153–64.

Yancey, George A. 2010. Neither Jew nor gentile: exploring issues of racial diversity on Protestant college campuses. New York: Oxford University Press.

Genealogy of a White American Jesus: From Slave Master to Billy Graham

Through five years of immersion in what is arguably the “holy land” of white evangelicalism in Midwest, USA (i.e. Wheaton has “more churches per capita than any other town in America”), I have come to the conclusion that white evangelicalism has a “White American Jesus” problem. While some white evangelical institutions are engaged in what some scholars call “race-bridging,” they are few and far between (less than 7%), and are unconsciously “Christ-centered” on a “white American Jesus.” As such, racial reconciliation efforts by white evangelicals have had little to no impact on the segregated nature of their white evangelical institutions (Christerson, Edwards, and Emerson 2005; Emerson and Woo 2006; Lichterman, Carter, and Lamont 2009). Below is an excerpt from a larger work of mine, entitled: The Evangelical Ethic and the Spirit of Color-blind Racism:

white jesus

SLAVE MASTER’S JESUS VS SLAVE’S JESUS

In my opinion, the root of white evangelical color-blind racism is insidiously hidden in the history of pro-slavery “Christianity.” An analysis of pro-slavery “Christianity” will elucidate the Christological differences between Black and White Church traditions today. W.E.B. Du Bois described how Christianity in the Colonies functioned to justify slavery (2000). White Christians claimed that “slaves were to be brought from heathenism to Christianity, and through slavery the benighted Indian and African were to find their passport into the kingdom of God” (Du Bois 2000:70). Eventually, whites were confronted with “the insistent and perplexing question as to what the status of the heathen slave was to be after he was Christianized and baptized?” (Du Bois 2000:70). Many slave owners questioned whether to expose their slaves to Christianity due to “the implications of equality in the Bible and…the fear that education might cause the slave to fight for his freedom” (Cone 1997:75).

The measure taken by white Christians to appease this contradiction is still with us today—that is, the “White” Jesus of the slave master was completely divorced from any implications of freedom or justice related to civic matters (Du Bois 2000; Cone 1997). As such, “It was expressly declared in colony after colony that baptism did not free the slaves” (Du Bois 2000:71). The crux of pro-slavery “Christianity” was to ensure peace, by creating “good slaves” that would emulate “White” Jesus’ “meek-and-turn-the-other-cheek” side. While many abolitionists were eventually motivated (in part) by their Christian faith, the majority of the White Church then, as the White Church today, was silent about the oppressive and racist structures of America (Cone 1997; Emerson, Smith, and Sikkink 1999). Like the slave masters’ “White” Jesus, the “White” Jesus of evangelicals today is not concerned with ameliorating the plight of the oppressed on Earth as much as he is concerned with “order” and “saving individual souls” (Cone 1997).

Conversely, black slave ministers emphasized the God of the Exodus who freed the slaves from Egypt. Many who led slave rebellions were black slave ministers who identified with the suffering of Jesus and saw his resurrection as the triumph over the oppressive forces of his day (Du Bois 2000; Cone 1997). In addition to eternal salvation, the Jesus of the Black Church has historically identified with the poor and oppressed of the land, unlike the Jesus of the White Church today (Cone 1997). In this way, “Black Christianity” has operated as “the expression of…and also the protest against real distress…the sigh of the oppressed creature;” White evangelicalism, on the other hand, even if unintentionally today, has operated as “the opium of the [oppressed] people” (Marx 1975:175). Today, white evangelicals usually claim “objectivity” in their Christology, but have forgotten the racist roots of their “White-American Jesus” who is not concerned with social justice. This is why both White and Black Church traditions can be “Christocentric” while having incredibly different interpretations of what it means to emulate Christ—i.e., to be concerned with saving individual souls or concerned with justice on Earth as well as saving souls.

ANTI-STRUCTURALISM AND THE BILLY GRAHAM GOSPEL

Following the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, Americans questioned the modernist claims of “progress” and the “inherent goodness of the human being.” America was ripe for the fundamentalist message to “return to Christian values,” to be “saved from the evils of men.” Even President Dwight Eisenhower spoke of returning to the “Judeo-Christian” roots of the U.S. (Belton 2010). However, it was the Cold War hysteria that prompted the masses to seek a blatantly “Americanized” version of the Gospel as salvation from the “evils of this world” (Belton 2010). Much like the “Terror Alerts” of our Post-9/11 World, after the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb, it was perceived that the “world was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust” (Belton 2010). In this ethos of fear, no single individual did more to marry an individualistic and anti-activist Gospel with right-wing ideals than Billy Graham.

Graham came to be “the primary engine of America’s cold war religious revival” (Belton 2010). Preaching to thousands, Graham presented the Gospel as the only means of salvation from not only eternal hell, but from the “evil forces of Communism” as well:

The battle is between communism and Christianity! …When communism conquers a nation, it makes every man a slave! When Christianity conquers…it makes every man a king! (Belton 2010)

The preaching of Graham was noticed by “media baron William Randolph Hearst, a staunch anti-communist,” who instructed his newspapers to “Puff Graham” (Belton 2010). Hearst’s mass media support provided the medium that “rocketed Graham,” and evangelicals, “onto the national stage” (Belton 2010). Graham’s anti-communist Gospel contributed to the marriage between conservative evangelicalism and right wing politics and economics, which oppose macro social programs aimed at racial equality today (Belton 2010; Brint and Schroedel 2009).

It is true that Graham occasionally spoke about “racial tolerance,” but according to Graham, “racism [and all social injustice] is not a social/structural issue; it is merely a symptom of sin;” Therefore, all we need to do to save the country is to convert individuals to Christianity (Belton 2010). Graham’s simplistic—“All you need is Jesus”—Gospel, required very little more than an outward expression of personal piety and church attendance, systemic efforts toward social justice be damned. Similarly, most white evangelicals today are focused on a Jesus who has little concern for macro social justice reforms that appear to be part of the “liberal-agenda.”

BILLY GRAHAM’S JESUS VS MARTIN LUTHER KING’S JESUS

It is noted that “one of the feats of Billy Graham…was to refocus the evangelical movement around the figure of Jesus in a way that cut across denominational lines,” thereby creating stronger ties among evangelicals (Wuthnow 2009:29). However, since white evangelicals have failed to take seriously the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and systemic racism, they have failed to deconstruct the figure of Jesus that was promulgated by slave masters in the U.S. That is, the Jesus that Billy Graham made popular among evangelicals was eerily similar to the Jesus who was preached to the slaves—One who was concerned with obedience and an outward expression of personal piety, divorced from notions of social justice such as achieving racial equality in the U.S. To be clear, I am not suggesting that Graham was trying to create “good” slaves, however, he did very little to oppose other white evangelical “leaders and congregations [that] frequently condoned and sometimes actively supported segregation and subordination of African Americans up through…the 50s and 60s” (Lichterman et al. 2009:192; Vesely-Flad 2011). While Billy may have sincerely wanted to save souls from hell, his obsession with the afterlife and conservative political leanings were more important to him, and most other white evangelicals, than the racial oppression that was happening right before their eyes.

Graham went so far, in April of 1963, along with other white preachers, as to call on Martin Luther King, Jr. to “put the brakes on a little bit” regarding direct action to end segregation (Anon 1963; Belton 2010). While Graham preached a few “integrated” crusades, all he really did was remove a rope that divided white and black people at his crusades. His “efforts” paled in comparison to those of the children who were hosed down, bitten by dogs, and arrested for protesting segregation in the South. The complicity of white preachers, including Graham, in maintaining segregation prompted Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he chastised the “white moderate [and preacher], who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice” (Belton 2010; King, Jr. 1963). Herein lies the theological distinction between white evangelicals and the Black Church today. The Jesus who identified with the oppressed is the same Jesus that motivated Dr. King and many other champions of the Civil Rights era—unlike the Jesus that motivated Graham’s individualistic, anti-structuralist, pro-conservative-politics gospel, which influences evangelical thinking on race relations today.

ANTI-LIBERAL RISE OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT

            The end of the 1970s gave birth to a plethora of politically conservative organizations such as The Christian Right, the Christian Voice, and the Moral Majority (Brint and Schroedel 2009:5). Since the 1980s, evangelicals have pledged uncanny allegiance to right-wing politics. I would argue that a theological orientation that required nothing more than a personal relationship with Jesus and a life of individualistic repentance from sin, with no call to social justice, and selectively “literalist” interpretations of the Bible on issues of gender roles, homosexuality, and abortion are the primary orientations that influence evangelicals to detest progressive reforms that they believe are violating “biblical values.” The propensity for “order” over justice seems related to religious roots in the slave master’s Christology that elevates personal piety over notions of justice and freedom related to civic matters. This anti-liberal ethos against Civil Rights reforms continues to cloud white evangelicals’ views on racial inequalities today.

In the decades following the desegregation of public schools (Brown v. Board of Ed.), and the Civil Rights years of the 60s and 70s, thousands of white families, including white evangelicals, moved to “more desirable locations,” and even opened privately-owned all-white “Christian” academies (Emerson and Smith 2000; Massey and Denton 1993; Vesely-Flad 2011). Today, many of these schools and neighborhoods remain just as segregated as they were forty years ago.

In my paper, The Evangelical Ethic and the Spirit of Color-blind Racism, I outline several seemingly “race-neutral” cultural and theological orientations of white evangelicals today that guide their actions toward color-blind racism. The color-blind racism of white evangelicals includes the denial of systemic racism, which results in dampened support for programs that would mitigate racial inequalities on a systemic level. The most damning evidence for white evangelical color-blind racism can be found in the fact that “for every 1-unit increase in number of white evangelical congregations per 1,000 non-Hispanic whites in every county in every region across the country, there were significant increases in all measures of segregation” (Blanchard 2007).

In this excerpt I presented the genealogy of a “White American Jesus,” who influences white evangelicals to perpetuate inequality by subordinating social justice to personal piety and church attendance. I would hope that if they want to be true to the message of Jesus Christ, that they would take some time to learn from traditions that have championed causes for the poor and oppressed in the name of Jesus Christ.

WORKS CITED

Anon. 1963. “Billy Graham Urges Restrain in Sit-Ins.” New York Times, April 18, Archives. Retrieved (http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0B15F9385D117B93CAA8178FD85F478685F9).

Belton, David. 2010. “The Soul of a Nation.” God in America. Retrieved (http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/transcripts/hour-five.html).

Blanchard, Troy C. 2007. “Conservative Protestant Congregations and Racial Residential Segregation: Evaluating the Closed Community Thesis in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Counties.” American Sociological Review 72(3):416–33.

Du Bois, W. E. B. 2000. “Religion in the South.” Pp. 69–89 in Du Bois on Religion, edited by Phil Zuckerman. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Brint, Steven G., and Jean Reith Schroedel, eds. 2009. Evangelicals and Democracy in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Christerson, Brad, Korie L. Edwards, and Michael O. Emerson. 2005. Against All Odds : The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations. New York: New York University Press.

Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black Power. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.

Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. 2000. Divided by Faith : Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Emerson, Michael O., Christian Smith, and David Sikkink. 1999. “Equal in Christ, but Not in the World: White Conservative Protestants and Explanations of Black-White Inequality.” Social Problems 46(3):398–417.

Emerson, Michael O., and Rodney M. Woo. 2006. People of the Dream : Multiracial Congregations in the United States. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

King, Jr., Martin Luther. 1963. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Retrieved (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html).

Lichterman, Paul, Prudence L. Carter, and Michèle Lamont. 2009. “Race-Bridging for Christ? Conservative Christians and Black-White Relations in Community Life.” Pp. 187–220 in Evangelicals and Democracy in America, edited by Steven G. Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Marx, Karl. 1975. “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law.” in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, vol. 3, edited by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. New York: International Publishers. Retrieved (http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio6961573.008).

Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid : Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Vesely-Flad, Rima. 2011. “The Social Covenant and Mass Incarceration: Theologies of Race and Punishment.” Anglican Theological Review 93(4):541–62.

Wuthnow, Robert. 2009. “The Cultural Capital of American Evangelicalism.” Pp. 27–43 in Evangelicals and Democracy in America, edited by Steven G. Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Towards a Black-Womanist Theology of Mass Incarceration

My experience as a formerly incarcerated convicted drug felon from a low-income brown family has led me to ask the question, what does God mean for those under the oppression of mass incarceration? To speak of mass incarceration is to speak of a system of racial oppression.[1] It is also to speak of the failure of that system to rehabilitate persons, and the victims this failure creates. To speak of mass incarceration is to speak of the creation of nonpersons out of criminally convicted persons by replacing names with inmate numbers, personal histories with criminal histories, and by withholding social and political power through felon disenfranchisement laws and the institutionalized legal discrimination of criminal offenders.[2]

In this essay, first, I will describe and employ the task, sources, and Christology of black theology to locate God’s liberating work in the efforts of those who are working to dismantle mass incarceration at an institutional level. Then, I will describe and employ both the survival/quality-of-life tradition and Christology of womanist theology to locate God’s involvement with those who are not liberated, but have to endure through the struggles of mass incarceration instead.  Finally, I will explore the tension between these theologies and offer a third way to see the meaning of God amidst mass incarceration. The goal of this essay is to utilize the aforementioned elements of black and womanist theologies to argue that God is involved in the dismantling of mass incarceration and in ensuring the survival and quality of life of those who have to endure it.

BLACK THEOLOGY AND MASS INCARCERATION

The task of theology, according to James Cone, is to investigate the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that all those who are oppressed would believe that God is both with them in their suffering and in their struggle for liberation.[3] This is so because Yahweh sided with the poor and oppressed of Israel, and because Jesus sided with “the oppressed, the poor and unwanted of society, and against oppressors.”[4] Therefore, theology must articulate how God sides with the oppressed nonpersons in society today. In light of slavery, Jim Crow, segregated ghettoes, and continued racial disparities in the U.S., the best description of oppression in America is found in the “ontological symbol and visible reality” of blackness. [5] Since white supremacy has been and still is the source for the racial oppression of blacks, then whiteness, in black theology, is a symbol of the oppressor. In other words, Christian theology in the U.S. must either be identified with those who are oppressed by white supremacy, in general, or identified with the black community, in particular. Therefore, in relation to a system that is at least operating in the form of a racially discriminatory system creating nonpersons disproportionately out of the black community, black theology affirms that God is on the side of those who oppose this system. We can now examine the sources and norm of black theology that affirm this idea.

One of the sources of black theology is the black experience in America.[6] Cone asserts that among other things, “The black experience is police departments adding more recruits and buying more guns to provide ‘law and order,’ which means making a city safe for its white population.”[7] When Cone wrote those words in 1970, the prison population was one-fifth what it is today.[8] However, according to Cone, black experience is not just “encountering white insanity;” it also includes God’s work in empowering black people to strive for their social and political liberation in the face of that insanity, such as in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. As outlined in Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, the current system of mass incarceration was conceptualized by the Nixon administration as an effort to appeal to disgruntled racist white voters in the South who felt they were being disenfranchised by the gains of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. Nixon regularly associated the Civil Rights Movement with “lawlessness” by alluding to the race rebellions and civil rights protests in major cities across the country. In other words, white supremacy was the initial force behind the “tough on crime” mentality that galvanized mass incarceration. Since mass incarceration was an attempt to quell the events of liberation in the black community, specifically, and it reinforces white supremacy via the disproportionate criminalization of black and brown people, generally, then black theology must identify God’s presence in any community that is affected by, and attempts to dismantle, this system.

Revelation, as a source of black theology, urges black theology to take seriously the system of mass incarceration. As evidenced by the exodus, revelation for the Christian faith is God’s work “in human history for the oppressed of the land.”[9] Therefore, for black theology, “Revelation is a black event – it is what blacks are doing about their liberation.”[10] In a more general sense, revelation of God occurs when “a condition of oppression… develops into a situation of liberation.”[11] In relation to mass incarceration, revelation provides a source for describing God’s work not only in opposing mass incarceration on the institutional level, but for transforming the lives of individuals who have been affected by it as well.

Prisoner reentry and rehabilitation have the potential to be some of the most fertile processes for the manifestation of God’s revelation in the lives of individuals. Criminal behavior such as the selling and using of drugs, theft, and other crimes can be the result of internal oppressive forces. Even before being literally incarcerated, addiction was my metaphorical prison. If God’s revelation occurs when the oppressed are set free, then God’s revelation occurs whenever a habitual criminal or addict changes her or his life around for the better. In this sense, the fact that 7 out of 10 released prisoners are rearrested within three years[12] can be interpreted as the rate at which God’s revelation is denied in the life of criminally charged or chemically dependent persons. Exploding prison populations and the lack of decline in drug use demonstrate that the system is not helping to free drug offenders from the throes of addiction or associated lifestyles such as drug dealing. For this reason, black theology must describe God’s revelation as present in the process of opposing the system of mass incarceration through the rehabilitation of criminals and successful prisoner reentry programs.

Finally, black theology affirms that the person of Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God’s revelatory event. Cone asserts that “black theology takes seriously the historical Jesus” because Jesus was “the Oppressed One whose earthly existence was bound up with the oppressed in the land.”[13] Because of the resurrection of the oppressed Jesus, it means that Jesus is not only “present today” in oppressed communities fighting for liberation, but he identifies with those communities as well.[14] Therefore, Jesus is identified with the oppressed black community. In other words, Jesus is black. Today, prisoners who are working to liberate themselves and their families can find hope and strength in the Jesus who identifies with their struggle to be liberated from: the self-oppressive chains of addiction (or some other self-destructive behavior) and the oppressive forces of a system that disproportionately incarcerates low-income black and brown people in the United States.

WOMANIST THEOLOGY AND MASS INCARCERATION

While black theology is useful for describing God’s work of liberation through the dismantling of mass incarceration, Delores Williams’ womanist theology can best describe the experiences of those who are not liberated by God. Williams asserts that the norm of liberation in black theology does not work for the experiences of African-American women.[15] Instead, she finds the representation of black women in the story of Hagar in Genesis. First, like the experiences of many female African-American slaves in the U.S., Hagar was a female African slave “who was forced to be a surrogate mother” for her slave master.[16] Similar to African-American slaves who ran away, Hagar also ran away. Given the high chances of infant mortality during her day, especially if she was to give birth in the wilderness, Williams believes that God directed Hagar to return to her oppressor’s house because it was the only way for Hagar and her child to be saved. Thus, for Williams, God seems more concerned with survival than liberation. Finally, after Hagar and her child (Ishmael) were exiled into the wilderness, God promised that their “descendants will be numerous,” and that Ishmael would be a warrior and skilled hunter. This suggests, for Williams, that liberation “is not given by God; it finds its source in human initiative” through resources for survival and strategies to improve one’s quality of life.[17] Williams names this reinterpretation of Hagar’s story the survival/quality-of-life tradition of African-American biblical appropriation.[18]

We can see God’s response of survival and quality of life to Hagar’s predicament as parallel to God’s response of survival and quality of life to persons behind bars. This is evident through my experience of being incarcerated at the Cook County Jail. Prior to my arrest, I was shooting heroin into my veins daily and smoking innumerable amounts of crack cocaine. At best, my life as a drug addict on the street was rapidly approaching death. Though under radically different circumstances to Hagar, my time behind bars can be interpreted as God being more concerned with my survival than my liberation. At that time, there may not have been any other way for me to escape inevitable death other than to be incarcerated. Despite the fact of unjust enforcement of laws, most people behind bars have serious issues they need to overcome, and maybe they can find hope in the fact that God is still concerned with their survival despite the fact that they are behind bars.

Next, I believe the prison experience is similar to the wilderness experience of Hagar. In the wilderness, Hagar had “serious personal and salvific encounters with God… which aided Hagar in the survival struggle of herself and her son.”[19] Like Hagar, inmates enter into a situation that seems grim and hopeless. But it is in this state of being that I believe persons are most able to encounter God – at least that was my experience. Behind bars, in a seemingly grim and hopeless situation, I believe I had a personal and salvific encounter with God. This type of encounter is not unusual and is sometimes referred to as a “jailhouse conversion.” The problem is that many times, inmates may have a personal encounter with God in prison, but will fail to take the human initiative to acquire skills for improving their quality of life. Granted, the system does very little to help this initiative, but neither did Abram and Sarai do anything to help Hagar in the wilderness. The Hagar story does not justify mass incarceration, but it does say that despite this injustice, inmates can find hope for survival and improved quality of life by taking human initiative. When they take that step to improve their quality of life, in the same way and with the same faith that Hagar did, inmates and released prisoners can trust that God is with them.

Finally, we can see the meaning of God in the reality of mass incarceration by understanding the Christology of womanist theology. Williams would agree with Cone, that there is redemption in the person of Jesus Christ, but in contrast to Cone, she rejects the salvific and redemptive power of the cross.[20] According to Williams, to glorify the cross by portraying Jesus as a surrogate who suffers in the place of others, all too often results in the exploitation of black women who are told that God intends for them to suffer as Jesus suffered. Williams says black women must reject the notion of Jesus’ surrogacy as a redemptive act. However, Williams believes that redemption can still be found in Jesus Christ through his ministerial vision. According to Williams, Jesus did not intend to redeem humanity through death on the cross, but through a “perfect ministerial vision… giving humankind the ethical thought and practice upon which to build a positive, productive quality of life.”[21]

In dealing with mass incarceration, it is important for the loved ones of criminal offenders to reject the surrogacy role and to embrace the ministerial vision of Jesus. I know from personal experience that the loved ones of both literally and metaphorically incarcerated people often believe that they must stick by their loved one no matter what. Especially when a person is behind bars or in some sort of trouble, there is the potential for their loved ones to feel they have to personally fix all of their problems. Often times this results in a sort of surrogacy role for the men and women who suffer right alongside their loved ones in prison. In dismantling mass incarceration, theologians must affirm that there is no redemption in senseless suffering. This does not mean that people should abandon their incarcerated loved ones, but if abuse is any part of that relationship, then nobody should believe that God intends for them to suffer in that relationship in order for the other person to be redeemed or liberated.

JESUS, LAZARUS, AND THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

There is a clear tension between black and womanist theologies in addressing the issue of mass incarceration. In the former, liberation comes through systemic changes and programs that would eliminate the oppressive nature of mass incarceration and provide rehabilitative services for criminal offenders. In the latter, redemption and salvation comes from human initiative, in which those who are directly affected by the system, such as inmates, see that God is with them when they take the human initiative to change their lives for the better. I believe a melding of these visions can be seen through the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John.

After receiving the news about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus told his disciples that he would go to him in Judea. The disciples, deeply concerned, questioned the efficacy of going into dangerous territory to help Lazarus, but Jesus was not deterred. When Jesus came to Lazarus’ sister, Mary, she was deeply worried that it was too late to save her loved one because “he had already been in the tomb for four days,” but Jesus comforted her by reminding her that he is the resurrection. Even though Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus from the dead, upon witnessing the pain of Mary and the community of those who loved Lazarus, “Jesus wept.” Finally, Jesus told members of the community to remove the tombstone. Then, he called out to Lazarus, and Lazarus responded by coming out of the tomb. Finally, Jesus called on the community once again to unbind Lazarus and to let him go!

In this story, Lazarus is the prisoner. As a former drug addict and inmate, I can attest that being in this bondage can feel like one is spiritually dead. Like Lazarus’ loved ones, even the loved ones of inmates can sometimes lose hope that the inmate can overcome being “dead.” But like Jesus, the Christian community is called to be compassionate and to empathize with the pain of others—indeed, even weeping alongside those whose pain would otherwise not directly affect one’s self. Jesus did not raise Lazarus from the dead alone; members of the community were involved in removing the stone. As such, the Christian community must be involved in removing the structural barriers that keep inmates ‘dead’ and going in and out of prison (i.e. advocating for macro social prison reform). Like Lazarus, inmates must respond to Jesus’ call by taking the human initiative to walk out of the tomb. This is similar to the human initiative to improve one’s quality of life in womanist theology. Finally, Jesus calls on the Christian community to help Lazarus and the inmate re-enter into society by “unbinding” Lazarus and helping him to remove the vestiges of his former state of being. In this story, we can see that God’s involvement in mass incarceration involves structural changes, human initiative, and a Jesus who is the resurrection and raises the dead (i.e. rehabilitates individuals) even before and after the event on the cross.

CONCLUSION

 I believe we have an adequate answer to the question: What does God mean for those under the oppression of mass incarceration? Cone’s black theology showed us that God sides with the community that is working to dismantle an oppressive system that is in the business of creating perpetual nonpersons out of poor and disenfranchised racial and ethnic minorities. As evidenced in the book, The New Jim Crow, this system is truly massive and oppressive and without a theology that attempts to overthrow social structures for the liberation of the oppressed, we will not fully address the problem. Similarly, Williams’ womanist theology is crucial for giving hope to those who do not receive liberation, but who endure a prison sentence, either as an inmate or an inmate’s loved one, instead. This womanist approach is crucial for addressing the reality that despite the oppressive nature of mass incarceration, criminal offenders must take some responsibility for working to improve their own lives as well. Without this view we would not fully address the problem of mass incarceration, either.  Instead, I’ve offered a potential melding of these two theologies by showing how each uniquely addresses the problem and by offering a third tradition of Jesus, Lazarus, and the Christian community to demonstrate that the work of dismantling the system of mass incarceration is the work of doing God’s will.


[1] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York; [Jackson, Tenn.]: New Press ; Distributed by Perseus Distribution, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, 2nd ed. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, c1986.).

[4] Ibid., 6.

[5] Ibid., 8.

[6] Ibid., 24.

[7] Ibid., 25.

[8] Alexander, The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

[9] Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, 31.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 48.

[12] Alexander, The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

[13] Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, 118.

[14] Ibid., 31.

[15] Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness the Challenge of Womanist God-talk (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, c1993.).

[16] Ibid., 2.

[17] Ibid., 5.

[18] Ibid., 6.

[19] Ibid., 3.

[20] Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness the Challenge of Womanist God-talk.

[21] Ibid., 165.

© Daniel Aguilar and thetatteredrose.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Daniel Aguilar and thetatteredrose.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Macklemore the “First Positive Rapper!” – White Supremacy Strikes Again!

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Macklemore performs live in Berlin Photograph: Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

In the Guardian, David Dennis, commented on this headline from the Dallas News Website:

“What if someone like Macklemore had hit it big 25 years ago? Would hip-hop have still become a genre marked by homophobia, violence and a mind-numbing obsession with weed, booze and bling? Probably. But watching Macklemore thrill 5,000 screaming fans Saturday night at Verizon Theatre left you hopeful that his kinder, more cerebral brand of hip-hop will flourish in the future.”

Dennis commented:

This is a broad-brush reaction to Macklemore and his success. One that threatens to erase the progressive music that has always inundated rap music. Macklemore is the first non-homophobic, non-violent rapper in the same way that Elvis was a ground-breaking initiator of the Blues.

This is bogus (for lack of a more appropriate and colorful word)!

Hip Hop had its roots in social justice, “cerebral raps” (as white people are calling M’s lyrics), and love for the community waaaay before Macklemore appropriated his first black cultural art form.

I don’t think Macklemore is promulgating this racist narrative himself, but the way the media is portraying him as uniquely “conscientious and positive” is yet another example of the racist tendencies of our society to demonize black cultural art forms and then to whitewash them, e.g., Chuck Berry v. Elvis.

Look … I like Macklemore.

He is a very talented MC. It’s the racist narrative that pisses me off. This one bugs me a lot, because I grew with Hip Hop, and not as a privileged kid in the suburbs who was trying to emulate so-called “ghetto culture.” I grew up in Section 8 housing, my family was evicted from one of our apartments, and I witnessed and experienced many of the struggles of people in poverty. Rappers like Tupac gave a voice to everyone who was living in poverty in urban America, struggling to make it.

….but according to some people in the media, Macklemore is the first positive rapper… #smh

P.s. Much of the derogatory elements of Hip Hop, today, are a product of white execs who have influenced the industry to favor rappers who will play the role that a racist society wants them to play, because well, white suburban youth (mainstream consumers) love to hear that shit. (unless of course socially conscious lyrics are coming from someone with whom they can identify)

Read the article by David Dennis:

Macklemore is being used to paint the rest of hip-hop as ‘uncivil’

At least Macklemore agrees.