Skip to comments.Race in America: Two Opposing Narratives
Posted on 07/11/2020 7:09:19 AM PDT by Kaslin
Editor's Note: The following piece is an excerpt from Scott's upcoming book Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis.
The horrific murder of George Floyd has renewed a sincere cry from many evangelical leaders to speak out against racism in America.
Racism is a great and ever-present evil. As followers of Jesus, we must uphold the truth that all people, regardless of skin-color, ethnicity, sex, or socio-economic status, are made in God’s image, with inherent worth and dignity. Nearly all evangelical Christians agree on this point. Here is where we begin to disagree: we no longer have an agreed-upon understanding of what racism is.
In a conversation I had with an evangelical pastor a few years ago, he suggested that racism was “prejudice plus power.” It only applies to white people, who, as he put it, hold a monopoly on cultural power. I had always understood racism as “the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (Merriam Webster).
These are wildly divergent definitions. If you hold to the first, white people are, by definition, racist because they benefit from unearned privileges based on their supposed cultural dominance.
If you hold to the second definition of racism, then the first definition is, itself, racist, because it lumps people together based on their skin-color and problematizes them.
These two definitions are part of two larger, competing narratives about race in America today. Understanding these narratives is key to understanding the highly-charged racial climate we find ourselves in. Both narratives have roots in the black community. Both have historic and present-day black champions. Let’s examine the broad outlines of these two opposing narratives.
The Revolutionary Narrative
I’ll call one The Revolutionary Narrative. According to this narrative, existing systems and structures are so corrupted by racism that there is no possibility for reform. They need to be torn out root and branch to make way for a new social, economic, and political order.
The Revolutionary Narrative is rooted in an academic field called Critical Race Theory. It is the exclusive narrative taught in our public schools and universities, and aggressively promoted in mainstream and social media, as well as through the entertainment industry, big business, and increasingly, through evangelical institutions and universities.
Historically, versions of the Revolutionary Narrative were championed by the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. Contemporary popularizers include Robin DiAngelo, and Barbara Applebaum, academic pioneers of “Whiteness Studies,” Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, Atlantic essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York Times Journalist and head of the 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, to name just a few.
Here is an abbreviated summary of the Revolutionary Narrative:
The Preservation Narrative
Most of us are aware of the Revolutionary Narrative. But there is another race narrative that doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Far fewer people are familiar with its broad outline or its most prominent advocates. I’ll call it The Preservation Narrative. It affirms the goodness of the principles on which America was founded and seeks to preserve them while continuously working to reform our systems and institutions to more perfectly reflect these principles.
While the advocates of the Revolutionary Narrative would have you believe that the Preservation Narrative isn’t authentically “black,” this isn’t true. It has deep roots in the black community. Historically, it was championed by people like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Jessie Owens, and Martin Luther King Junior as exemplified in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Today, its most outspoken advocates are also black. They include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former presidential advisor Robert Woodson, economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, conservative author Shelby Steele, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vanderbilt political science professor Carol Swain, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, author and activist Alveda King, Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, firebrand cultural critic Candace Owens, entertainer Kanye West, Harvard economist, and author Glenn Loury, to name a few.
Here is my summary of the Preservation Race Narrative:
Evaluating the Narratives
Like all narratives, truth can be found in both, but that is not to say that one is more truthful than the other.
As Christians, our obligation isn’t to further any particular narrative, but to truth and love. This means we have to evaluate both narratives carefully, affirming what is good and true and exposing what is false and destructive.
As I examine both narratives in this light, here are my conclusions.
View of human nature. The Revolutionary Narrative emphasizes victimization. The basic message is this: No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to get ahead because racist structures and systems are working against you. Likewise, if you are white, you are guilty of benefiting from these systems whether you realize it or not. I see this as a deeply unbiblical and destructive message. Any narrative that encourages people to view themselves as victims, and sources their problems in people with a different skin-color, is a horrible, false, and dangerous narrative.
The basic message of the Preservation Narrative is far more truthful in regards to human nature and far more empowering. Even if you face difficult challenges, you are not defined or limited by those challenges. As a human being, made in God’s image, you can make choices, and those choices matter in shaping your life, your community, and future history.
Beyond this, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that there is no class of innocent victims or guilty oppressors. All of us are fallen sinners, more than capable of doing the most heinous evil.
The Bible teaches that, regardless of skin color, all of us deserve punishment from a righteous God. All of us are in desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Our greatest enemy is not people with different skin color, but the evil inside our hearts. Ultimately, the solution to our deepest problems is the Gospel—the hope of inward regeneration and reconciliation with God made available through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Police brutality. The Revolutionary Narrative continually repeats the generalized, hyperbolic charge of systemic police brutality. If this were true, we’d expect hundreds, or maybe thousands of black deaths at the hands of racist police officers each year. The reality is very different. In 2019, according to the Washington Post database of police shootings, in a nation of 330 million people, a total of 14 unarmed black Americans were fatally shot by police. Most of these were attacking police officers at the time.
We should be empathetic to the experiences black people have with the police, but we should also not perpetuate a myth. Affirming false beliefs is never a loving thing to do.
The criminal justice system. The Revolutionary Narrative indicts the criminal justice system as structurally racist based on the fact that more black people are arrested, charged, and convicted than white people when compared to their percentage of the overall population. But this analysis is deceptive. It ignores the fact that black Americans commit serious violent crime at rates over three times their representation in the general population. Blacks are not being arrested at higher rates because of their skin color but because of their behavior.
It wasn’t always this way. The dramatic rise of black crime parallels the breakdown of the black family starting in the 1960s and 70s. Crime rates inevitably rise when people of any skin color allow their capacity to self-govern to be eroded. Self-government is taught primarily in the family, the church, and the school. For the black community, all three of these institutions have been weakened in recent decades. The Preservation Narrative says that if we want to help the black community, we have to work to strengthen these vital institutions that impart virtuous self-government.
Abortion. Far and away, the biggest source of violent death in the black community is abortion. Yet nearly all proponents of the Revolutionary Narrative either downplay abortion as a social evil, or actively seek to expand the legalized murder of black children. This alone should prevent Christians from supporting the Revolutionary Narrative.
American history. As Christians, our approach to history must be based on truth. We must allow history to guide us, rather than manipulating and distorting history to further a particular agenda. To focus exclusively on one aspect of history—either the good or the bad—is to perpetuate a lie. Unsurprisingly, the Revolutionary Narrative, as typified by the New York Time’s 1619 Project, focuses only on the bad parts of America’s history. The Preservation Narrative agrees that America has a tragic history of racial oppression which has caused real and ongoing damage. Yet our founding principles in the Declaration made the eventual eradication of slavery and substantial racial equality possible. While racism and slavery are common among all nations, what makes America unique is our response to these evils. We eradicated slavery and have made tremendous progress since the Civil Rights era in addressing overt racism, and eliminating barriers to equal opportunity.
There are many parts of our history that we should celebrate. Yet the Revolutionary Race Narrative either whitewashes them out of the history books or downplays or ignores them because they counter the narrative. Here are a few examples:
A truthful take on our past also celebrates these facts, and remembers those who sacrificed to bring them about.
#BlackLivesMatter. As Christians, of course we agree that black lives matter. At the same time, we have to recognize that the organization that goes by this name is very discriminating in its advocacy for black lives. A select few matter—namely victims of white police brutality—but many more do not. When it comes to these black lives, the organization (BLM) is utterly silent:
It isn’t hard to get accurate information on what Black Lives Matter stands for. Take time to read their website and examine their major funding sources. They are clearly a far-left revolutionary organization that uses race to further its revolutionary agenda. Here are a few things they advocate:
Despite this, many Christians of good conscience support Black Lives Matter simply because of the name. This is a mistake. The policies of Black Lives Matter only harm black people and fray the social fabric. Christians who truly wish to see flourishing in the lives and communities of their black brothers and sisters should consider supporting groups that strengthen black families and businesses, advocate for school choice, and fight against the scourge of abortion.
Tactics. Those advocating most forcefully for the Revolutionary Narrative employ tactics very similar to those used historically by Marxist revolutionaries. The narrative is sacrosanct. Call it into question, and you will be branded a racist. If you choose to remain silent, you will also be complicit in racism.
Anyone who dissents with the narrative can expect to be denounced and summarily bullied, shamed, intimidated, or threatened. Advocates of the Revolutionary Narrative have little interest in free, open debate. They want submissive compliance.
Christians should have nothing to do with these kinds of fear-based power tactics. We must remain a people committed to civility, respect, and free and open debate and dialogue in the pursuit of truth.
In my view, the Preservation Narrative is far more aligned to a biblical worldview and a truthful reading of U.S. history. The vast majority of its past and present black advocates are committed Christians. It diagnoses real problems, and proposes solutions aimed at addressing these problems in ways that will lead to the flourishing of the black community.
Nothing to do with race. To me I don’t like any people of the criminal class. Criminal lives don’t matter to me. CLDM.
A little presumptive in the opening sentence to call it “murder”.
Boilined down to it’s essence, this battle over “racism” and “social justice” is nothing more than a power game where one group is trying to wrest power from another group by the means of “guilting”, by accusing the group with power of such heinous behavior that that group will self-guilt itself into its own submission.
And guess what, it’s working.
Whites have nothing to feel guilty about that other groups haven’t done worse of, instead whites have much to be proud about given all the contributions they have made to the world and civilization.
Reject your guilt complex and proudly hold your head high.
Or horrific. I can’t count the number of times every day that I hear about and even see deaths that are much more horrible than Floyd’s death.
“Nothing to do with race. To me I dont like any people of the criminal class. Criminal lives dont matter to me. CLDM.”
But when most of the criminal class belong mostly to one race, you can’t help but pre-judge people of that race.
It’s the reason I pre-judge a pitbull coming toward me differently than a poodle coming toward.
Pre judging an unknown individual based on the trait of the group he belongs to is the most natural and survivalist instinct of all humans as well as animals.
All humans do it, so we’re all racists and appropriately so.
Trying to eradicate it is trying to eradicate reality. Right now they’re trying to do it by eradicating the white race. Some explicitly say that.
Rather what we should do is accept it and deal with it rationally. So just as no rational person would put cats and dogs in the same cage because they by nature don’t get along, neither should we insist on putting blacks and whites in the same country (cage). Hundreds of years and throughout the world have proven that these two groups can’t peacefully coexist together. Why keep insisting that we must!
Let each side go their own way and end this disastrous, abusive dysfunctional marriage. It’s better for both sides.
The entire white race is painted with a broad brush as racist.
That is racist itself.
I have always wondered how people gravitate back to the Dem voting pattern when things happen to them that clearly proves black racism exists.
In other words, they don’t blame all black people for the actions of some, but people blame all whites for any action of one (as the cop with the mishandled arrest death of George Floyd).
One small example: Young son of a coworker was one of dozens who had to pay a protection money fee (his lunch money or part of allowance) to be allowed by a black student to get past the door into the boy’s rest room at school every day.
His experience when he tried telling the principal: “We know about this already. Just put up with it. We can’t afford to have a racial incident here. It would ruin our school’s reputation. I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
Okay. But when he turned voting age years later, his mother assured me he was voting Dem every time. How can people like that think the continued Dem policies of hypocrisy are acceptable? They don’t help any blacks, the urban areas are all Dem led crime infested declining places. They just gather power from them on every election day and forget them again in the morning.
Thank you for your illustration of a pit bull vs. a poodle coming toward you. I have often talked to my friends about stereotyping and that stereotypes almost always contain an element of truth and that everyone uses stereotypes to a certain degree. Blacks often have an earned negative stereotype because of all the crime committed by young black men. The real solution to this accurate stereotyping is to re-invigorate black families by having the fathers stay active in their sons lives and pass on positive traditional family values. LBJ’s Great Society destroyed the black family structure with the black teenage moms becoming married to the government welfare programs.
“The horrific murder of...”
Stopped reading right there!
Sick of EVERY prior incident of anyone being accused of a crime being “Alleged” no matter how clear their guilt, but THIS time there is no need of sorting facts or a trial.
I have not done an exact statistical count but it seems at least 85% of all articles use some variation of “Murder” when talking about this incident.
Journalism was already deeply injured before this (”Fake but accurate”) but with the advent of (Anti-) Social Media it is not just dead, the corpse is putrid and stinking up the room!
“The real solution to this accurate stereotyping is to re-invigorate black families by having the fathers stay active in their sons lives and pass on positive traditional family values.”
No question that would help, but it wouldn’t solve the “race problem”.
The race problem is the elephant in the room that no one dares talk about. It’s the “Bell Curve”.
Think about this for a moment. Let’s say there was absolutely no discrimination whatsoever ever, everything was done on merit.
Which group do you think would be most represented in the more menial occupations?
Which group would do the least well at school?
And what would be the reaction of the people belonging to the group that performs least well, especially when they are told that “every group is the same”?
And what would be the reaction of the “bleeding hearts” in the group that performs better when they see the “inequality” in results?
Are your answers to those questions not what you’re seeing playing out everyday?
And isn’t the ultimate cause the inherent significant difference in the AVERAGE IQ of the two groups? (AVERAGE is the important qualifier)
Very well presented. Our church group is studying “whiteness” this evening and I plan to offer this column as balance.
As a born again White Christian, I hope what the article calls the “Preservation Narrative” prevails.
These quotes from the article sway me:
“The basic message of the Preservation Narrative is far more truthful in regards to human nature and far more empowering. Even if you face difficult challenges, you are not defined or limited by those challenges. As a human being, made in Gods image, you can make choices, and those choices matter in shaping your life, your community, and future history.
Beyond this, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that there is no class of innocent victims or guilty oppressors. All of us are fallen sinners, more than capable of doing the most heinous evil.
The Bible teaches that, regardless of skin color, all of us deserve punishment from a righteous God. All of us are in desperate need of Gods grace and forgiveness.
Our greatest enemy is not people with different skin color, but the evil inside our hearts. Ultimately, the solution to our deepest problems is the Gospelthe hope of inward regeneration and reconciliation with God made available through the cross of Jesus Christ. “
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