Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Response to White America

Picture by taliesin

This is a letter in response to George Yancy when he wrote a letter to White America in The Stone. Yancy wrote this letter in an apparent attempt to attack racism in America. However intended, Yancy has perpetuated the internal struggle America has endured over the past two centuries. This response is to provide an alternative perspective and solution.

You can read George Yancy’s letter here.

Dear Mr. Yancy,

I have, with great apprehension, opened your gift that you dropped on the doorstep of White America. I looked at it intently and tried to consider if this gift was relevant or deserved. I even wondered if this gift was something that I wanted to keep or throw away. I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted to take this gift and readdress it to not just White America but to the human race. And yes, this gift is being regifted back to you, Mr. Yancy, although slightly modified.

In your gift to White America, you are right on several points. I will admit that. There is a deeply rooted problem in America that stems from years of slavery, persecution, and discrimination. That problem still exists today. I would, however, try to direct your attention to a much larger issue. You bring up two very serious issues that plague America. You accuse White America of racism while admitting your own sexism. I would argue that there are a myriad of societal ills that plague America. I could list all the “isms” here but that list would be too long for this letter.

America has many issues that plague not just the black community but many segments of society. This is where I am regifting your very thoughtful gift to White America. I believe you’re being too narrow in your view of these issues. Mind you, I am not a highly paid or educated philosopher as yourself. So please bear with me as I bring out ideas that come from my own rambled, incoherent thoughts.

First, I want to address this racism issue. I find it interesting that you would argue that all of White America has benefited from racism. Can I point out the obvious? While I find this point argumentative, and especially debatable, have you not benefited, if one truly can benefit from such a notion, from racism as well? You call yourself a philosopher, someone who investigates truth, and yet how do you miss a vital part of your vocation? You derive a living on the subject of racism. You write on such subjects as “Black Bodies, White Gazes”, “Look! a White!”, and “Dear White America” for goodness sake.

Racism is a problem each and every human being has. Are you a racist? Am I a racist? Yes. And yes. “Racism is defined by the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races,” according to a Google search. Please allow me to elaborate. I may not be an intellectual but I can recognize that this is a worldwide problem. This is an issue of them versus us. I’m going to be uncomfortable around someone who doesn’t look like me, act like me, or show basic characteristics of someone like me. So, to put it in a nutshell, racism exists because we all have the propensity to compare ourselves to one another.

Racism isn’t a one-way road. But somehow, I get the sense in your writing that racism is only a condition from which whites suffer. Your entire article points to no matter how “innocent” whites appear, we are racist. There is no reciprocation from you to show how blacks and people of color, too, have this same problem. Do whites in America experience the consequences of racism in the same way as blacks and other minorities? Unlikely. But I’ve lived in a predominantly black city a number of years to get the sense of how whites are viewed within the community. I feel the anger and distrust from a number of black men and women in these urban areas only because I’m white. Is that fair? I don’t think so but I also recognize the reality of the circumstances that brought this about.

America, from its infancy, brought on the issue of racism upon itself. But let’s not be na├»ve to believe that this country is the only one in history to be burdened with this blight. Throughout history, peoples from various nations have enslaved other people groups. Isn’t it true that Black Africans enslaved White Europeans only a few centuries ago? Those could have been my ancestors. Couldn’t I have disdain or feel bitter for what happened to my people?

Racism wasn’t born in America. It has, however, been highlighted here more than any other time or place in history. However slavery has shaped this nation, it is now ours to deal with. I would like to see this country move forward in solidarity in removing the chasm that exists between the different races. What you write, Mr. Yancy, does a disservice toward that end. And I can only surmise that what you and other intellectuals teach and promote in academia only exacerbates the growing tensions in our country.

I will concede that as I write this I am responding much like you predicted, with a certain chip on my shoulder. But that is because when accusations are thrown at me that, much like every other human being, I get rather defensive. But why is that? Am I essentially acknowledging that I am a racist? I already said that I am. But not for the reasons you believe. I am racist because I am born of flesh in a sinful world that has rebelled against God.

If we’re going to really try to understand where the root of the problem exists in our society, we need to take an honest approach and open our minds to all possibilities. You use philosophy and the art of argument to dissuade anyone from having an intelligent rebuttal toward your comments. You use the techniques you’ve learned in academia, which has worked so effectively in our current Presidential Administration, to shut down any debate. You close it off as if your statements are the final word.

I contend, Mr. Yancy, that White America is not the sole contributor to the problem of race in our country. I don’t even argue that Black America is to blame. We can go down the line and look at Black, White, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, German, English, African, Catholic, Evangelical, Atheist, Muslim, and so on and so on and come to the conclusion that the problem comes from one place and one place only. The human condition. We are all sinners born into a sinful world.

Do you know why America is in the condition it is in? It’s because we have sinned against God. Romans 3:22-23 states “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” In the previous verses, the Apostle Paul quotes from Psalms:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
It is because we are enemies of God that in our hearts we are enemies of each other. It isn’t until we reconcile our relationship with God that we can begin to have a proper understanding and relationship with other people. No amount of philosophy, psychology, or psychiatry is ever going to change the human condition. Much like a Band-Aid can only cover an open wound can any of the aforementioned studies of behavior mask the afflictions of wounded minds.

The same God who created the universe is the same God who provides a remedy for the human condition.  God sent His Son Jesus, who, according to Colossians 1:15-20, is the exact representation of Himself, to reconcile humankind to our Creator. Colossians 1:21-22 tells us this, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…”

Our relationship with God matters. It’s a direct correlation to how we relate to each other. Peace on earth doesn’t happen until we have peace with God. So, although it appears in your letter that you intended to put White America at war with itself, I want to offer an alternative where we can all reconcile with each other instead.

A perfect world does not exist. It will not exist on this side of heaven. Even people today who put their faith and trust in the Almighty make mistakes and hurt people. Sin exists and will continue to exist until the return of our Savior in the final days. However, when we surrender our hearts and minds to Jesus, He begins the process of changing the way we think and behave. We become more and more like Him. Hopefully, over time, we begin to see how we treat each other and relationships will begin to heal and people will be at peace with one another. But this is a process and only those who surrender their will to God’s will experience this peace.

Unfortunately, we live in a world today that is increasingly hostile to God. People are not only turning their backs to God but are raising their fists to Him. Again, I go back to the fact that our relationships with each other are a direct correlation to our relationship with God. That is why we see so much anger and hostility toward each other, between countries, between races, even between families and marriages. The world is hurting because we are far, far from God.

The other side of heaven is a completely different story. In Revelations, Scripture tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. There will be no sin and the divisions that exist today between people will not exist then. Relationships between people will be perfect because the relationship between God and people will be perfect.

Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone will get to experience this perfect relationship as it pertains to God. Many people have made decisions, and continue to make these decisions, to leave God out of their lives. The Bible makes it clear that the “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” It is unfortunate that many do not want a relationship with God. And God will not force Himself upon them. Ultimately, it is still a choice.

I did read and hear what you said in your letter, Mr. Yancy. I did read with the goal of understanding your point of view. However, what I didn’t read is your solution. You wanted me to read and bear the brunt of your accusations without rebuttal. If I attempt to say that I agree with you, it would still bear no fruit in your mind because I’m still a middle-aged white male living in White America with my white privilege while living in the comfort of my racism. As you say, “Being a ‘good’ white person or a liberal white person won’t get you off the hook.” (Interesting that only a liberal white person is someone you mention as if good and liberal automatically go together.)

It seems, to me, as if there is no redemption for White America. We are prejudiced and racist and we should wallow in the muddy waters of our white identity. We are who we are. Never mind that many white people, like my ancestors, came to America after the Civil War. We had no part in slavery but because we’re white we find ourselves guilty by association.

You do propose, interestingly though, that we should love black people. And you mention black people like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice among others as examples of black people we should love. Should we love black people without regard for their actions and attitudes toward us? If we feel the weight of black prejudice being thrust upon us, should we love them the same?

I’m not trying to suggest that White America shouldn’t love black people. I’m only trying to point out that your letter is deficient, void of a cohesive objective. It doesn’t provide a direction where we can go forward. To quote a section of your letter, you write:
I can see that this letter is being misunderstood. This letter is not asking you to feel bad about yourself, to wallow in guilt. That is too easy. I’m asking for you to tarry, to linger, with the ways in which you perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which you are racist.
So the question is if White America seriously considers how they have perpetuated a racist society, and are in essence racist, what is it that you want us to do? You don’t want us to feel guilty but you don’t offer a way for us to make amends.

Well, I want to offer a solution. I want America, and the rest of society, to move forward. But that requires something even deeper and painful than what you prescribed for White America. What this requires is a commitment. Not for a day, a month, or even a season. It’s a life-long commitment. Please consider not my words because my words are trivial. My words can be misconstrued and misleading. My words hold no weight to the balance of the matters of life. No, I ask that you listen to the Words of God. I ask you to read the Scriptures, from the Law and the Prophets, to the Gospels, to the letters written to the churches and the saints.

But I only wonder if you will read and hear what God has to say. You ask America to listen to you, but would you consider listening to God? Would you open His Word and consider His commandments? Ponder upon His laws and precepts. How do you measure up to God’s standards? Would you acknowledge that as flesh and blood you are incapable of being good and righteous before a Holy God? Would you consider that only God can provide a way of redemption through His Son, Jesus? Would you be willing to see what Jesus did for you and me at the cross of Calvary? Is it possible that you could see that Jesus died for your sins so that you could receive forgiveness and be redeemed through His blood?

Would you give it some thought about surrendering your will for His will? Would you allow Jesus into your heart to allow Him to begin the transformation to make you into a new creation created for His glory? Could you see how you’ve sinned against Him and repent of your sins? Could you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus every day? Could you do these things despite the intense and increasing persecution being brought upon the followers of Jesus because the world hates Him?

You asked White America to talk to their children, hold their children tight, and look upon their children fondly while all the while imagining their children as black. But what if we considered another way? What if we challenged ourselves to see each other and our children as we are through God’s eyes? What if we considered that the only way society can move beyond prejudice and bigotry is by identifying ourselves with Christ? What if Jesus is the only way that we’ll ever see each other as more than race, gender, or national origin and see each other as people saved by grace. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous speech acknowledged:
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!