I wish to speak carefully on this matter. Clearly it is sensitive. Regarding the Ferguson events, in which one individual was put to death by a policeman, I am disappointed that the arising narrative is one that puts the issue of racism at front and center. It is pleasing that both TRL’s editor and TRL contributor R Campbell Sproul have urged readers to look beyond the media-driven picture and consider the more general trend of police militarization.
I want to echo their statement and point out that rarely do the racism theorists actually define racism at all. Does racism refer to a prejudice against one race as being morally and spiritually inferior? If so, how could it possibly be known that the policeman in this scenario had such a worldview? This is quite the assumption and clearly it serves to recklessly ignite fires and turn on the emotional heat across parties on various sides of this issue. If this is an improper use of the word “racism,” what other definition are we going to give it?
Perhaps we might use racism to refer to the presumption that someone is going to act a certain way based on the color of his skin. But again, in order to point the finger at the cop for being a racist, one would have to know what was going on in his mind, know all the facts of the shooting (which no one does at this point), and know how he would have acted if Michael Brown was white. In other words, the entire scenario and reporting is based on hype and speculation.
A recent post at Desiring God reads as follows:
The angry masses, the talk of police brutality, the divisions based on race — all seeming like some interactive history lesson from our parents’ generation. […] Racism and inequality are alive and well, even if the forms aren’t the same as fifty years ago…
But this is a mistake in two ways. First it assumes that “divisions based on race” is the definition of racism. Is this true? I don’t think so. I realize that I must speak carefully but as a black man is seems like I can say things that are unacceptable for my white brothers and sisters to say. I don’t often state the color of my skin, because it is important to me that all people speak objectively about things, regardless of their own race. In any case, I do not think it intellectually sustainable to see “divisions based on race” as a sign of racism. Whenever we look at different cultural or heritage tendencies amongst people with different ancestral backgrounds we see large divisions and discrepancies. We see different responses to different social occurrences that may ignite the passions of different people. These variations among human beings do not show that there is an underlying worldview that considers people of other races as morally inferior.
Secondly, when I see fellow black men like Johnathan Gentry expressing frustration at the “black rioters” while a whole plethora of white folks (in fact, the majority of white commentators I see online are taking this position) are focusing on the “racism” of Officer Darren Wilson, I know that the “divisions based on race” are largely manufactured. This is the narrative that the media wants to push. It is extremely good for the State and the Progressivists in Media and Cultural power positions to push this narrative. One phrase that I am especially fond of is consistently used by our editor here at TRL: the Dominant Social Theme. He has written this about the DST:
These victimologies, these dominant social themes are easily recognizable. And not only are they in the news almost every hour, but they are also to be found all over the blogosphere, in “Christian” gossip circles, in tv shows and movies, in advertisements, in sporting events, and in political discussion. Who sets these agendas? Why now? Why the unison of the blaring message?
I am not sure. But I do know that these themes are rapidly plaguing the libertarian movement as well. It is a national phenomenon. Everywhere we look, we see praise for homosexuality, cheering for gender operations, witch hunts against “bigots,” claims that anti-feminism is sexist and despicable, and even trumped up accusations of racism are again on the rise. The State latches on to these themes and sees them as good reasons to expand, to reach into more and more of our private lives. Not only are these issues a distraction from the economic calamities being created by State intervention into the economy, but they also allow the State to act as society’s everyday hero, to sweep through with cameras and trumpets, and rescue the victims from the appointed and declared “bad guys” of western civilization.
I don’t see a racism epidemic. And I am disappointed when fellow Christians, libertarians, and conservatives are repeating the narrative that is admittedly and frighteningly pervasive in this recent uproar. But hear my prediction and warning: there are going to be even more outcries of the Big Three themes in Western society: racism, sexism, and homophobia. Don’t get suckered in. Pay attention to how the State grows and how truths from the Christian worldview are trampled.