Racism is Forever
We look back on the regime of Hitler with horror. We hear the tales told by the people who lived through it- tales of torture and abuse and neglect. Gas chambers and medical experimentation and death camps. Children, women, elderly, all treated as rats. Starved, beaten, murdered. Unclothed in the winter. Fed poorly if at all. Families were split, or worse, slaughtered in front of each other. Some of them never reunited. We shudder at the wickedness of those who stood by and watched these evils, and condemn those who carried the torch for these movements. All this because Hitler wanted to cleanse and purify Germany of the Jewish influence. The Jewish people had to disappear or be caught. They were refugees in their own neighborhoods. Just because they were Jewish, they were treated in all these ways.
We look back on the times of the slave trade right here in America. Kidnapping the African Americans, transporting them in horrific conditions, one third of them dying on the way over. When they arrived, they were stood on a platform, possibly naked, and sold as some sort of possession. If they rebelled, torture was the cost of their rebellion, and if they ran away, more torture or perhaps death. Probably both. They weren’t allowed to marry but were bred to produce the best working offspring. It took a war and many lives to grant them freedom and a vote. But even then, there were colored bathrooms and white bathrooms. Colored schools and white schools. They still weren’t good enough. Just because they were black, they were treated in all these ways.
We look back on 9/11. It was a normal business day. We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. There had never been an attack like this before. The feud against Christians by Muslims has lasted since the earliest ages of history, but never had there been this brutal of an attack on a harmless business center before. There is footage of the event- bodies falling from the towers. The building up in flames. There were many frantic phone calls that went out to loved ones on that day. Many brief good morning farewells that became permanent goodbyes on that day. Just because they were American, they were treated in all these ways.
Look at humanity.
We are humanity. We are doing awful things to each other because of slight differences in nationality, color, religion… Because of gender and sexual orientation and belief! The things that make us diverse and beautiful are the things we abuse each other for.
Now look at today. We don’t have a holocaust, a flourishing slave trade, or a devastating terrorist act happening regularly in these times. But we do have the remnants of all these things and I think they will endure.
Today, as a white woman walking in a city at night, my head is down but my eyes are up. I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I’m alone, I’m vulnerable, and I’m scared. If I see another person on the street, I size them up. Are their hands in their pockets, possibly hiding a weapon? Is this person smaller than me, could I outrun them? Are they looking at me? Is it a man? What kind of man? Twerpy man? Tall man? Business casual dress? Or tattoos and saggy jeans? Is he black?
I am a living, walking, breathing racist in these moments. I rely on stereotypes as I walk the streets at night. And I am not the only one, because racism is our culture and racism is forever. No, I’m not talking pre-holocaust anti-semanite clubs in basements, or wealthy white business owners secretly keeping African Americans in their basements, or plane hijackings scheduled for next week. But I am talking about the underlying pretense of racism. And sexism. And ageism. Gender-orientation-ism (okay, so that’s not a thing. But you get what I’m saying.) Discrimination and racism are forever.
I would argue, social stratification. See, there are three resources humans vie for: power, prestige, and privilege (Grunlan, 114). Power is just that- it’s power. Political advantage. Influence. Authority. Prestige is popularity, levity of presence, honor, respect. Then there’s privilege. Privilege is wealth or property. My personal view on humans pursuing these three important achievements is that of a conflict theorist. And as a conflict theorist, I believe that everyone is striving to achieve the most of these three that they are able, manipulating and climbing over others, working, perhaps buying their place in realms of these three to lift their standing. Or even if they are being honest and forthright in their strivings to succeed, they are still competing for these resources.
Social stratification comes directly in to play when one particular group falls in to place in their present standing and are not able to climb any higher on the path to gain more resources. Consider ghettos- these people are usually born in the ghetto, live in the ghetto, and die in the ghetto. Or consider a village in Nicaragua. These villagers typically don’t leave the area they’re born in. They marry there, have children there, and their children stay there, and they all (hopefully) live happily ever after in their village. If you look at the other side of society, the wealthy, consider how those born in rich circles stay there, or stand on the shoulders of those who came before them and go even further into wealth and affluence.
Sounds an awful lot like castes, doesn’t it? If you’re not familiar, a caste is an Indian lifestyle and tradition that binds you to the level you are born in until you die. If your father is a butcher, you are a butcher. If you’re destitute, you are “unclean” and will live the life of a beggar. Of course, American society is not this stiff, but it is difficult to change your societal class. Because of difficulty in changing societal class, racism and discrimination press on. It’s not just hearsay- consider these stats provided by the Council of State Governments Justice System:
· Both black and Hispanic men were less likely to receive a positive response from employers — including a call back or email for an interview or a job offer — compared with white men.
· Men with criminal records were more likely than women with criminal records to receive a negative response from employers.
· White men with a criminal record had more positive responses than black men with no criminal record.
These trends arise because of social stratification, and because of these trends, racism and discrimination are forever. As a Christian, this is a troubling reality. Jesus loved the weak and unloved and commands us to do the same. A huge number of verses address caring for the downtrodden and setting a precedence of love in spite of differences in race, gender, and weak. Check these out:
These also are sayings of the wise: To show partiality in judgment is not good.
Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Racism doesn’t have to be forever. Discrimination doesn’t have to be a part of our society.
We can LOVE.
If we follow Jesus’ commands, we can break the cycle caused by social stratification. We can view people as fellow humans instead of lesbians, blacks, Christians, men, orphans, wealthy. They can be humans on a common planet. We don’t have to hurt each other.
But will we? Or will racism and discrimination be forever?
Decker, Dr. Scott. “Researchers Examine Effects of a Criminal Record on Prospects for Employment.” CSG Justice Center. Arizona State University, 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2017. <https://csgjusticecenter.org/reentry/posts/researchers-examine-effects-of-a-criminal-record-on-prospects-for-employment/>.
Grunlan, Stephen A., and Milton Reimer. Christian Perspectives on Sociology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982. Print.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright 2002, 2007, 2011, 2016, by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.