Race in America: Some Thoughts About the Existence of Systemic Racism

Though it should not be, the issue of Racial Reconciliation is complex. It should not be simply because all people are created in the image of God, and therefore are worthy of dignity. This fundamental reality puts all of us, regardless of race, on the same common ground. However, we live in a world broken by sin, and the effects of sin have seriously complicated even those things that should be simple.

Racial Reconciliation is further complicated by, among other things, the politicalization of racism, different definitions of what racism is and isn’t (i.e. is it an attitude? actions? or an inherent characteristic of one born into a majority culture?), and different experiences. Our experiences significantly shape our perceptions.

One of the most crucial questions in our discussions about racism in the United States is whether or not it is systemic; and if it is systemic, in what ways, and to what degrees? Even these seeming basic questions can be, and are, too often more complicated than we would think they should be. Some answer the question of whether or not racism is systemic with an easy “of course it is!”. Some are denying that there is any systemic problem.  (I have seen a video with Conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro, even trying to “debunk” the idea of systemic racism.)  And others are asking how “systemic” is being defined or measured.

To those sincerely inquiring if there is such a thing as systemic racism, my answer would be an unequivocated: “Yes. There is.” Although it may be easy to overlook, if it is not effecting you or me.

Consider what Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, expressed on a recent episode of his podcast, The Briefing:

In its simplest understanding, the biblical conception of sin begins with sin as an offense to God, a breaking of God’s law, a transgression on the part of a human sinner. Human sinners together, as we form societies, neighborhoods, villages, institutions, congresses, legislatures, etc, we also bring that sinfulness into the making of laws, into the establishment of policies.

What Mohler shows is the viral nature of our sin. What we may think is merely personal sin, or what we might theologically call “private sin”, is still sin, and sin is infectious; our sin effects others. At times our sin gets ratified and embedded into our civil codes. Sometimes this is quite obvious, such as clear segregation laws; other times it can be more subtle, or even almost invisible – to those it does not effect.

I found the video above, by Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, to be insightful, and both winsomely and compellingly presented.  He lays out facts – facts of history and contemporary facts – that contribute to systemic or structural racism and racial disparity. Some of these may be unintended consequences of what some may have thought to be good ideas. Some of these may be lingering effects of past racially discriminatory policies that we assumed had been eradicated. Some cannot be explained by anything other than the sin of racism.

My hope in posting this video, as many have done in other mediums, is to encourage those who are sincere in their question of whether systemic or structural racism really exists to see that it absolutely does.  My prayer is that seeing will lead to understanding, and that understanding will lead to a new sensitivity, and that this new sensitivity will lead to new perception, and that this new perception will lead to a new way of thinking, and that this new thinking with a new perception, will lead to wise and godly actions.  This is a foundational issue. Where someone comes down on the question of whether there is systemic racism in our culture will determine much, if not everything, about ones ability to engage in healthy dialogue and to effect healthy change.

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