Editorial: Racism Amplified

With the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 to largely end protections afforded to minorities by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there was an immediate resurgance of racism in our political system.  Even before the ruling states began to implement restrictive policies, and within one week after the Act’s overturning, fifteen more states either restored previous restrictions or enacted new ones–bringing the total doing so to 24. [1]  This reality alone revealed that the Court’s 5-4 decision to effectively end federal protection for the voting rights of all people–based on the allegation that “the country is different now”–was not correct.

Voter surpression of minorities has been documented in some way in every election since 2010.  Last week’s mid-term election is no exception.  Reducing the number of poling places in minority locations, putting new locations far from public transportation routes, devising an exact match scheme (which poling officials are authorized to interpret and enforce), and requiring a voter’s ID to have a photo and/or a street address are only a few examples of regulations that covertly diminish a minority groups’ ability to vote. 

Such policies are part of the larger revival of racism in our country often referred to as The New Jim Crow. [2]  And sadly, segments of the Christian church have been in the middle of the resurgence, falsely alleging that such restrictions are in the best interests of the nation and are taking place with God’s blessing. [3]. Racism is amplified in our nation today through white natiinalist groups and their media that daily spew misinformation and vitriol against those unlike themselves.  The fires of prejudice and anger are burning more brightly because of their words and deeds, some coming from political and religious leaders in high offices.

Nearly a century ago, H.G. Wells named racism the evil that it is, “I am convinced myself that there is no more evil thing in this present world than race prejudice, none at all. I write deliberately—it is the worst single thing in life now. It justifies and holds together more baseness, cruelty, and abomination than any other sort of error in the world.” [4]

Theologically, E. Stanley Jones called it a sign of self-starvation; that is, the ego’s turning in on itself through a deadly allegation of superiority over and separation from any other human beings.  He went on to call racism snobbery, describing it as an ungodly way to live. [5]

So it is, and so it has always has been.  The identification of any other human beings as less-than and the accompanying enactment of restrictions against them because of who they are is not the expression of law, it is the violation of it.  We must continue to call out the sin of racism (and other form of person-based discrimination) as Jesus himself did (Matthew 25: 40, 45), and as his true followers have done ever since.  

[1] Data from the article “New Voting Restrictions in Anerica” available on the website of The Brennan Center for Justice.

[2] Two award-winning books describe our national racism in detail: Ibram Kendi, ‘Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America’ (Nation Books, 2016)…and…Michelle Alexander, ‘The New Jim Crow’ (The New Press, 2012).

[3] Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, ‘Reconstructing the Gospel’ (InterVarsity, 2018) is a powerful exposure of the historic attempts of some Christians to interpret and enact the Gospel in racist ways.

[4] Quoted by E. Stanley Jones in his book ‘Victorious Living’ (Whitmore & Stone, 1936), Week 23, Sunday.  The book is still in print as a paperback book and ebook from Abingdon Press.

[5] Ibid.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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