Apologies and offenses notwithstanding, at least one profound underlying issue lies at the heart of the recent conflict over remarks made by Dr. Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and it is not the false notion that Dr. Land is a racist. A fair reading of his record on this issue going back several decades clearly demonstrates otherwise. No, the question I wonder about concerns whether there exists, in the area of racial reconciliation, a level playing field for the sharing of concerns and demanding of apologies among those of every ethnic persuasion.
When it comes to selecting racial reconciliation leaders, do we profile white men and exclude them from the process? Can a white man ever challenge a black man on his tactics for bringing racial harmony? Several black men have questioned the racial reconciliation tactics of this white man. Is it even permissible, no matter how ill advised, for a white man such as Land to question the racial reconciliation tactics of black men such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? In other words, apart from how offensive Land’s words were, is it possible that there is any truth to some of them?
Specifically, consider the following scenario and the manner in which Jackson and Sharpton typically respond. Whenever a black on black crime takes place, Jackson and Sharpton seem practically invisible, but whenever a white/hispanic on black crime takes place, there are protests and marches and rallies and fundraising and speeches and charges of racial injustice.
If we are making progress in racial reconciliation, should not our response to the ethnic persuasion of the criminal suspect be a color blind response?
Suppose in a certain city ten black men are murdered, six by other black men, two by hispanics, one by an asian and one by a white man. If Jackson and Sharpton only show up for the press conference after the murder by the white man, can we not agree that their approach may actually serve to fuel the fires of racial hatred and bitterness, distorting any progress that has been made, and keeping society’s race relations efforts entrenched in a 1950’s mindset?
One could actually argue that, in order to maintain the kind of fundraising, press conferences, speaking schedules, lawsuits and other activities needed to further their fame, their relevance and their agendas, Jackson and Sharpton actually depend upon the existence of racially motivated crime. In some ways, it is to the economic advantage of the organizations they lead to exaggerate such problems and to inflame a bitterness among black people toward white people.
As a white man, am I really going to be called a racist for simply pointing out the possibility that approaches such as those employed by Jackson and Sharpton may actually be hurting the process of racial reconciliation rather than healing it?
If in a hypothetical universe, the green man possesses the moral right to question the blue man’s actions, but the blue man must apologize any time he questions the green man’s actions, can we agree that genuine equality in addressing their differences does not truly exist?
Let me reassure you that I abhor both crime and racism. I detest both murder and injustice. I want nothing other than to see the sons of Japheth, Ham and Shem get along as well upon this earth as we will one day in heaven. But I do think part of bringing that about involves allowing all of Noah’s sons to share freely their opinions concerning those factors they believe may contribute to the problem.
I, for one, do not believe Land woke up one morning and decided to reverse completely his commitment to racial reconciliation. Rather, I believe that he thinks the only way forward in making progress on this issue is to confront those whose activities he believes may actually be doing more harm than good. Whether he is right or wrong in that perspective is certain to invite great disagreement, but I believe it is only fair to view his intentions in all of this in a much more charitable manner than they have been viewed thus far.