When one reflects on the history and current reality of systemic injustice in America, there are some tenets that have been handed down to us that are beneficial in discussing and assessing structural racism in America. Structural racism in America today is not as potent and prevalent, or as visible and vicious as it was in previous generations, but it still exists. Therefore, it must be prophetically, educationally, and legally addressed and readdressed. We see it present in real estate appraisal differences based on color, prison sentencing differences based on color, job hiring discrimination toward names indicative of minority ethnicities, school discipline disproportional meted out toward minorities, income and net worth disparities that are generationally impacted, etc.
What are some tenets that have been handed to us that can inform society in grappling with structural racism today? Let me identify just three:
1. The value of storytelling. Many Americans are simply unaware of the racial atrocities of the past, that have an economic impact on today, regarding passing on generational wealth. The 1921 Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK, massacre of 300 African Americans, and the destruction of their buildings and businesses by an angry White mob over an alleged sexually inappropriate contact between a young Black male and White female. The White female refused to press charges; and the Black male was released after several months in jail. Yet, vigilante justice ruled. The most vital economic center for Blacks in America was destroyed, and insurance companies refused to make them whole. Not one arrest was made, for the White Tulsa citizens, who perpetrated this vicious and violent act. Similar stories can be repeated in at least 19 other southern cities.
An 88-year-old man in my congregation, with tears in his eyes told me the story of being physically and sexually violated by a White male in a rural area, of a southern state he was raised in. When I asked him, if he reported this incident to the law at the time, he said, No! Because law enforcement at the time in America would arrest you if you reported a White person violated you, sexually. He has simply had to live with the pain and shame. All the White pastors and the Council of Seminary Presidents have never had to listen to such stories. Every SBC Black pastor, have people in their congregations with similar stories. We dare not allow the SBC to devalue, regulate, or invalidate the stories of our people, due to their misunderstanding and biases against a theory designed to acknowledge the value of telling these stories.
2. The value of recognizing and including diverse people racially in all aspects of American society. We learn from the past that if we exclude persons on the basis of race, it prohibits a segment of America from contribution to society at large, in a way that is beneficial to all. Can you imagine baseball without Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron? Can you imagine golf without Tiger Woods or Lee Elder? Can you imagine historical theological contributions without J. Deotis Roberts, James Howard Thurman, James Cole, Tony Evans, or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Can you imagine the American church landscape without the AME Church, founded by Richard Allen, and the Pentecostal churches and the Church of God in Christ, whose roots can be traced back to William J. Seymour, Charles Harrison Mason, and C.P. Jones? Even the Assembly of God roots spawn from these movements.
Can you imagine the suffrage movements without Sojourner Truth, traveling across the country preaching “Aint I a woman?”
American life is much richer because of diversity that has had to be fought for long and hard against all odds, in order for substantial progress to take place. The diversity, inclusion efforts led to America electing, in 2008, a Black president of the USA, that many of us thought we would never see in our lifetimes.
To ignore the value and need of diversity is to be satisfied with, and to accept, exclusion. The advances in inclusion we see throughout America, are a result of marches, protests, demonstrations, legislation, prayer and exposing the fact that White America is often content to function without any minorities holding cabinet lever, corporate entity head or leadership positions as has been in the Southern Baptist Convention throughout her history.
Jesus affirmed the value of diversity and inclusion when He commissioned His disciples to evangelize the world from the theological and spiritual foundation of unity surrounding His incarnation (John 17:21).
3. There is value in acknowledging where systemic injustice exists and is embedded in societal structures, and applying biblical principles to root it out. As we see in Acts 6, where the complaint of the Grecian widows with regard to food distribution, was responded to with the appointment of Greek men to serve in the distribution, assuring fairness.
These aforementioned tenets are central to Critical Race Theory, and they are also compatible with the Bible and the BFM2K.
Derrick Bell, who is considered the father of Critical Race Theory, denied any Marxan influence or European scholarly influence on his development of CRT. He purposefully excluded them, he said, so that his work would be only influenced by persons such as Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglas, WEB Dubois, and Martin Luther King. If you want to know what CRT is, it is everything Martin Luther King has written, including his “I have A Dream Speech.”
It is totally dishonest and intellectually bankrupt, to discredit CRT by falsely associating it with Critical Theory. Again, Derrick Bell denies any connection. You would have to call him a liar to believe or write such.
If, as some argue, CRT declares all White people everywhere are racists, solely by virtue of being White—I reject that, and so does the Bible.
If CRT declares, as some argue, that Blacks cannot be racist, I reject that notion—and so does the Bible. Racism is a sin, and there are no sin Black people cannot commit—including racism. Because there are those who hold some aberrant, unbiblical views who may place them under the rubric of CRT, is not a valid reason to throw out the entirety of CRT, as the SBC is poised to do.
It would be a slap in the face of Sid Smith, George McCalep, L.B. George, Emmanuel McCall, and so many of the Black SBC pioneers to denounce CRT in its entirety. The SBC may indeed do so, though. If they do, I will not be leaving because they rejected CRT. I will be leaving because they dishonestly rejected CRT; and in the process, denied and denounced (1) the value of storytelling; (2) the value of diversity and inclusion; (3) the value of intentionally opposing systemic and structural injustice and racial sins—all in the name of rejecting CRT.
Honestly, it takes great audacity, given the SBC’s history, to take such a bold step, to denounce the entirety of CRT—particularly with the National African American Fellowship of the SBC unanimously opposed to denouncing CRT in its entirety. I am often asked how many Black churches may leave the SBC if Resolution 9 is rescinded. I honestly have no idea, and no desire to influence any to leave, which is one major reason why I am not going to attend the Nashville meeting. I do not want to be accused of leading churches away from the SBC. But what I do know is—as for me and my house—if the major thesis and thrust of Resolution 9, passed by a majority in Birmingham 2019, is gutted or rescinded—we will exclusively align with the National Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.