June 25th, 2012 by L. James Everett, III.
Racism and stereotypes have been in the news recently because of a young man gunned down in Florida.
I like to think that I’m not stereotypical and that I don’t stereotype. But just a little sarcasm will demonstrate how silly this is.
Stereotypes are everywhere. And they are so yucky. Stereotypical people suck.
One reason I don’t want to be a person who stereotypes is because people who stereotype are typically just bad people. And I want to avoid being that kind of person.
I prefer my clean, stereotype-free existence.
Okay. I am going to move from an instructive-sarcasm (my sarcasm always has a pedagogical purpose, whether successful or not) to a non-sarcastic mode of writing.
I am not familiar with the facts in Trayvon Martin’s case. I am not even familiar with what it would mean to be familiar with the facts of this particular case. I can’t tell who really knows or is being honest about what they are talking about. Many people seem equally certain about the facts. Thomas Sowell, a black man and a social-science academic, spoke sensibly on the topic in his piece called “Geraldo’s Point.” But, maybe Sowell is wrong.
We make generalizations. We do.
The statement, above, itself is a generalization. Right?
Generalizations are essential to getting along in life. And we base them on experience.
Experience is essential to getting along in life. That’s why God gave us memory and testimony to use as evidence. Accumulation of experiences really helps. Experiences that we have had. Even when we base a generalization on something someone else said, the fact that I heard or read their testimony means that their experience is now a part of my experience.
Let me tell you part of my experience: I ask my L.A. students to tell me what a racist looks like. And, often the initial response I get is that a racist looks like a white male.
That is a very interesting response.
The white male, or maybe even both of the white males in my class, instinctively clutch their bag closer once it’s revealed what the rest of the class thinks about their race. Racists are not liked very much, and for good reason. But if a racist is one who makes a bad judgement of another purely on account of what they look like, it looks as if the “racists are white males” charge could be a boomerang, and come back to haunt the person who threw the accusation.
Just a thought.
We all have our stereotypes.
People get crazy, sometimes, on the basis of their stereotypes. What complicates matters is the sad history, not just of America, but of the human race. We are not progressing in any ultimate sense. We have been estranged from each other, and from God, since the Fall.
Our only hope is the Lord.
Why is racism wrong? That is a real question, not a rhetorical question.
Rhetorical questions are designed to conceal statements in the form of a question. So, if that was a rhetorical question, you might assume (especially if you believed that a racist is someone who looks, well, kind of like me) that I meant to state that “racism isn’t wrong.”
But that would be incorrect. It would be not giving me the benefit of the doubt.
If racism is wrong, why is it wrong?
Racism is wrong. So, again, why is it wrong?
I would like to hear a secular answer to that question. One with evolutionary premises would be even better.
Such an account may provide a causal story for how we came to feel like racism is wrong. But that would not be a very satisfactory account of why racism is wrong. After all, feelings can be mistaken sources of evidence.
The Christian believer has a ready response to this, a very natural response.
Why have so many Christian believers been racists in the past?
Well, the Christian believer has a ready response to this, as well. A very natural response. The Fall.
Ask people to give you the benefit of the doubt. Then ask them, why is racism wrong?
What sort of spiritual conversations might you begin if you gather up the courage and ask?
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