Over the past decade or so, it has become increasingly clear that racial tensions aren’t going to subside any time soon. It is a constant problem, a scab of sorts, which Americans can’t seem to stop picking. Having said that, I’ve got to say… what in the heck does it have to do with our faith?! I certainly agree that racism, as it’s defined, is not good in any way, but since when is everyone a racist, and more than that, who decided that “whites” are to blame for it today? I have a serious problem with that notion.
Now, there are about a billion reasons that people of any given race could be skeptical of another. I get that. But since when are people simply the product of their skin? Slavery, in America, has sort of been the focal point of racial tensions in the country for centuries now. At the end of the day, these differences of opinion always seem to make their way back to slavery. Over the years, however, those tensions have never gone away, and they aren’t being kept alive because of slavery, they’re being kept alive by the media. But what seems to have developed now is this “counter-racism,” this notion that it is ok to hate the race that you think hate’s yours. This, of course, is not a solution. It’s not even a remedy. It’s a distraction. There’s that word again, distraction.
Although there are a lot of emotions and feelings, words and actions, that have been felt and committed in the name of these tensions, there may be a simpler solution. African-American actor Morgan Freeman was once asked about the best way to end racism. His simply said, “stop talking about it.” At first, I thought that was the stupidest answer he could have given. “Sure, Morgan, let’s just run away from our problems,” I thought. But then I realized something. I realized that he wasn’t saying that we should pretend like racial hate doesn’t exist. He was saying that it’s essentially living vicariously through our culture, our media, and our daily conversations. I realized that it’s more like an injustice that we need to move on from; something that can only get better if we allow it to get better, something that will be an issue only as long as me make it one.
In a similar way, our Catholic faith calls us to that kind of love. A love for our brothers and sisters that transcends our surface-level pettiness; and although I’m not saying that slavery is a petty issue (because it’s not), what I am saying is that we are all called to overcome our own transgressions just as we forgive others of theirs. I mean, for heaven’s sake, it’s in the Lord’s Prayer! It’s the Golden Rule! We treat others, we forgive others; just as we want to be treated, just as we are forgiven. As long as we fail to embrace Christ’s relatively simple rule, we may as well keep at each other’s throats. If you constantly put your brother on blast, how can he ever put it past him?
Cue Jim Wallis, an Evangelical political activist who spoke at the RE Congress last weekend. As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to stay in the Arena, the largest-occupancy room in the convention center, for all of my workshops. Mr. Wallis’ was the third workshop I attended. His talk, titled “Building a Bridge to a New America,” sounded interesting enough. I knew I was in for something unsettling, and boy was I right! Now, I wasn’t really certain who this Jim Wallis guy was, or what he was all about, but the workshop synopsis pretty much summed it right up for me. It read in part, and I quote, “This session will look at…how ‘white Christians’ need to become more Christian than white.” Now, I know what you might be thinking “Oh boy, he’s going to try using white shaming to make Christianity look better; that’s kind of sketchy…” And if you thought that, you’d be right. It’s incredibly sketchy. So, naturally, I was excited to see what would be said.
From start to finish, Wallis remained relatively monotonous. He continually rattled off story after story about underprivileged minorities who have “made do” in America, no thanks to the whites. He noted that within the next three decades, America would be a “majority of minorities,” and that Americans needed to accept that fact. What I found sort of funny, however, is that I don’t know anyone who is fighting that “fact.” He continues his white-shaming by stating that anyone who benefits from oppression is obliged to stop it. I would probably classify as a minority myself, but by Wallis’ own reasoning, I have been benefiting from oppression for years, which makes me part of the problem. In a number of his stories, he references black people who were underprivileged in some way, and somehow ties it to racism.
He reminisces about a young black man he worked with years ago, who had to work to feed his family because his father had died, which is supposedly due to his skin, while Wallis had worked the same job to save for college, which he relates to his privilege. What he refuses to appreciate, however, is that the young man worked and was feeding his family, a hard but fortunate position to be in by its own merit. Wallis was essentially reducing the guy to his situation, painting him as nothing but a man afflicted by the culture. In a similar way, he mentioned a more recent event in which a white girl and black man were stopped by an officer. He claims that the black man was rudely searched and found clean while the white girl was not searched, but was carrying marijuana on her person. Wallis mentions that the black boy’s mother is the most prominent black lawyer in D.C., and that both the boy and girl were free to go; essentially because of the officer’s profiling, proving again (in Wallis’ mind) that racism is alive and well. Assuming the story is true, which I have no reason to doubt, there is a major issue for Wallis here. The black boy’s mother was a prominent black lawyer in D.C. I fail to see how someone can claim that racism is as bad as it ever was when we are talking about a very powerful black woman in D.C. Racism is still so bad, Wallis believes, that he even refers to slavery as “America’s original sin,” implying that the stain of slavery is still embedded in American culture. Now, you might be relieved to know that Wallis’ intention was not to be political. In fact, at the beginning of his workshop, he says, “I’m not here to give you a political message.” Well, if what I just covered about his workshop isn’t political, then I don’t know what is.
I suppose that the most irritating thing for me, before I continue with the “goings-on” of the workshop, is that Wallis never once touched on the real problem in America. He is so caught up in criminalizing all of white society that he refuses to see the connection between minorities and broken homes. The statistics are staggering. Wallis would have you believe that most criminals, for example, are simply products of a mistreatment of the underprivileged minorities. And while that could be the case in some instances, the evidence suggests otherwise. For example, according to www.thesentencingproject.org, 60% of the people in prison are ethnic and racial minorities. On top of that, 1 in 10 black men in their thirties are in jail or prison on any given day (from the same source). Is this simply because police officers hate minorities? Not likely. As claimed by www.discoverpolicing.org, the Bureau of Justice Statistics claims that racial and ethnic minorities in state and local law enforcement agencies made up 27% of full-time sworn in personnel in 2013. That’s more than a quarter of the force! In fact, the real problem isn’t racial at all. It’s social. It is estimated that 70% of all inmates in the U.S. were raised in single parent homes (Horn, Bush, “Fathers, Marriage and Welfare Reform.”). Wallis was right, there are a lot of minority inmates, but he was wrong about why. The breakdown of the marriage and the family must be combatted, but it’s got to be recognized first.
Click the photo above to watch Voris address Jim Wallis.
Following on the heels of that episode, my personal favorite part of the workshops unfolded. After all of the white-shaming and sob stories about minorities that may or may not have happened, Wallis opened the floor up for a Q & A session. If you have been following me on some other outlets on facebook, you might have known that I had spent some time with another warrior for God, Michael Voris. A good man with a good mission (you can check out his apostolate at www.ChurchMilitant.com). Anyway, several people lined up to ask their questions. The first few people were asking relatively expected questions, about how we can more effectively cater to minorities, make Muslims feel more welcome, how we can make proper reparations, etc. When Michael got up to the mic, however, he commanded the stage. He called Wallis out on his receiving more than $300,000 for Sojourners, Jim Wallis’ organization, from none other than the very liberal, very controversial, George Soros; and asked Wallis point-blank how accepting money from a liberal atheist is in line with biblical teachings. Jim immediately passed off Michael’s question as a right-wing attack against him, and offered no real answer. He did however mention that he has “no problem accepting money” from anyone who wants to donate to his cause.
Christine Niles, on the Church Militant daily show, the Download, made an incredibly insightful point about the matter. She pointed out that George Soros is no fool. We know what he stands for, we know that he was one of the largest kick-starters for the Black Lives Matter movement, we know that he is a self-proclaimed atheist, we know that he donated at least a million dollars to Hilary Clinton’s pro-choice presidential campaign, the list goes on and on. So the question is, what did Soros see in Wallis? I don’t know, but perhaps it's a question we should all be asking.