Racism: Why Whites Have Trouble "Getting It"


by Greg Boyd

I'm a member of a special task group on racial reconciliation that consists of a dozen or so pastors from around the Twin Cities. We've been meeting periodically for the past year or so in order to strategize how to help the church of the Twin Cities as a whole move forward in racial reconciliation. The other day we were discussing what we thought was the main obstacle(s) to the church becoming a reconciled, diverse community—one that manifests the truth that Jesus died to "tear down the walls of hostility" between people groups. I shared with the group my conviction that the main obstacle to reconciliation in the church in America is that the majority of white people don't "get it." What's worse, the majority of white people don't know that they don't "get it." Worst of all, the majority of white people don't really know that there's anything to "get."

Most white people I know sincerely believe they live in a country that is, for the most part, a land of equal opportunity that is mostly free of racism. Yes, we all see the occasional overt racism that erupts now and then in America, and most of us are genuinely revolted by this. But we tend to see these events, and the attitudes behind them, as rather atypical of America as a whole. And, yes, most of us white folks know at least a little bit of the shocking statistics of disparity in America (e.g. young black males are statistically more likely to end up in prison than to go to college). But given our operative assumptions about America, we whites often either refuse to believe these statistics or, more commonly, we find ways to explain them away.

I honestly don't for a moment think this is because white people are generally racist. I believe most white folks genuinely despise racism, so far as they understand it, and sincerely believe they are anti-racist, so far as they understand it. It's just that they don't understand it very far. Our awareness is stunted because our life experience tends to blind us to racism as a subversive structural issue.

My own life serves as an example of this. I grew up with a very progressively minded father. He strongly supported the civil rights movement and was one of the pioneers who fought to include African Americans in the Tire Union in the 1950s. I watched my father wail when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, and I heard him incessantly curse George Wallace and other "stupid *&*% damn southern racists" throughout my upbringing. My point is that my own upbringing positioned me to be, at least on a conscious level, as free of racism as I could be. But I now see that, despite all this, I still didn't "get it."

Evidence of how little I "got it" is that I was genuinely surprised (and discouraged) when the church I founded and pastor (Woodland Hills Church) continued to be an almost exclusively white church for the first 10 years of its existence, despite my continual preaching that racial reconciliation is one of the central reasons God became a human and died on the cross. I honestly thought that if you simply announced to the world that you believed in the equality of all people and that God wants the church to be multicultural, it would happen. But I was wrong. I didn't get it. And the reason is because, while my heart was in the right place and while I had some head knowledge of race issues, my life experienced had barricaded me from the real issue—the systemic, structural dimension of racism.

What I lacked, and what most white people lack, was a context where I was forced to notice something that almost all non-whites have to notice every day of their lives: namely, the reality of racist walls pervading the structure of our culture. As a white person, I didn't have to deal with these walls. You see, for all our insistence that America is the land of equal opportunity, there is in fact a stratified "pecking order" of privilege that is largely structured by one's access to power, social class, ethnicity, and even gender. We might think of it as a pyramid of privilege. The higher up the pyramid you are, the fewer walls you have to maneuver around. The lower down the pyramid you are, the more walls you have to maneuver around.

Here's how I diagrammed it at the pastors meeting:

gbdiagram1There are, of course, many variables that affect where one finds oneself on the pyramid—including how hard one works, how frugal you are, how talented you are, etc. This is why there are many exceptions to the observation that race is the primary determiner for where one falls on this socially stratified pyramid, and also why the exceptions are usually rather noteworthy (e.g. Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, etc.). But all other things being equal, whites (and especially white males) enjoy the privilege of being at the top of the socioeconomic pyramid. This isn't surprising, really, since America was founded (conquered) by Anglo-Europeans, and it has from the start been structured to their advantage. This is what is commonly known as white privilege.

All of this means that, among other things, whites can move around freely and not bump into the walls that increasingly box people in the lower one goes down the pyramid. And this is why, all other things being equal, whites have trouble "getting it." We simply aren't aware of the walls. Indeed, many of us deny there's even a pyramid that we're at the top of. This is, after all, the land of equal opportunity. By virtue of the racialized structure we benefit from, we are, on a structural level, protected from the walls of racism. For all our sincere intentions, we are sheltered from a whole world of experience that non-whites, in varying degrees, are forced to live in. It is therefore hard, if not impossible, for many of us white folks to grasp with any depth the extent of (for example) racial profiling, red-lining, and job discrimination that non-whites experience. It's simply not on our radar screen.

The radically different "worlds" of those who move freely at the top and those who confront walls toward the bottom were graphically illustrated during the O.J. Simpson trial. Close to 90% of African Americans thought O.J. should be acquitted. Close to that same percentage of whites thought he should be found guilty. It was an amazing moment in our history, uncovering the usually hidden chasm between the life experiences of whites and blacks.

During this trial I asked a close African American friend to explain to me how so many African Americans thought the case against O.J. Simpson was not sufficient to prove guilt. I was genuinely nonplussed. I didn't "get it." He proceeded to tell me about his experience as a black boy growing up in the Bronx. On three different occasions, he watched his father get beat up and humiliated by white police officers for no legitimate reason. "You can see why its not hard for me to believe that officer Mark Furman, a known racist, planted all that evidence against O.J.," my friend told me. "And so it goes for a good many black folk."

As a white guy, I'd never bumped into that wall. So the idea that a police officer would risk his entire career to bring down a famous black man seemed ludicrous. To black people who have had loved ones abused by police officers, or who have themselves been abused, the suggestion wasn't ludicrous at all.

A coin dropped in the slot (or at least began to drop in the slot) that day. I began to "get it." I'd had many non-white acquaintances before, but this was the first time I was close enough to hit a wall with someone. If white people are going to "get it," I am convinced that this is how it is usually going to happen. Seminars and classes and books on racism are good and necessary. But in the end, I believe it's going to come down to relationships. The racist system is structured so that we don't notice the walls all around us—walls that are too invisible for most of us white folks to notice on our own. Not only that, but we benefit from not noticing the walls, for to notice them makes a demand on our life.

For us whites to really wake up to the reality of the thick, oppressive, demonic, but (to most of us white people) invisible walls that pervade our culture, we must develop peer relationship with non-whites who will call into question some of our most basic assumptions about American culture and perhaps about ourselves. This is not easy. It certainly doesn't happen by cultivating cross-cultural relationships where non-whites are once again in a position of dependency on the whites. The relationships that whites need (if there's any hope of them "getting it") are relationships premised on equality, mutual trust, and respect.

It might seem artificial and odd—even perhaps quasi-racist—to seek out a friendship based primarily on race. Yet this is precisely what I would like to challenge all white people to do. Even if you are sure you already "get it." If you have never significantly shared life with a non-white person, I strongly suspect you don't. Even if your upbringing and education was uniquely anti-racist, as mine was, it's far more probable than not that you're blind to a racialized world that benefits you and oppresses others.

If the church is ever going to significantly manifest the beauty of God's diverse humanity, it's going to take place one life at a time. Reach out. Cross ethnic and culture lines. Watch how it challenges your paradigms, enriches your life, and expands your worldview.

At some point, you just might find that you truly begin to "get it."

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times and on The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues. This article was republished with permission from ReKnew

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44 Responses

  1. Barbara Rood says:

    My experience of beginning to "get it" comes through my adopted Korean son. He doesn't talk much about it, but what he does say completely floors me. Misjudgments, limited opportunities, and stupid statements people make. He is bright, articulate, socially engaging, with a dimpled grin. But he clearly is not white, and it has made a difference in his world compared to his Scandinavian father's. Perhaps his adeptness at navigating social and business environments has come through an ever-careful observation of how others respond to him compared to "regular" white people. I am very thankful that my son's experiences have helped me see my world more clearly. White privilege is real!

    • Beth Foreman says:

      Thank you Barbara. We are white grandparents raising a multi-cultural grandson. We have had on a number of occasions had pretty rude comments , actually racist comments, directed at us and at our grandson (he's 10 now). I can deal with the overtness much better than the "silent" stares and assumptions. Or the statements about how "good we are to raise him" when the real meaning behind it seems to me to often be about his color. We have yet to have the "talk" but know we can't put it off for too much longer. I never had to worry in the same way about my white sons safety. I think I am "getting it" everyday, then learn another way that I really haven't "gotten it" yet.

    • Sharon L says:

      Good for you and your son to have that awareness and the ability to validate his experiences!! I have Korean born children too, but i am a 4th generation American of Korean descent. My son likes to go in public with just me sometimes so he can be "normal." He gets stares and questions when he goes out with his French/Irish/Polish dad. My husband also became a lot more aware when our kids came along, and he was pretty aware already.

      Many white adoptive parents don't get it and believe their child is "just American" now and they don't need to worry about race. Then they wonder why their child becomes estranged from them as they become adults. If we talked about our experiences that is all we'd talk about for quite some time! We learn to stuff things away and, as we navigate the white world, internalize whiteness and lose our true selves. We "act white" and subconsciously acquire self-loathing. I had four generations of that and then discovered being Korean (big identity crisis!) when I started to teach my children about their homeland and all things Korean. I learned more than they did, they already loved Korea and being Korean.

  2. I have been married to a black man for going on two decades now and I had NO idea what I was signing up for. There is literally not a single part of our lives that has not been touched by racism. There have been jobs lost, the mental health issues that are inevitable when you spend day after day working with people who are openly hostile towards you, the inability to get fair loans, the legal issues, housing discrimination. Just on and on. And there's really just nothing you can do that won't consume all of your time or make things worse.

    It really reminds me of the headmistress character in the children's book/movie Matilda. She engaged in outrageous abuse of the students and one of the new children, after seeing her fling a small girl around by her pigtails, asks why the parents don't stop her. The problem, Matilda points out, is that the headmistress's behavior is so outrageous that they would simply accuse any child who reported it of lying. Or at least wildly exaggerating. Should any child succeed in convincing their parent of what happened, the headmistress would explain that the child had simply misunderstood a joke and took something quite innocent too seriously, the way children sometimes do. I think this is a pretty accurate description of what has been happening to our minority neighbors. Except they aren't children and dismissing them as if they were dishonest, overly dramatic and petulant children is incredibly noxious and offensive. (I have come to have deep respect for the levels of restraint people of color regularly display in the face of insults. I know it's hard won, but I don't think I could do it.)

    At any rate, I think that one of the easiest ways for white people to help is to simply refuse to accept excuses for anything that has any possible whiff of potential racism. People aren't mind readers. It is not unreasonable to expect that non-racists would go out of their way not to look, sound and think like actual racists so that people can easily tell the difference between the racist and the non-racist. If someone inadvertently appears racist, it's really their responsibility to fix their error.

    The problem is that while we want to be non-racist, we don't really understand how racism works and what it's actual effects are. We refuse to accept the idea that skin color determines worth, but pretty quickly we start running into things that we view as realistic or justified, like the assumption of black male criminality. At which point, the only way forward that isn't going to take you right back into the fevered swamps of racism is to assume that there's an explanation for what is going on that you don't know yet, because any answer that leads to a globalised fear of black males must be wrong. And it is.

    I have walked this path myself as a white woman, raised in an almost completely white world. It is not easy. In fact, it was shockingly and irrationally painful to realize that when it came to race, it really was as bad as my husband said. And that there was no rational explanation for it except racism. I, like a lot of white people, was in total denial. As painful as coming out of denial is, on the other side, it's much better. Racism is going to happen and harm people whether you recognize it or not. At least when you can see it, you can be part of the solution. And it does open up doors for real relationships with people unlike yourself. But I really do feel like the question every white person needs to be asking themselves is whether they want to end racism or if all they really want is to just not have to listen to people complain about racism.

  3. Linda Martindale says:

    Thank you so much for this … it speaks to some of what we face as a South African Church — and we have a long way to go .. but the first step is 'getting it' or starting to, as you say, and listening to other people's stories in relationship is what changes us … and shows a different way. Thank you!

  4. Jim says:

    Looking at the title, "Why whites have trouble getting it". And looking at the author's photo (he appears to be white). I am inclined to think he is also including himself, since the title is all inclusive.

    I think I could boldly say that the following link is probably not totally accurate.

    But it gives food for thought. Certainly it is true that the USA does not have a corner on the racism market. And certainly racism does not go one way.

    The problem is deeper than the skin. Way deeper.

    Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God's forgiveness far less.

  5. K.D. Wilson says:

    Beautifully written. I am glad that more people in Christ are thinking of racism as a system, for this is the most effective way to begin work for a more just church and more just society.

  6. Tracy says:

    This reminds me very much of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.
    Honestly, now I try to read everything I can about race in America because NOW I know that I really don't know! I love your thought about making sure you have non-white friends.

  7. Jeanette says:

    Thank you!

    I'm a mixed-race woman. I do not pass as white and have experienced first hand over and subtle racism. My white husband had become a strong ally through listening to my and other's stories and experiencing empathy for the walls we face that he doesn't. It amazes me that other white males who have known me nearly my entire life (an uncle chime to mind)still argues that my experiences with racism are justified.

    One example comes to mind. I was sixteen and grocery doing with my white mother and Mexican-American father. The clerk who talked with my mother while ringing us out panicked when my gather and I began to wheel the groceries away. She said, "Ma'am, those people are stealing your groceries." My mom told her we were family and she came outside to apologize to my dad (which I didn't know until I was sharing later). I spent most of my childhood wishing I looked like my mother, the most beautiful woman in the world, with her blonde hair and blue eyes. Barbie was my favorite toy. This impacted me, stuck with me. It was proof that I don't look like her. When I shared this, my uncle suggested that the clerks actions were justified because, "people do steal groceries."

    Instead of listening, he resisted confronting his narrow experiences of the works and has grown cantankerous in his attempts to dialogue since. I keep trying because I know it's the only way. Aside from his now-dead Africsn immigrant friend, my family are possibly the only non-white people he speaks with. So, I'll add to your suggestion: make friends with people of color, not just person of color. My experiences are not universal Latina experiences. I've had privileges through my highly educated parents that many have not. Seek a variety of friends with whom you can dialogue with and if sometime is sharing an experience with racism, listen with compassion and say, "I am listening to you," before launching into any "but, …"

  8. Traci Buse says:

    Yes. 1000 times yes. BUT. The question I am wrestling with is can we, as white faith leaders who "get it", lessen the burden for our non-white brothers and sisters? And if so, how? In my experience, the faith communities that don't "get it" also aren't prepared to authentically listen to the story of the minority in our country. Is it fair to expect our non-white brothers and sisters to bear the burden and engage in yet another relationship where they are expected to explain and educate in an environment of denial? (These are real questions. Not hypothetical. I'm actually looking for real answers.)

    I am 100% for relationship and have experienced that to be the only way that true understanding and healing can occur. I am not disagreeing with these ideas at all. I am only wondering if there is a way for us as white allies to till the soil so the seeds that are planted in relationship have room to grow.

    Thank you for the hard and necessary work you do. Also, can I listen in on your task force sometime? Pretty please.

    Traci Buse
    Blue Oaks Church
    Brooklyn Center MN

    • henry says:

      The how is simple… begin to include clergy of color in ministry, families of color socially, friends of color personally. Your people are following not your words… but your example.

  9. Valerie C. Cooper says:

    I could not disagree more with what you have written. I think that the reason why so many whites believe that racism is over in this country is because they keep trying to define racism in a way that excludes themselves and most, if not all, of the whites they know.

    Racism isn't just burning a cross on my lawn while wearing a white sheet. If you think you're better than me because you're white and I'm black, then you are a racist, no matter how politely you greet me. (White Supremacy is simply the belief that white people are superior to black people.) If you are unable to discuss issues of race because they "just make you uncomfortable" then you are continuing and perpetuating 500 years of racial oppression in this nation, which cannot end until we address it. (White privilege is the unearned benefit of whiteness that allows whites to ignore race, since it almost always works in their favor.)

    Dealing with your own racism is the work of a lifetime, which means that it is best to get started working on it as soon as possible. Here's a good place to start: let's stop lying to ourselves about how free we are from racism. As a nation, we're swimming in it. Let's stop pretending we aren't wet.

  10. Art says:

    Many words and yet I don't get the point; or maybe you still don't? Only once do you mention cross cultural and that I believe is what this entire article should've revolved around. The issue for the vast amount of the time is not racism at all, but rather ethnocentrism. I don't object to Hip Hop because it is so called music, I object because it is so culturally foreign to me I have no grounds for even calling it music. Whether Eminem does rap, or anybody else for that matter, still does not make it music in my mind. Again, it has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with a culture I rate as hopelessly lacking and therein lies the rub. I reject that culture and people cry racism. Non sequitor! It is not the color I reject; it is an offensive noise which that culture finds delightful and yet I can't stomach. Now help me understand how we can better relate, when church involves rap and Hip hop? I'm not relating, I'm running away to my comfort zone.

    • CC says:

      Dude,culture is dynamic.Every generation in every century witness a certain change in fashion,music,arts and other social expectation.Hip-Hop originated as an underground urban movement in South Bronx in New York City "USA" in the 70s,Since then,it has also evolved into different versions(interestingly,it can be mixed with so called white country music to produce a wonderful music).Hip-Hop is actually a mixed culture type of music.By the way,not every hip hop artist uses offensive word.Just like not every white man is a racist.From where i am coming from,we have over 200 ethnic groups and cultures in one country with hundreds of different types of music.Diversity should be celebrated as strength and not rejected.I suggest you start learning how to appreciate and embrace others culture and their sound of music instead of hiding behind your comfort zone as a first step to stop racism.It is obvious that you have already concluded that your type of music(which i find some very repulsive,but still embrace some without judging anybody) is more superior than others when you have no clue about their music culture.A supremacist ideology.

    • Wynton says:

      The culture of rap and hip hop is not the culture of black people. Same as if you don't agree with the "culture" of rock and roll. Your prerogative. It's a genre of music. That's all. It's a lifestyle for some. That's all. When you think about race, don't look for the first negative you can find. We all know about rap and Chicago. Try, like the author says, to find good relationships with people of color. There is an overwhelming amount of us who are decent, hardworking people, just like all of you all.

  11. Linda says:

    I don't get this article. It seems to imply some should give special consideration to some based on race. I associate with people based on character not color or pity. Are they honest kind motivated etc. I would so love for race to become a non-issue. God looks on heart. I believe we should too.

  12. Nick says:

    Hm. Respectfully, I'm not sure I agree entirely with this article. #1 what you've described is socially inequality. Not racism. Racism is the belief that a race of people are inferior to another race, which you debunked in your own article. But let's talk about what you meant: Social inequality.

    In reference to the pyramid; what do you perceive as being at the bottom center? The black/minority communities? Why? Because they live in non-reputable neighborhoods growing up? I get minorities growing up in that environment, I don't even like to work down there bc there's always someone getting shot or people stealing our equipment. That equipment is also used to build homes for them that they live in for a fraction of real market values. I certainly never got that "privilege" and never will. My parents both worked at a pizza store to pay for renting our very tiny home. So if anyone has, at least an opportunity for, privilege in finances it is the parents in the minority community.

    So the kids grow up with dad or boyfriend beating mom? Thats certainly a shame. I've had many friends, white or otherwise, who's boyfriends started beating them. Guess what? They broke up with them. And got restraining orders in a lot of cases. It's the parents who choose to have a baby with a terrible partner. It's the parents who choose, and stay with, creepos after a child's father/mother is no longer in the child's life. It's the parents who don't discourage certain behaviors. It's the PARENTS who let their children start at the bottom. Not because they don't have any "privilege", but because the parents choose to let their children fail (in many cases) by their parenting and by their poor choices in adulthood.

    Of course there will always be a pyramid. That's the way a free economy works. At some point, though, ADULTS need to start cultivating their family's future. Look at all the farmers who own fertile land now. That didn't happen in one person's lifetime. Every generation of that family became a little better, a little wealthier, because every generation chose to leave something for those that come after. Parents in the minority communities need to make the same choice. Cultivate your children, your family, your family's future. Their minds are a blank slate when they're born. PUT GOOD THINGS INTO IT. You are the parent. If you do your job right, you will ALWAYS be more of an influence than the rest of the world. Don't sew seeds of self pity and discouragement, sew seeds of confidence and ambition.
    My family name is a living success story of cultivating your family's future. Every generation has sewed good seeds until, finally, my father gained enough wisdom and ambition to become somewhat successful. My father who grew up as poor, or poorer, than any minority today. There was no government assistance. There was only struggle. There were times they didn't even have a place to sleep.
    So when you say "white privilege" not only do I tend to disagree with you, I take it as an insult to the blood, pools of sweat, and many…many tears my family has had to sacrifice to get where we are. We've never wallowed in pity of our situation. We've been groomed from childhood to seek a way out and we finally made it. That is the American dream, and I know my father's fathers father's father is overwhelmed with joy of his part in our success. And truthfully, we've only just made it to upper-middle class. No college in any generation. No handouts. No passing blame. Just great parenting for many generations and living in the land of opportunity. So no, I don't believe in this "racism" you speak of.

    A man with many minority friends

    • Crystal says:

      This is a reaction I expect a lot of white people to have. Of course there are whites who have struggled and worked hard for everything that they have. The problem is that those hard-working whites are unaware that others, who worked equally hard, were denied the opportunity to benefit from their hard work. Black farmers were routinely denied the government loans that white farmers used to build their farms. Black borrowers are routinely denied the loans and interest rates that white borrowers receive for purchasing homes (several banks recently paid huge settlements when this was proven). When you speak of the "many generations… of opportunity" it takes to build up a family, you are absolutely correct. I am 34 years old and my parents are the first generation of my family that wasn't born on a Southern plantation. All of my grandparents were sharecroppers' children, and picked cotton and tobacco on Southern plantations owned by whites. That means that my family has had only 2 generations of the "opportunity" you speak of.

      The author is correct when he points out that race as an influence on someone's life is a variable that A) exists, and that B) white people don't have to deal with. That is not to say that life for whites is easy. There are any number of things that we all confront. BUT, when you are not white, you confront all of those things PLUS race. That's the point. You and I walk into a bank with the same employment and credit history… we don't get the same loan. And then you assume that I must have had something off in my credit history, and advise me (based on that assumption) to make better financial choices in the future. This is the problem. You are assuming that when a black woman and a white man apply for the same job with the same resume', they have equal odds of getting that job. This is another assumption that has been proven by studies to be false. All things being equal, having black skin changes the way that people react to you. Your refusing to see this is why the author wrote the article.

    • A women with many minority friends too says:

      Amen, well said. It's all the "we must all be the same" attitude that has led to all the divisions. We are ALL different, praise God. We should all TRY, or better yet make the conscious decision to "get along". The foolish notion to have everyone to BE WITH each other because of a nationality or color is pure non-sense! How phony! Although Christ loved everyone, many did not and still do not love or acknowledge Him, yet he still loves them, as should we. We are all unique in our culture, thoughts and lives. I am very tired of the term Black, White, European, Indian, Hispanic, Asian PRIVILEDGE of any kind. Not one of us has it better than the rest. WE ALL STRUGGLE, it's called SIN. No one is better than the next, but we can kinder alongside one another when we have the LOVE of CHRIST residing in us. Stop the pity party – as it's been said "Self-pity blames others, feeds on the assumption that they have it worse, gets angry when they don't get what they want, shares problems without the readiness for a resolution, refuse advice to change and are incentive to others". I was raised that we only get respect when we offer it to others, we gain integrity when we have some ourselves. BE the CHANGE you wish to see. As the Bible never said we have to have one of each color in our "friendship circle" – it only says to LOVE one another, as Christ loved the church and gave HIMSELF for it by His death on the cross.

  13. Tim says:

    Interesting blog. As you can tell from the website I posted, I am a Unitarian Universalist, I am also an atheist too. No, not because I don't believe in God, but because Christianity is a racist religion. How so? I grew up in a Japanese American Christian church, and unlike most churches, we did something that most white Christian churches don't do and that is hold everybody accountable from a cultural aspect. You see, unlike your traditional church where a person who commits a sin (Jimmy Swaggart), you ask God for forgiveness, you are, more or less forgiven by the congregation. In the Japanese American churches, people may say we will support you or God has forgiven you, OTOH, the familial bond (kazoku in Japanese) is broken. You see, not only does the "sin" you commit affect only you, but the whole family.

    With that belief, Church was more than just a gathering of believers but a gathering of family. We held each other accountable and we never thought of ourselves but the collective. It was so strong that a member's relative was convicted of a violent crime and the shame of the relative's action led the family to depart from the church. That is how powerful the relationship was. So why did I leave the family and attend a U.U. church?

    After Former President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, apologizing to more than 60,000 Japanese Americans and gave $20,000 to each victims who were thrown into the concentration camps, the white members of the denomination justified the internment because they did not know they could trust my people…

    Psalms 23 vs. 4 anyone?

    Their lack of faith in God led to the violation of rights of fellow U.S. citizens and liberal Judge Earl Warren (who decided over Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), and Miranda v. Arizona (1966)) saying "a Jap is a Jap", that I decided that I wanted nothing to do with Christianity ever again.

    Now, I am NOT saying U.U.s are perfect, but the difference is, our headquarters encourages us to do something and we are. We do have issues, especially putting up Black Lives Matters banners, but we have the opportunity to guide our church in the direction where racial equity can be attained.

    If there were more people like you Greg, my path would have PROBABLY remained the same, but because my life was diverted from a Christ-centered life to a civil rights-centered path, I am where I am and will not diverge from it…ever again.

  14. pduggan says:

    Its not actually true that its more likely for black men to be in prison that college


  15. John says:

    I don't care what color people are, we are all pink underneath the skin. To "judge" a person by skin color is dumb. (A great Star Trek episode brought that out. People were half white/half black and were fighting based upon what color was on which side.). It seems to me a problem for many blacks is they see themselves first as black. Then they can use "racism" as an excuse for problems/lack of success. Cheering when O.J. was found not guilty is a "black first" example. Dr. King said it best, "content of character, not color of skin". Sadly, there are race baters who benefit from keeping blacks discontent (Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton). When will blacks ever be "happy" that they are not held back? When we get a black president? A black friend in college said it well when I asked him did he prefer "black or Afro-American"? (At that time). He said, "Larry". By the way, I do not believe in affirmative action because I do not believe blacks are inferior. Just some thoughts, John (Larry's friend)

  16. Frank says:

    It makes me so very sad to read this. My wife and I recently left our church that beat a constant drum of white guilt.

    The evolution of this narrative has moved from accusing people of unspoken racism to accusing them of being unconsciously racist. Of course, as usual, no evidence to this position has been given, only assurance that it is a fact. When the proponents of this narrative fail, they widen the net and use terms like "institutional racism" to account for lack of quantifiable evidence. With all due respect, Mr. Boyd, you do not know what is in my head or heart, nor can you lay claim to knowing the same of our collective society.

    I feel the need bring out a parental cadence when I say this, but the world is not out to get you if you are not classified as a white male between the ages of 21-34. Most of my supervisors are female (and always have been). My direct supervisor is black. Am I a victim of institutional racism because I am not on top of the food chain? Was I victimized by a construct of racism? Of course not, they just work harder. People are far too quick these days to assume the role of a victim and blame everyone else for a particular, or in many cases the lack of a particular response. Give me any argument for "racism" and I can give you 20 other reasons for the same outcome. Perhaps it was how you dressed, how you spoke, being over or under qualified.

    People, it's time to pull up those boot straps and take some accountability for your life, both when things go well and when they do not. The world is not out to get you, but it is competitive. We need less blame, less projection, and more people who can step up to the challenges of life without picking up their toys to go home.

    • MR says:

      I think this is the exact point that the author is trying to make. Most white people do not experience racism, whether blatant or systemic, so we assume that anyone who says they have are not telling the truth. Check out the following articles about housing discrimination. These were really eye opening to me. There are a lot of other examples, you can even read about some of them in the comments above. I think it is really really important to listen to the stories of those who say they are experiencing discrimination and do so without the assumption they are lying or being too sensitive. I read a great article the other day that was talking about why it is so difficult to "talk to white people about race." The article was explaining that we (white people) have been taught racism as a binary thing where you are either a white supremacist (racist) or you are not (not racist). This isn't really how racism plays out in the real world. The article explained that white people, who don't experience systemic racism simply don't know that it exists. They are like horses wearing blinders. They see clearly what is available to them, but they are unable to see the things that are blocked from them, and therefore simply don't know about it. To me this says, if we are really not racist, we need to be open minded and listen to the voices of our non-white brothers and sisters. If we aren't racist we need to listen with love and HUMILITY and not assume we have all the answers. 🙂



  17. Ted Zeiter says:

    This article was recommended by a friend. After reading it I had to reread because it was nothing more than a watered down version of the mantra of BLM. Seriously we all have encountered "walls". This white privilege song just reinforces the attitude in the Black community that it never was or probably never will be fair and consequently they will always need more government enforced laws to make up. Every ethnic group has encountered discrimination some for many centuries. More whites have been enslaved in the history of mankind than blacks. My point is this is not a unique experience for Blacks. It's a human experience. The fact is it happens to be closer to us in history but it is not unique in any sense of the word. I cannot nor ever will know what it is like to be Black, handicapped, disfigured any so called "negative" experiences (though being black shouldn't be viewed as negative but this article throws it in as if it is). Mr. Boyd assumes white males don't struggle, experience discrimination, have just as many issues as blacks. That some how it's different because of their skin color. That pain is more pain because he/she is black. That having a mentally/physically challenged child is somehow not as bad as if your a white boy. Sorta like "hate crime". Somehow if my dad is robbed or shot because he's black it's worse than my neighbor who is white and killed. We distort the phrase "justice is blind" because we know apply more of a crime for motive. This and so much more is why so many blacks continue to wallow in their fates. This article coming from a Christian is so sad.

  18. Brenda Lett says:

    Interesting thoughts, John. I agree with you on "we are all pink underneath the skin." The rest of your comments not so much. You mentioned quite a bit about so-called Black people. But if you believe that we are all pink underneath the skin, why keep referring to people as a color? We are just people, not black or white. Actually, we only still refer to Black and white people. There is no national/media reference to Brown, Red or Yellow people. Why oh why are there still black and white people???

  19. Geoff says:

    Hi — good blog, thanks, and something we all need to hear. A question, though — are whites the only ones who need to "get it" in order for us all to move forward? Is there any aspect to the issue that blacks need to "get" — where their perception might be inadequate or unrealistic? I'm not suggesting that this might be a 50/50 split in terms of who needs to "get" it — likely more like 80/20 or 90/10. But I ask because I think progress will likely need to come from all sides, and for sure, a big problem for many whites is that they look at some of the issues of race in our society and say, "Well, seems to me some of this comes from pathologies within the black community as well as from pathologies within white society." And, for sure — this can be an excuse. But is it totally false?

    • Carol says:

      I think your question is a thought provoking one. I think there are issues that blacks need to get. One of them being the way we have internalised racism, primarily because of the history of slavery and oppression. We need to move forward and shake off the shackles of a history that has kept us bound. I believe that the blood of Jesus can help us to do so if we are prepared to come openly and with humility before the Lord. It may be painful to critically look at our history and to see how that has shaped our attitudes and behaviour and relearn ways of being and doing – transformation always involves pain.

  20. Taking action to address our own racism, the racism of other whites, and the racism embedded in our institutions — e.g., get educated and act.

    • Antonie de Vry says:

      What all those saintly people, those that are constantly screaming racism or white privilege …..(well not all the time really because they have fainting spells in between) are unwilling to see, is that racism is not a whites only issue. If you claim that it is a whites-only issue you do not understand humanity, why there are wars, clans, tribes, and oppression. It is a universal thing…….You angelic and saintly deities, are so blinded by the poorly constructed, postmodern cultural Marxist upbringing which dominates schools and universities today, that you are completely blinded by the fact that you, yes you can also be evil in the right or wrong circumstances. Amen and shame on you for being so blind.

  21. Thank you, Pastor Boyd, for an interesting article that has elicited some thoughtful responses. Some of the tension I'm seeing here is macro and micro. We all have anecdotes about black and white personal friends, personal stories of overcoming the odds through working harder and smarter, experiences of blatant or "micro-aggression" racism, experiences of being a minority but nevertheless "beating the odds," whether perceived or real.

    These all add up to what we think are macro realities and the facts that may or may not support our positions and emotions that often follow. Facts and statistics always swim against the current of our personal experiences, and that's fair and just the way it is. Whether more white males are killed by police is irrelevant stacked against the personal reality of DWB (which I have experienced). In this instance, truth/stats can be the basis for a coalition of men of both races who are involved in lethal encounters with law enforcement–just a thought.

    "Reconciliation blues" is a term I first heard at a meeting earlier this year. It's the treadmill of white guilt and blacks waiting for that guilt to morph into something tangible (reparations/investments/power-sharing/conceding, etc.). Besides, the streets cannot and have not waited for us to experience others' pain or inventory privilege. The problem may be that we are trying to make a short-cut to socio-economic solutions without spending sufficient time at the altar to reconcile with Him. When I don't (personal anecdote), nothing eternal gets done for me and those around me.

    The best we can hope for is to hold things loosely (book of Acts) and be ready to share and to prepare to share while being intentional about having real relationships along the way. It's when "them" becomes "us" — then we'll move forward.

  22. Mark Ferrin says:

    Good article and responses. I believe racism still exists, and when I begin to think it does not, I just talk to some of my African-American friends, or listen to Representative John Lewis, whom I had the honor of meeting once. Some folks who I listen to, who don't think racism exists, like it may just be cultural or ??, had similar rationalizations during slavery and segregation. I'm looking for a BLM rally this weekend, but since I'm from New Hampshire, I may have to go back to Vermont find another one.

  23. MAC says:

    I don't believe racism exists; I know it does. Who is to blame? Well, the Scriptures teach us that none of us is deserving yet in Christ He has lavished His grace over us! That much I can reconcile.

    However, congregations lost all relevance to me to the point I no longer attend any church. Why should I, when the same things I find "out there" are the same things I have to face in the church? I was sadly mistaken when I thought I would find a little bit of God's kingdom in the church, the kingdom of Him who is no respecter of persons but judges everyone equally. I was also mistaken when I thought I was part of a community, and that my brothers and sisters in Christ would stand for me at work or society when they saw the injustices and discrimination I faced constantly. No, I learned that they are my brothers "at church", but at work they are only there to collect a paycheck and my struggles where none of their concern, although once in a while a brave one would wish me "grace and peace".

    Finally, I found my faith and hope in a better world –a new heaven and new earth– attacked from the pulpit if I didn't endorse political figures that stood for everything that I found was oppressing me daily. I discovered that some things are not as "black and white" as they appeared to be, and I, in good conscience, could not look at just two issues while turning a blind eye to a dozen different but equally important ones.

    Then I discovered something: God truly loves me, but quite many enlightened ones who claim to know Him and follow Him and even speak on His behalf apparently don't love me at all. I even asked a co-worker who was studying to become a minister that simple question "Do you love me in Christ?", and he coulndn't answer the question! I remembered Paul's writings in 1 Chorinthians that if I have all the knowledge, all the gifts, etc. but have no love, I am nothing. I also remembered 1 John when he writes that anyone who claims to love God, whom he has never seen, but cannot love his brother, whom he has seen, is not telling the truth.

    I have had this conversation about cross-multi-culturalism with various church leaders for over 10-15 years now. Every single one of them have stated that: 1) they acknowledge the problem, 2) they are convinced that God is grieved by this condition in the church, and 3) they want to change and cause change in their congregations. Then they go and live their lives the same way, always talking about the issue but never actually doing anything of substance about it. They just talk, and talk, and talk, perhaps hoping it will go away on its own. And every four years they'll rave about how their candidate of choice is God's will revealed to our nation, and they'll find ways to justify and rationalize why such candidate somehow portrays Christ's character. It never fails.

    God is merciful, and can forgive any sin they say (and I believe it too). The only two areas where many of them will not be too flexible (regardless of God's say in the matter) are politics, and money. You strike out on those two and you're out.

    This is just my opinion, and I hope that I am wrong. There certainly has to be a remnant that lives out the gospel in such a way that everyone can see they are truly His disciples because of the love they have for one another. Sadly, I have not found them. And I stand myself in need since I don't know how to live that which I have never seen modeled in order to learn from it.

    My hope is that God somehow leads me. My family and I still very much study the Scriptures, pray, and ask God to help us forgive those who wrong us, to love them, and should we ever see them in need of our help, not to turn away from them or rejoice when we see them fall. However, it's gotten quite difficult lately… unless He holds us steady in His Hands and cut these days short, I can't see myself with enough strength to hold on.

    I meant no disrespect to anyone here; my apologies if this came out the wrong way.

    • Brenda Lett says:

      Greetings Mac, it did not come out the wrong way. It was beautifully expressed. Everything is in perfect order, none of this is catching God in an unprepared state. We praise God for all of it! His plan, his time. We are merely human beings going through lessons to gain some understanding. As we gain understanding we experience growth and development and get just a little closer to what God has placed on each of hearts to do with our lives. Truly To God Be The Glory!

    • Carol says:

      God bless you Mac. As a minister and academic who is from the UK and from a Jamaican heritage I have had to deal with similar issues. I can honestly say keep on looking to God and constantly pray. We are fallible human beings and I have come to understand that racial divisions and any other oppression comes from the demonic realm. I believe if we as Kingdom minded individuals see the true source of hatred and oppression and address it from the spirit realm first and be led by God to address these sytemic issues in the social, economic and political arenas. God bless you my brother. God may well be calling you to throw down the gauntlet???

  24. Here's something to keep in mind about privilege and the legacy of historic inequality. From the "20 and odd negroes" arriving at Jamestown in 1619 to the 13th Amendment in 1865, it was legal for African Americans to be owned. That means that any law enforcement official had to defend a person's right to enslave, because it was the law. Also from 1865 to 1965, it was legal for African Americans to be subjected to poll taxes, grandfather clauses, balconies of the movie theaters that would let them in at all, the backs of buses, standing while people sat and ate in restaurants, waiting until all "white" customers were served at a business first, and exclusion from public libraries and public schools and public pools and public parks. And law enforcement officers of the era had to defend these policies, because people had a right to implement them. The FBI and "Sovereignty Commissions" across the South spied on people who dared to say these policies–however legal–were wrong.
    So it's only been 51 years since legally codified discrimination by skin color has ended. If you can accept the fact that 346 years (246 of slavery and 100 of segregation) cannot be undone in one-seventh the time, then you may start to get why African Americans may see the law , the police, and society in general differently than European Americans.
    Also, Minnesota benefited from these things. Wealth from southern slaveholders built communities like northern St. Cloud, the Payne-Phalen neighborhood in St. Paul, the towns of Louisville, Nininger, and St. Peter; and it helped keep the U of M afloat.

  25. Liam Decker says:

    Here is what the mighty Steve Biko wrote, and why we whites on South Africa DO GET IT! ….
    It was the missionaries who confused our people with their new religion. By some strange logic, they argued that theirs was a scientific religion and ours was mere superstition in spite of the biological discrepancies so obvious in the basis of their religion. They further went on to preach a theology of the existence of hell, scaring our fathers and mothers with stories about burning in eternal flames and gnashing of teeth and grinding of bone. This cold cruel religion was strange to us but our fore-fathers were sufficiently scared of the unknown impending anger to believe that it was worth a try.

  26. Phyllis says:

    You still don't get it, you state "This isn't surprising, really, since America was founded (conquered) by Anglo-Europeans, and it has from the start been structured to their advantage. This is what is commonly known as white privilege." First America was not conquered because the American Indians were in their Native land and had no grievance with people they did not know exist so there was no conquering to be done. Conquering implies that a wrong had to righted. The fact is that Anglo Europeans committed genocide against a whole race of people for no other reason that to steal possession of their land. The American Indians were fighting for what was rightfully theirs, but made the bad guys throughout history because white people twisted truth. And that is the path they have take every since and refuse to admit that they are the bad guys and through numbers and twisting facts they keep control of what they stole and any race even, their own must fall in line to white first ideology to keep the power they have.

    • Antonie de Vry says:

      You really need to study history. American Indians conquered, enslaved and stole from each other continuously displacing entire villages and tribes at times…..long before any Europeans arrived there…….in fact it was a universal thing worldwide…….conquer and displace…..not a uniquely white idea.

  1. March 20, 2016

    […] via Racism: Why Whites Have Trouble "Getting It" – Evangelicals for Social Action. […]

  2. February 11, 2017

    […] Racism: Why Whites Have Trouble "Getting It" – Evangelicals for Social Action […]

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