Current Events Identity Justice

Racism Alone?: Reflections on the Current National Divide

Carl Ellis

Thank God for the insights of Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. He’s one of our favorite contributors at RAAN because he treats controversial social issues with the sensitivity of a pastor and the incisiveness of a scholar. Now he gives us his insights about the range of reactions to deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and others.

In this post Dr. Ellis explains that differing views of racism and personal responsibility alone cannot account for the polarized responses to the fatalities of African Americans at the hands of White police officers. Culture eclipses both. Urban disciple-makers must address the “culture of dysfunctionality” in low income communities and beyond in order for biblical reconciliation to take place.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Ellis’ post:

When I heard the decision not to indict the killers of Eric Garner, my outraged response was, “here we go again!” If the Michael Brown case lacked moral clarity, the senseless tragedy of the Eric Garner case was much more clear. No matter what the circumstances were, here were two more African American men added to the list of senseless killings, arousing strong reactions nationally and internationally.

Some claim that these killings demonstrate the existence of racist structures that permeate our society. Others claim that these killings resulted from criminal behavior or “a lack of personal responsibility.” While both positions point to contributing factors, they both continue to ignore the elephant in the room, namely culture – a factor that dwarfs the previous two.

We have made astounding progress against racism thanks to the Civil Rights and Black Consciousness movements. Yet in the ’hood, conditions have not improved accordingly. Today, there is a growing culture of dysfunctionality eating away not just at the ‘hood, but at our larger society. It is often government funded through well meaning but mismanaged subsistence programs. It is having devastating effects across cultures, yet is felt most profoundly in the ’hood. It is a culture derived from the old “redneck” South – a culture nurtured by structures of oppression and one that wears down initiative and personal responsibility – whose value system elevates and encourages anti-achieverism, fatherlessness, dependency, helplessness, hopelessness, self-sabotaging/self-destructive behavior, fratricide, etc., and in extreme cases, nihilism.

What we are witnessing today is more a cultural divide than a racial one. I am by no means denying the reality of the remaining vestiges of racism; I am saying that racism by itself cannot fully account for the frustration of those who feel the sting of non-acceptance in, and hostility from, the larger society. This is because valued behavior in the culture of dysfunctionality is often devalued in the culture of functionality, and vice-versa.

A major dogma of today’s politically correct milieu is, “Value systems and cultures are equally valid; therefore, thou shalt not evaluate them lest ye become guilty of ‘blaming the victim.’” Thus, without the cultural factor, the entire problem of marginalization is attributed only to racism. This partly explains, perhaps, why the overwhelming majority of senseless Black on Black murders across the country do not arouse the same intensity of anger. It does not fit the narrative of ‘sola racisma’ (racism alone), leaving us with no adequate basis for rallying widespread outrage and protest.

Read the rest of the post here.

4 thoughts on “Racism Alone?: Reflections on the Current National Divide

  1. Carl Ellis

    You need to re-read and think about the post. I never denied other contributing factors to our current situation – factors such as racism or the prison-industrial-complex. If I understand their positions correctly, this is where I differ from Baucham and White. To reduce the current cultural crisis to any one point alone – be it racism or negative culture – is too facile an approach. The point was that the cultural crisis is an additional factor to other real issues, not the sole issue alone; discussing the third factor does not mean that I deny the first two. If I were simply repeating Baucham and White, this post would have been unnecessary.

  2. Salvatore Mazzotta

    This is basically what Voddie Baucham and James White both said; and they were lamb basted for it.

  3. Curt Day

    I believe that the discussion here on national divide needs to be opeend up a bit more. For while it predominantly looked on from the perspective of the Black Community, when we look at a larger picture that would include more and more communities, we see many forms of tribalism, some of which join racism and cultural values, to afflict the Black Community. Economic classism, national and lanbguage identities, political party and ideologies, as well as other divisions show that our nation is joining the whole world as falling prey to tribalism. And racism is just one form of tribalism.

    The above is not to minimze the problem of racism in our nation. It is merely to point out that people will use many different attributes to prove that they should be entitled above others to certain goods and positions in society.

  4. William F. Leonhart III

    This is very insightful. Thank you for this explanation. One thing I would take issue with, though, is the insinuation that those who quickly accepted the grand juries’ verdicts did so because they are have a “functional” culture. I can’t speak for every white person, but I come from a broken home and I haven been handed everything I have. I have had to fight for everything I have, and I am still living hand-to-mouth. I have never knowlingly received special treatment for being white, nor would I be obliged to accept special treatment for the color of my skin. I resent the notion that such is the case, because my family is very much in the throws of financial hardship, and we certainly were not granted the best models regarding “functionality.” I pray that we will one day see the day that all stereo-types, including the stereo-type that a well-dressed white man is necessarily “middle class” and comes from a “functional” family, are abandoned.

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