Racism Alone?: Reflections on the Current National Divide
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.