Americans are Racial Cowards

Here is a quote from Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the willingness of most Americans to enter into dialogue about race with others, particularly those of another race:

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

Furthermore, he says this: “the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.”

Please allow me to decode this: what he is saying is that people are willing to put up with racial differences when it is to their professional advantage to do so, such as in the workplace. But they are not willing to allow it to interfere with their personal lives. Perhaps even more troubling to me is the fact that he specifically mentions “the weekends,” which is when Christians gather for worship.

Could this be a veiled criticism of the church? I believe it is. Many have lamented the fact that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. The blame goes in both directions because both whites and blacks have different reasons for not worshiping together.

Many white churches fancy themselves a place where people of all races can come to freely worship. But they make few attempts to modify their styles to accommodate others.

Black churches do the same thing. But consider this: the workplace is still a predominately white environment in most cases. This means that African Americans still feel the pressure of being a minority in a white world and they learn to adapt themselves to their environment. But when they go home, or go to church, they may seek a community where it’s safe to be black.

The process of reconciling Christians of various races will be difficult because we’re not just talking about skin color. We’re talking about entire histories of peoples from various backgrounds. Different tastes, styles, preferences.

But when the first African American Attorney General calls Americans racial “cowards,” I think this is the time for the church to say, “not us; we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that there is no division in the body.”

I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before. (1 Corinthians 12:25)

  1. I think that diversity is often misclassified as racial desegregation. What makes many cultures different is not simply racial diversity. Listen to Voddie Baucham at the Desiring God Conference. He makes some great points regarding diversity. For instance, when seeking diversity, where are the people who are not like you going to come from. It’s easy for people in a city full of racial differences to look at an all white church and clamor for diversity. How wrong is it to look to rural America and demand it be as mixed culturally as urban society. I believe that both have a duty to reach out into areas that are uncomfortable and a bit of a stretch for them. But, I also believe it is a disservice to assume that it lacks diversity based solely on racial content. I have to say that I have never considered going to a “white” church. I actually believe that freedom of style of worship is one of things that makes this a great country. It seems to me that this is only an issue that seems to be addressed to “white” churches. You never hear of people looking at the “black” churches and crying “where are the white people?” Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is much room for growth in both areas. American’s are becoming racial cowards not because we are not trying to be diverse but because we still see race as a divisional factor. I cannot recall (unless subconsciously) considering race even one time in presentation of the gospel. If anything the only articulation I have ever made is based more on the age and gender.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Richard. Here’s a couple of responses.

    1. I agree with you that diversity can take many forms, not just racial. For example, rednecks and hipsters can worship together, because the tie that binds them together (Christ) is stronger than the cultural influences that would divide them (culture).

    2. My argument is that churches should reflect the diversity of their neighborhoods. City churches will be more diverse than rural ones racially, since cities tend to be more racially diverse. Rural churches have different diversity issues to deal with. But diversity is key, since the worth of an object is displayed by the diversity of its admirers.

    3. Freedom of style of worship is a great thing, and we should thank God for our religious freedom. But we too often use our personal freedom as a means of division and consumerism. Just because we are free to worship differently does not mean that we should therefore use that freedom to keep one another at arms length.

    4. You said that “You never hear of people looking at the ‘black’ churches and crying ‘where are the white people?'” Perhaps this is true, but you’re seeing this through the prism of whiteness. But we can’t use this to hide from our own responsibility. We should be willing to lay down our own lives in service to our Christian brothers and sisters in order to serve and love them rather than first making them promise to meet us halfway. God doesn’t place these conditions on us.


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