Racism, and why God's not an idiot
Racism is an insidious evil. It's born of experience, then nurtured by undereducation, insecurity and isolation. It can infiltrate any society and metastasise without the existence of a single racist. Like everything else in this mundane existence, racism begins with belief (thought). Racism isn't related to classism, nor is it dependent on station in life. Racism flourishes in the hearts and minds of 'poor white trash' as successfully as it does anywhere else.
It's the white man who brought racism to tribalist/classist Africa where, previously, Darwinian rules of survival had been decisive. Muslim slavers (around from the 9th century) bartered goods with West African tribes for slaves in a peaceful exchange. As the Qu'ran teaches slavery is an exceptional condition (permitted only in limited circumstances); slaves are human; and manumission a meritorious deed, the Muslim slave trade featured neither violence nor racism.
When the white man arrived in Africa, many tribalists, not having seen one before, didn't believe he was human. There'd been no prior opportunity to learn racism by experience. The white man corrupted hundreds of Africans into acting as slavers' agents, resulting in the displacement or death of thousands of proud African tribalists. Those who survived were rewarded by being sold into the most savage slavery all over the Western Hemisphere.
Slavery taught the white man that no matter how low his origin, his redemption was that he was better than the black man. He had no other education, so although he received 50 per cent of the formula for wisdom (experience), he was denied the other 50 per cent (knowledge). The experience of slavery taught both races that white man was superior to black man. The white man, knowing nothing else, believed what he was taught. The Africans, who knew better, did not. The result was the most vicious racism known to world history as the tension between white man's experience and Africans' knowledge never abated.
The white men who terrorised and dehumanised slaves for 400 years would never accept the label 'racist'. They were simply acting on the belief taught to them by experience, with plenty aiding and abetting from the Bible. The Bible is careful to emphasise that God is the God of all (Romans 10:12), the better, no doubt, to widen the collection net. We're also taught not to show partiality (e.g., James 2:9) but:
"As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent." (Nehemiah 13:3). Jesus Himself repeatedly asserted he was sent "ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (e.g., Matthew 10:5-6; and 25:22-28). The Bible rails against intermarriage (e.g., Nehemiah 13: 22-30) and is relentless in its support of slavery (e.g., Leviticus 25:44-46), although making special rules for the "lost children".
While encouraging slavery, the Bible found space to seal the deal for its white, male authors, editors and compilers by championing gender discrimination:
"7. When a man sells his daughter as a maidservant (slave), she won't be freed at the end of six years as would a manservant.
8. If she doesn't please her owner, who hath betrothed her to himself, he may allow her to be bought back (redeemed). But he hath no power to sell her to foreigners, since he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9. If her owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but must treat her as his daughter. (Exodus 21:7-9)"
Welcome to family and community values, biblical styleeeee! What's an undereducated, insecure, unexposed white man to think? He's not racist. He treats his slaves according to the content of HIS character, not the colour of THEIR skin. Even after slavery is abolished against his better judgement, he implements the Church's teaching regarding segregation and superiority sincerely and without ill-will.
It's not HIS fault some misguided white miscreants treat blacks violently. It's not HIS fault some misguided white men beat their wives with too big a stick. He scorns them in the same way he would despise persons who mistreat animals. But, one thing he KNOWS is that blacks are NOT entitled to be treated as if they were white and women are NOT entitled to be treated as if they were men.
You see, the act of dehumanising dehumanises both perpetrator AND victim. This is how racism (or gender bias) controls society without society seeing it coming. Its tentacles are invisible or camouflaged by misguided faith or hidden by limited education. Racism flourishes without racists in nations that aren't taught how to exorcise it. For example, in the USA, every required application form includes a query about 'race'. Why?
USA has many cute, politically correct ways of categorising humans by race, including African-American; Italian-American; Irish-American; Asian-American; and so on ad nauseam. But proof this is nothing more than blatant racism is the category 'Native American'. WHAT? Surely, if you're native, you're simply 'American'? Why no 'Caucasian American'?
Racism born of slavery has its own trickle-down principle also biblically inspired. Whites knew they're superior to blacks. Indian indentured servants who came across in only marginally more humane circumstances also knew they're superior to blacks because they were NOT slaves. Booklist, here's one for you. Have you read The World is What It is (2008) by Patrick French? You should. White racism didn't discriminate. Blacks were lowest on the totem pole, but all 'foreigners' were below whites, including Jews, Syrians, Irish, Italians, etc.
So, paleface descendants of slave masters mentally imprisoned by covert racism's subversive influence but none of whom are personally racist still subconsciously strive to recreate the past. They prefer socialising among themselves. They gather at snob-infested coffee shops, elitist outdoor sports (high tea included), or high-brow dinner parties to which occasional black guests are invited if they speak in 'suitable' tones, behave deferentially, or as curiosities.
Despite dwindling fortunes and although surrounded by abject poverty, they feign decadent, jet-set lifestyles. They pretend Europe's changing face is a hoax, and, blissfully unaware of the irony, blame irresponsible sexual practices by 'the poor' for overpopulation. Servants are still treated as invisible and forced to work unconscionable hours (including holidays) under inhumane conditions for scandalous wages. With apologies to Billy Shakespeare, slavery by any other name smells as stink.
Solutions to the problem
How can racism, overt or covert, and all other examples of man's inhumanity to man be eradicated? It's a simple solution but requires deep personal conviction and the impenetrable spiritual will to discard religious dogma. It begins with true belief that God isn't an idiot. Only an idiot would simultaneously hand out free will and commandments. Since God isn't an idiot, He obviously did no such thing. The so-called Ten Commandments are, in reality, terms of a divine covenant with God that, if honoured, will ensure the obliteration of every injustice, including racism.
Lawyers understand the concept of 'unilateral contract', whereby terms are set by one individual, then accepted by another by performing the unilateral condition. So "if you run for three miles, I promise to pay you $100" is a unilateral contract that's binding on me when you complete the run.
What the Church calls 'Commandments' (the better to make us feel guilty enough to fill passing plates), but what God called a 'covenant', is really a unilateral contract offered by God. God's promise is, if we love the Lord with all our hearts/minds and love our neighbours as ourselves, then we'll live our lives a certain way (e.g., 'Thou shalt not kill'). God can make these promises (predictions) because He knows that living His preconditions will create personal values and attitudes that'll ensure the benefits He promised, by way of lifestyle choices, will become our way of life. The butterfly effect so created will cause every category of injustice to disappear.
All we need do is love the Lord unconditionally and our neighbour as ourselves. And the word is 'love', not 'worship'.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.