Pendulum Swings

A lot has happened in our country since the 1960’s in the area of racial justice. Many of these changes are salutary. And I wouldn’t want to claim that racial prejudice is completely a thing of the past. There are still those who seem to think that some races are inherently inferior to others. But if we really believe that all races come from Adam (and Noah!), and that all races are made in the image of God, and that all races are truly human, there can be no room for regarding one race as better or worse than another. So, many changes have been for the good of our nation. Segregation is much less common, and it has quite the social stigma attached to it.

However, as sometimes happens when a revolution occurs, the pendulum can swing too far. White people of today are sometimes held accountable for the sins of their fathers, sins which today’s generation may not be committing, but for which they are still being held accountable. A sense of entitlement can sometimes creep in, with the result being that, in order for reparation to be complete, we have to somehow “make it up to” African-American people. Instead of equal opportunity employment, for instance (which we should have), we have quotas for minorities (which I believe are racist in both directions). Take enrollment in colleges, for instance. If the standard for an SAT score is the standard by which any student should be admitted, that is an objective, non-racial-based standard (of course, there are many more criteria than this, but I use this for an example). No matter what race they come from, if they make that non-racial standard, they should be admitted. I can already hear the counter-argument: “African-Americans have been held back, and their test scores are not as good as white people. Therefore they need our help.” But does this argument not have a tacit assumption that one race is inferior to another? If a member of any race works hard, they can succeed in today’s world. That is the good thing that the civil rights movement has brought. But to say that any minority needs our help is to say that they cannot work hard enough to do it on their own. That is racist, in my opinion. And it also can prevent qualified white people from being admitted. Every college needs to have some standard of admittance. The standard needs to be fair and unprejudiced. SAT score are not prejudiced. People from any race can get good scores on SAT’s.

Regardless of any of this, why should white people of today be made to feel guilty about something that they haven’t done? I don’t believe I have ever been a racist. But I have been made to feel guilty about something I didn’t do, and not even my particular forbears did. Sometimes I am made to feel that I must be racist, because I am white. This, too, is racist.

What I am talking about now is racial discrimination in reverse, a pendulum swing. I have heard that the one thing that makes it really, really tough today to get a job is if you’re a middle-class white American male. A minority person may be chosen for the job over a middle-class white American male regardless of qualifications just so that the company can be seen to be an equal opportunity employer. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of non-qualified middle-class white American males, and plenty of qualified minority people. And I would not fault any company for hiring a minority person who is just as qualified as a white person. But what happens in a situation where a minority person might be less qualified than the white person? If companies are being made to feel that they are racist because they hired the more qualified white person, that is simply wrong. They are hiring on an objective standard: who is the most qualified for the job? This makes good business sense. They should take the most qualified person for the job, regardless of what race they are from. We need to make sure that we do not become racist in reverse.

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12 Comments

  1. James Vandenberg said,

    April 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    The pendulum has swung to the point that even saying that races exist as a category (or that different groups have different traits) is condemned as racist and possibly heretical. Oh, and don’t forget the ritual condemnation of Dabney and Thornwell. If anything, the racial views presented by the PCA today are like that of the PCUSA liberals in the 1960s — and that’s not a good thing.

  2. Alec said,

    April 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Yes. I continue to dream of the day when people will be judged for the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

  3. April 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Great stuff, bro. I would make a couple of comments.

    1. Some people do claim the SAT is racially biased; at least, I know I’ve heard of people doing that. I’m not sure I believe that it’s racist. Such people would claim that the questions assume you’ve read DWEM’s much more than, say, Maya Angelou, or that you’ve studied European mathematics a lot more than Mayan or Arabic or Indian mathematics. The mathematics one is baloney, because algebra is essentially Arabic; certainly the name is, and quite a few of its techniques are as well.

    2. Pastor Al Baker had a great point in one of his sermons on Genesis, when explaining the curse on Ham: it was his son Canaan that got the curse, not all the sons of Ham. The ESV reads:

    “Cursed be Canaan;
    a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” – from Genesis 9:25.

    The curse doesn’t extend to any of the other sons of Ham. And since Canaan is the father of all the peoples Israel either drove out or enslaved, Pastor Baker deduced that this curse is completely fulfilled; that is, no living descendant of Ham (we would include many Africans in that category) is under that curse.

    I point this out because the racist argument from that passage has troubled me in the past. I don’t think I’d have said that blacks are inferior (I knew they were not, from many other passages), but this explanation of the Genesis passage cleared things up for me.

  4. Paul Meyer said,

    April 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Lane, are you ever-so-subtly referring to the Proposed Strategic Plan’s Theme #2 (more seats at the table for younger generation, women, ethnic leaders, global church representatives), Specific Means #6: “Credible & Rigorous Alternative ordination credentialing of men for disadvantaged constituencies”? Assuming you are, I agree. Although I don’t care so much whether something these days can be termed “racist” as that this policy would be extremely unwise for the church. It says “We care so much about being diverse – meeting the world’s approval [let's be honest] – that we’re willing to risk some of our sheep not being adequately shepherded.”

    I would love to see more than just whites and Asians in reformed churches, but not if it means slackening our standards, especially, especially, for ordination.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    April 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I didn’t actually have that specifically in mind, but the shoe does seem to fit, doesn’t it? I got to reflecting about it after reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

  6. April 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    “why should white people of today be made to feel guilty about something that they haven’t done?” I wonder about the statue of limitation on restitution. I don’t think the Hebrews stole from the Egyptians when they despoiled them before the Exodus; I rather think it compensation for 400 years or so of slavery. I’m personally good with a one time pay off, even a big one, and the condition would be no more favoritism in any way. And yes, I don’t see how it would work practically….

  7. greenbaggins said,

    April 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t in principle object, Tim, but wouldn’t it have to come from those who perpetrated it? Surely the innocent would not have to make restitution?

  8. April 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I was thinking about the example of the Egyptians. They seem to have been held responsible for their ancestors behavior in terms of generational slavery, and the gold and silver were forms of payment. I admit it’s not clear cut. It’s just being born in LA and spending much of my adult life in South Africa has forced me to wonder about the issue. An example of not being clear cut is that the magistrate can’t penalize a son for the sins of his father. But at the same time, a debt incurred by a father is payable by his son, if for instance he borrowed on family land as collateral.

  9. Ron Henzel said,

    April 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Lane,

    You wrote:

    If the standard for an SAT score is the standard by which any student should be admitted, that is an objective, non-racial-based standard [...]. No matter what race they come from, if they make that non-racial standard, they should be admitted. I can already hear the counter-argument: “African-Americans have been held back, and their test scores are not as good as white people. Therefore they need our help.” But does this argument not have a tacit assumption that one race is inferior to another?

    Actually, the most recent argument liberals have been making on this point is that standardized tests are inherently racist not because of past inequities, but rather because those tests are allegedly (a) significantly biased toward the current social and cultural background of white students, and (b) designed to measure what white students are learning in a system that gives them a better education than it gives black students.

    I’m not saying I agree with this argument, but it’s more about the alleged continuation of institutionalized racism in our educational system today, with black students supposedly still getting inferior teachers and textbooks (which, of course, was almost taken for granted before Brown v. the Board of Education) than about pre-Civil Rights era history.

  10. Brad B said,

    April 18, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    While bias is nearly impossible to avoid, in any arena btw, what is being attempted by some of the supposed equality measures is fairness. Fair being measured by some numerical borne out result that proves that a system is working. The problem is that fairness as a standard is a recipe for mediocrity and that it defeats the competitive/exploritative/adventure spirit that has produced so much good.

    There are always going to be those who have to overcome against greater odds than others. I’ve heard and read Walter Williams speak of his upbringing where his teachers prepared him for life in the world he lived in, saying/teaching him that in order to be equally appraised, he had to do better in everything and he worked harder to get what he wanted. They didn’t say it’s whitey’s fault that you cant get ahead or that the test is biased against you so dont try unless they lower the standard for you.

    Anyway, there will always be people who feel that there is a bias against them, and they will be right–maybe like the middle class white male. I would hope that we as a society guard against making laws or policies that promote injustice toward any class, but it’s incumbent upon the oppressed [even the middle class white male] to overcome despite the circumstances they perceive themselves to be in. To not overcome is to give in to mediocrity.

  11. Paul Norman said,

    April 19, 2010 at 9:09 am

    If, as Ron Henzel thankfully brought to light, minorities do indeed have generally (isn’t this whole thread a study in generalizations?) less access to quality education and therefore less access to quality opportunities to achieve, should relaxed polity be the grounds upon which we try to equalize the playing field? Instead of simply loosening the standards for ordination (which is a very small-minded response in any situation), shouldn’t programs, scholarships, mentoring, and specialized courses be utilized first to give minorities an equal opportunity at a piece of the ordination pie?

    The term is reverse discrimination, I believe.

    Brad B, you wrote:

    “Anyway, there will always be people who feel that there is a bias against them, and they will be right–maybe like the middle class white male. I would hope that we as a society guard against making laws or policies that promote injustice toward any class, but it’s incumbent upon the oppressed [even the middle class white male] to overcome despite the circumstances they perceive themselves to be in. To not overcome is to give in to mediocrity.”

    Regardless of where our pendulous reaction may tend to swing (acceptance of discrimination / indifference or denial of discrimination / reverse discrimination), shouldn’t the gospel be our foremost impetus? Leaving the oppressed to overcome for themselves seems contrary to that. Also, what would the definition of oppressed be?

  12. Shotgun said,

    April 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I believe that all people are descended from Adam and Noah, and are created in the image of God…

    But, it doesn’t follow from that belief that I cannot regard any one human as “better” than another.

    I personally am a better banjo player than many people…for instance.

    I wish Christians would quit reading the Bible through the lens of a radical egalitarianism.


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