“Beyond Diversity,” a recent Barna Group survey seeks to address racial injustice with the help of experts and respondents.
Looking at trends and the numbers, researchers hoped to offer a response to U.S. churches — except the answers it offered raise more questions for me.
The survey asked respondents, “How can you, as an individual, improve racial / ethnic dynamics in our country?”
The options offered to respondents were:
- By building friendships with people outside of my racial group.
- By supporting the economic thriving of people of color.
- By advocating for people of color in leadership positions.
- By teaching that the Bible encourages special kindness to marginalized groups.
- By acknowledging that white people are not to blame for racial injustice.
- By supporting liberal political candidates.
- By helping people become Christians.
- By supporting conservative political candidates.
Just say, “I don’t know,” or better still, “None of the above.”
The question is also problematic for me as the sociopolitical construct is but a color-coded caste system, a capitalistically incentivized hierarchy. Race wasn’t created to improve relationships in this country.
No biological basis – and for Christians, no biblical foundation – still, we continue to identify human beings by colors.
To be fair, the survey “covers key trends in Americans’ fluctuating motivation to pursue racial justice.”
Yes, America’s commitment to pursuing justice for crimes committed against persons due to their socially assigned race has been up and down. Also, these options may merely reflect what has been tried, believing it to be the solution.
But race is the problem. A sorting system, it identifies human beings as one of “us” or one of “them” and is an erroneous basis for forming groups and communities.
It centers one group; in the U.S., it is those socially colored white to the marginalization of others. This is not a bug in the system but the only way that race works and why it will never work for all of us.
The answers Barna offered to respondents are a reminder of how little we understand race and why it continues to influence the way we relate to each other.
Too often the solutions are not trauma-informed or intersectional, reflective of the ubiquitous nature of race. Because claiming “I have a Black friend” is not the solution, as racism is both personal and systemic.
The researchers agree, writing, “But while relationships are an important component of developing empathy and understanding, the Beyond Diversity research shows it’s potentially counterproductive if it’s the only step.”
Seven out of 10 respondents believe that cross-cultural friendships are the key. But they do not open enough doors.
Attending barbecues or baby showers does not change the dynamics of white supremacy. It thrives in silence and moves in secrecy, which is why entire African American communities can be burned to the ground and no culprits can be found. No one ever sees anything.
And don’t say anything if “economic thriving” does not include reparations. Let’s talk about all-inclusive packages, including free health care, free college education, those “40 acres and a mule” or whatever that rounds up to now.
Yes, let’s address our organization’s hiring practices. But let’s not forget the history of tokenism.
“Diversity hires” are also subjected to micro-aggressions and all too often put in the unnatural position to speak for and represent their entire ethnic group.
This also opens them up to working longer hours and performing at a higher standard because they don’t want their work performance to negatively reflect their entire ethnic group. Stereotypes work in reverse too.
“By teaching that the Bible encourages special kindness to marginalized groups” and “by helping people become Christians” sounds both condescending and tone deaf given the history of colonizing in America.
It’s almost as if persons have not learned history’s lessons of the attempted genocide of the Indigenous people and the enslavement of African people, all done in the name of Jesus and in effort to “save the heathen.”
Twenty-one percent of respondents said, “By acknowledging that white people are not to blame for racial injustice.” Quick question. Who is?
The answer is not a matter of politics. It makes no difference if the candidate is conservative or liberal. Polite or hiding under the cover of night, racism comes in all political stripes.
Glenn Bracey, one of the primary authors and investigators for the Beyond Diversity project, writes, “We want to invite every Christian into the blessed community that is the church, and we want to ensure each member can bring and manifest the unique gifts God gave them.”
She continues, “To realize God’s glorious vision, we have to first examine where we fall short of it.”
This, in my view, is the crux of it – to survey, as a practice of discipleship, where we have sinned against each other because of race.