Third-Degree Racism

I was listening to Glenn Loury and John McWhorter yesterday on whether Donald Trump is racist. During the podcast, Glenn threw out the notion that something Trump said was third-degree racism, but not the full blown variety.

That got me thinking about why it is the case that when conservative Presbyterians talk about race, racism is an all or nothing proposition. Think back to Leon Brown’s post (discussed here) about racism in NAPARC communions after the shooting of Michael Brown:

This is why we need a movement of the Holy Spirit. Amid the horrific realities of Mike Browns all over the United States, and even the incidents that occur which are not broadcast (e.g., unjust acts taken against poor whites), we must demonstrate that the church is different. We are unlike the world, which can segregate, almost immediately, based on the color of one’s skin and other factors. Have you noticed that is what has occurred in the death of Mike Brown? Why do you think the pictures and quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have newly surfaced on the internet, largely from ethnic minorities? Why do you believe pictures from the 1950’s and 1960’s have been newly awakened? For many, history continues to repeat itself, and that angers African-Americans and other minorities. Perhaps we, specifically Christians, are also angry at the lack of representation in the ‘Christian’ blogosphere from others in the majority culture. Robin Williams is okay, but apparently Mike Brown is not.

Without dodging or answering the question of whether blacks and whites should necessarily worship together (since historically black communions are such a part of the African-American experience), is it possible to distinguish what transpires among the Ferguson, Missouri police force from what happens on a Sunday morning in your average PCA congregation in the middle of Tennessee? Is one perhaps first-degree racism and the other third-degree? If we can make distinctions when it comes to the loss of human life, can’t we distinguish among the levels of prejudice that humans manifest?

So here’s the proposal:

Banning students from attending a Reformed seminary on the basis of race is first-degree racism.

A search committee at a white congregation placing an application from an African-American licentiate is second-degree racism.

Church members choosing on their own to worship in congregations where the majority of members are the same race is third-degree racism.

Do any of the overtures before the PCA reflect such differences? I’m merely asking.

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19 thoughts on “Third-Degree Racism

  1. “Banning students from attending a Reformed seminary on the basis of race is first-degree racism.

    A search committee at a white congregation placing an application from an African-American licentiate is second-degree racism.

    Church members choosing on their own to worship in congregations where the majority of members are the same race is third-degree racism.”

    Racism. What happen to loving your God and your neighbor…???

    This basically happen in a Presbyterian (so called Reformed) denomination and their seminary.

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  2. “This basically happen in a Presbyterian (so called Reformed) denomination and their seminary.”

    Gil, verb tense is important here and you are unclear. What do you mean?

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  3. I’m white. My privilege obscures everything. I’m free of guilt or responsibility. However I would like a scrip for my SIPTSD.

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  4. Pardon my English, I write for online translator, this is my second comment. Some of you could answer me where ‘racism’ enters the list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God? It’s a sin?

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  5. Isabela,

    Yes, it is a sin.

    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. – Matthew 22:39

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  6. I think D.G. should have stopped with his excellent observation that our talk of racism, and I would society in the word ‘our,’ is always in all-or-nothing terms. IMO, that is because of the frameworks from which we live. Those two framesworks are that racism is intollerable and we are, and we can blam the Puritans for this one, a very punitive society. Thus, admitting to having any degree of racism in ones’s own views or practices is like asking to be condemned to death. So there is a conflict of interests in either examining oneself or letting others examine us to assess whether or not there is any degree of racism in us.

    As for Mike Brown, remember that all of our actions and reactions have a context. So if we are confused at the Black Community’s reaction to his death, it is because we are blind to the context in which they live.

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  7. But, Curt — “Hands up, don’t shoot” was a lie. Xian activists, of all people, should deal in truth and not emotions and affinity movements. Where does the 9th commandment fit into the context?

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  8. A reasonable person could infer from the events surrounding the Brown death that the inner-city black community (full of churches) has a desperate problem with the 8th and 9th commandments. What are your activist friends doing about that? Did I miss the hue and cry against this?

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  9. Gil, thanks for answering.

    The definition of racism in my country (Brazil) is: a set of theories and beliefs that establish a hierarchy between races. Doctrine or political system based on the right of a race (considered pure and higher) to dominate others. I love black people, especially away from me.

    Fraternal hugs

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  10. Curt: It was a lie in the sense that the physical evidence did not support Brown’s co-conspirator’s self-serving averment that Brown’s hands were up at the time that he was shot. Instead, the evidence physical evidence was consistent with Officer Wilson’s account of events.

    Broader Audience: Why is the PCA only now recovering some kind of conscience over the fact that its primary founder, Morton Smith, was a segregationist?

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  11. Evan,
    The evidence presented to the grand jury might not have indicated that, but who are control of the evidence and the case presented to the grand jury.

    And, as I wrote before, the Michael Brown case served as a tipping point. So now, you have look at all that hpppened before to see what led upt to the reaction to the Michael Brown case. And that was my point.

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  12. @ SDB: “How Dim the Gold”; also, the first stated clerk.

    @ Evan: At least the PCA is getting there ahead of the Democratic party, which still holds a Jefferson/Jackson dinner. I’ll (reluctantly) take a segregationalist over slaveholders and genocidalists.

    Maybe sin runs really deep or something?

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  13. God segregated the races in the Tower of Babel, however, many Christians believe that He did not know what he was doing.

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