It’s not your fault, but it is your problem

We reside in a world awash in info.

We know, as an example, that this yr marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the primary enslaved Africans to Jamestown, Virginia. But most of us may not know Massachusetts was the primary state to legalize slavery or that the California Supreme Court dominated an individual of shade might not testify in courtroom towards whites or that blacks had been denied advantages underneath the 1935 Social Security Act and that the GI Bill that gave lump sums of cash to returning World War II veterans for housing and schooling was to the exclusion of blacks.

We know that regardless of in style claims that racism and discrimination are now not salient points in up to date society, African Americans proceed to expertise disparate remedy in on a regular basis public interactions. And worse, most may not even care. It isn’t your cross to bear.


This is the primary of a five-part sequence analyzing race and faith by AJC columnist Gracie Bonds Staples. Come again Sunday for Part 2: The Rev. Raphael Warnock on how racism continues to reinvent itself

To make sure, issues aren’t all dangerous, but it seems like it.

For some, America’s racial historical past appears caught in a “circling roundabout” of development, then retrenchment, development, retrenchment. But what if we have seen racism by way of a nonsecular lens that calls us to like our neighbor as ourselves. What if, in getting understanding, we now not felt the necessity to assign blame? And what if that meant understanding that the Christian church from the very starting was complicit in propagating racism by the issues it did and didn’t do?

Would it make a distinction in the best way we deal with one another? Would we then lastly turn into the beloved neighborhood the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned, that God supposed?

Bishop Claude Alexander, senior pastor of The Park Church, a Baptist congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina, has spent practically his complete life making an attempt to reply these questions.

And so by 1997, when a string of police-involved shootings of unarmed African Americans by white cops within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg space threatened to tear the neighborhood aside alongside racial traces, the Morehouse College graduate was greater than ready to carry to bear what he knew by religion and years as a cultural translator rising up within the segregated South on the disaster formed, he believed, by our nearly 400-year historical past of slavery and racial segregation.

That yr, he was amongst some 600 authorities and civic leaders who gathered to craft a response to what was occurring in Charlotte, and over two days created the Community Building Initiative, a nonprofit group tasked with attaining racial and ethnic inclusion and fairness within the metropolis.

More than 20 years later, he is nonetheless crisscrossing the nation searching for to carry some readability to issues of race.

Interestingly, Alexander believes the church has been complicit in America’s race issues from the start and thus it is as much as the church to resolve it.

Complicit? How?

Proof texting — taking a verse or verses of Scripture out of context to make a degree that is not there.

The story of Ham in Genesis 9 is the instance, Alexander stated. Misquoting the passage, white preachers taught that Canaan, the son of Ham, believed to be the progenitor of African folks, was cursed by God. Because Africans had been cursed by God, the argument went, they might deal with them as slaves. In reality, Canaan’s descendants did not dwell in Africa. They dwelt in Mesopotamia. Therefore, one might not use God’s cursing Canaan as a rationalization for the enslavement of Africans.

Other passages that had been used included Colossians 3:22 and Ephesians 6:5 through which the Apostle Paul admonishes slaves to “obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart.”

In the context of Paul’s time, there was indentured servitude through which for those who had been in debt, one employed themselves out and after working off the debt was freed. In addition, if a tribe or folks had been victorious in battle, then they’d take the vanquished and make them subservient, but neither of these was primarily based upon race.

The uniqueness of American slavery is that it recognized Africans deliberately, objectifying them, commoditizing them, dehumanizing them for the aim of financial acquire, and the church, by taking these texts out of context, gave nonsecular sanction, cowl, legitimacy to that, Alexander stated.

“In its teaching to white congregants, it sought to establish comfort and sense of entitlement,” he stated. “In its communications to slaves, it sought to solidify their subservience, their docility, and resignation.”

The message was slaves had been on this state as a result of they had been cursed by God and demanded by this God to obey.

How did they pull it off?

First, by way of the white preacher. When slaves discovered to learn, nevertheless, the grasp used them to speak these issues and so it was now not only a white preacher, it was a slave preacher studying these Scriptures to different slaves and explaining to them as he had been advised.

What they didn’t depend on was the slave considering for himself, studying greater than these few verses and realizing the error and falsehood of what he had been taught, Alexander stated.

Reading tales of God delivering the kids of Israel from bondage, delivering the Hebrew boys from the furnace, and Daniel from the lions’ den, studying of Esther risking her life for the rescue of her folks and of Jesus hiding out in Egypt, rising up underneath Roman rule after which sacrificing his life and being raised by God, they noticed a special narrative of God and of themselves, of life as it is and life as it ought to be.

Alexander stated, “They gained a language of liberation and strength from the God of the exodus and father of the resurrected Christ that sustains, motivates and connects.”

Despite complete households being separated, slaves developed a language all their very own by way of tune — “My lord delivered Daniel, I know he’ll deliver me”; “Swing low, sweet chariot coming for to carry me home.” Those spirituals gave them resiliency, motivated transcendence and a coded language that they’d use when planning to flee.

If you’re questioning if this is simply the bishop’s interpretation, it isn’t. It’s the assertion of many white students.

It is a historically proven fact that African slaves had an alternate understanding of the Scriptures and of God that was liberating. And it is not the distinctive expertise of African Americans, it is the common expertise of oppressed folks all over the place who learn the Gospel for themselves.

“When they read the Scripture for themselves, they see this concern of God to them demonstrated in the Old Testament and most dramatically in the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus,” Alexander stated. “They see the rejection of repression, the call to full human dignity and life.”

How does this play out at this time? It is determined by the way you see God.

In many majority-white church buildings, the nice emphasis is placed on the sovereignty of God, ruling and reigning. And understandably so as a result of whites, extra usually than not, method the Gospel from a place of authority. For African Americans or different oppressed folks, the emphasis is usually on God as a deliverer and a liberator.

These variations in emphasis go all the best way again to the start of time. Both are true. From the Christians’ perspective, God is sovereign and God is the deliverer. God is transcendent and eminent.

“Where one sits impacts what one sees,” Alexander stated.

The similar is true of racism.

It’s Alexander’s rivalry that if the church began this combat, it is as much as the church to finish it.


Help folks perceive that the up to date points we face is an outgrowth of an unreconciled previous, he stated.

Look no additional than the elections of Barack Obama, believed a sign of a post-racial America, and Donald Trump, whom many take into account the repudiation of Obama very similar to post-Reconstruction was a response to the optimistic positive aspects for African Americans.

“The perception was that while the South lost, African Americans gained,” Alexander stated. “That was the sensation and that feeling may very well be seen as a cause for what occurred post-Reconstruction, but it does not justify what occurred. The confiscation of land from Southern plantation homeowners prompted a sense of disenfranchisement and paired with the optimistic affirmation and political positive aspects of African Americans or newly freed slaves. Those two issues, added to the already multigenerational view of race as blacks as property, served as a singular cocktail for retribution that had as its goal the re-establishment of the previous order. Jim Crow was not a matter of constructing issues good for everyone; Jim Crow was a re-establishment of the previous order.

When we discuss generational earnings and wealth disparity, the unreconciled previous goes again to when African Americans had been exempt from receiving each Social Security and advantages of the GI Bill.

Second, Alexander stated, the church should uphold the dominion and wholeness of God, a mannequin for the world justice, righteousness, neighborliness, collective duty, and communal repentance. Third, it should create a protected house for folks to wrestle with the problem of communal sin, communal repentance, and communal duty.

There are going to be individuals who will learn this and say that racism’s not my fault. I’m not racist. I haven’t carried out something towards black folks.

“It’s not my fault either,” Alexander stated. “It’s not both of our faults. You didn’t select to be white. I didn’t select to be black. Those had been issues that got to us, but we should admit that … there have been sure advantages given to some and burdens given to others, by way of no fault of our personal.

“But this is the reality, and while it is not our fault, it is our problem. It is equally our problem and therefore our responsibility. That is a message that the church must be heard saying.”

Find Gracie on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at

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