Covering a health-care rally on Aug. 13 in Nashville, the Tennessean reported, “Anti-reformers at the rally argued against government control of health-care delivery, particularly the use of translators for patients who do not speak English.”
Fox News’ Glenn Beck charged in July that President Obama’s health-care reform was really a covert plan to establish reparations to African-Americans for slavery.
“Barack Obama is setting up universal healthcare … as stealth reparations. That way the victim status is maintained. And he also brings back back ‘door reparations,” said Beck.
The same Fox News personality accused Obama a few weeks ago of being a racist: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture … This guy is, I believe, a racist.”
National Public Radio reported that Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.) received a fax against health-care reform that said he would not win re-election: “The folks are not going to stand for Obama’s socialized medicine even though most negroes refuse to stand on their own two-feet.”
Scott, an African-American, also had a swastika spray-painted on one of his district offices.
Racism is flourishing in the United States. One can’t witness the rallies against health-care reform, listen to the cable TV or radio news programs or read newspaper accounts without knowing that race-baiting is at play and that racists feel comfortable voicing their bigotry.
Less than a year ago, commentators christened the country as “post-racial.” That was utopianism, of course. But even an EthicsDaily.com supporter wondered last year if our new documentary “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism” wasn’t out of sync with the times – after all, the country had elected its first African-American president.
An understanding of personal and corporate sin tempers an optimistic reading of the signs of the times for many people of faith. We know the temptation of prejudice and the encoded nature of racism.
Yet, the speed and furiousness with which race roared into the public debate about health care is deeply alarming. It’s an urgent reminder that the church must be vigilant in its thinking theologically about the sin of race and challenge continuously bigotry and injustice.
What can we tangibly do?
Every church should screen our documentary in Sunday school classes and sponsor public forums to dialogue about racism.
If you think I’m being too commercial, too self-promoting about our resources, then read what some highly visible Southern Baptist leaders said recently about “Beneath the Skin.”
“This DVD has done an outstanding job,” said Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, during a panel discussion after a screening of the documentary at the Midwest Regional Meeting of the New Baptist Covenant in Norman, Okla.
“The encoded racism really addresses my attention because I’ve never heard the term,” said McKissic. “It addresses the kind of racism we primarily see today.”
Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., called the documentary a “gripping … video on the history of Baptists and racism.”
He wrote on his blog that he looked “forward to using the video in my own church.”
Then, read what the religion editor for The Oklahoman said on Aug. 15 about seeing the documentary in Norman.
Segments of the documentary “brought tears to my eyes,” wrote Carla Hinton. “The portions that proved most powerful to me simply talked about racism, what it is and why it flourishes in our hearts.”
Building on an unattributed quotation, I said at the meeting: “The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. The Stone Age ended when we found a better way. The age of racism for Baptists will not end because we run out of races. The age of racism for Baptists will end when we find a better way.”
Our biblically rooted, pan-Baptist, multiracial, multiethnic documentary points toward a better way.
Will your church join the community of churches using “Beneath the Skin” to advance theological reflection and engage in constructive social change?
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Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.