CAUSISTRY: the use of clever but unsound reasoning, especially in relation to moral questions; sophistry. Similar: sophistry, specious reasoning, sophism, chicanery, quibbling, equivocation, fallaciousness, fudging. (1)
And what was Black animalization, demonization, and infantilization but a fundamental redefinition of neighbor- from image-bearer to non-person- that justified not only the enslavement of Africans but also the subjugation of their descendants in the Jim Crow era? And are we not tempted to do the same today? Carefully redefining neighbor so as to justify our refusals to love? Contorting our words and ways of thinking as to create a new ethical category, the "non-neighbor"? (2)
One of the obstacles to honest reflection is defense of my innocence. I deflect whatever puts me in a bad light.
Entitlement is having been born second base due the benefits of race. The deception goes, " I deserve what I have because I have earned it" (and not because I have been born into privilege). Imagining there is a level playing field, the quere becomes, "Why isn't everyone else on second base? What's wrong with them?"
Entitlement and privilege are fruits of self-deception but play into larger institutions. White Supremacy is not a "weed in the garden of American democracy," but a native species, visible in the inequities of health care, mortality rate, education, income, criminal systems, employment, housing, and wealth. I had tremendous educational advantages given to me based on lending practices instituted nationwide after W.W. II. (3)
In the church, I received employment opportunities that my Black colleagues in ministry did not. For its first almost 200 years, (1784- 1968), the now UMC segregated on the basis of race. Black congregations (and to a lesser extent, Indigenous and Hispanic congregations) were separated by color, not by region or geography. Today, gay or non-binary people can be baptized, but are officially kept from having weddings in "our churches" and prohibited from exploring a call to ministry or ordination.
Examples of cleverness I've said myself- or heard from- white, Christian leaders:
- I'm not a racist and surely not a White Supremacist. I have several black friends.
- What about reverse racism?
- All lives matter.
- I can't repent of the sins of dead people.
- We don't solve a problem by throwing money at it. (Note the use of "it").
- They like their churches and we like ours.
- Isn't it an oversimplification to suggest reparations? Who will be paid and how much? Who will pay and how?
- I'm only one person. What can I do?
- We've come a long way.
- Haven't we done enough?
Here are some ideas to consider:
- I share and identify my relationship to racism, both personally and institutionally. Doing so can open the door to others in the group to reflect on theirs.
- Expect that there will be dissonant voices. The goal is reflection, not agreement or harmony. Stating this upfront is helpful and thinking is not always encouraged in church. Some of this can be done in small group work.
- Caution: I can easily throw off attention or examination of my hidden bias and practices by jumping to Scripture. This is a frequent symptom of resistance. Too, spouting Scriptures is not a substitute for the work of personal or institutional change.
- Truthful dialogue with the Scripture IS crucial but not here. The next session is an exploration of Scripture, restitution, and restoration.
(2) See the discussion of the lawyer and Jesus in Luke 10 (The Good Samaritan) in Kwon and Thompson, Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair, Brazos Press, 2021, pp. 170-171.
(3) I grew up in northeastern Ohio, where residential areas were segregated by redlining. "It was in something called the Underwriting Manual of the Federal Housing Administration, which said that 'incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.' Meaning that loans to African-Americans could not be insured." Along with the nation wide policy came the long term consequences: "Today African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of average white incomes. But African-American wealth is about 5 percent of white wealth. Most middle-class families in this country gain their wealth from the equity they have in their homes. So this enormous difference between a 60 percent income ratio and a 5 percent wealth ratio is almost entirely attributable to federal housing policy implemented through the 20th century." Source: https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america