Shame on you spectrum

Editor's Note: This post was originally published to Timothy Nixon's blog on April 25, 2020. It is republished here with permission.

I just read an article from Spectrum titled, "You Will Never Understand Racism Like I Do." The article is a clear example of what is wrong with the conversation about "race" in America.

First, whenever a conversation about race is discussed with whites and about whites, it is usually if not always from the white perspective. The Anglo culture becomes the undeclared, unchallenged norm from which all other perspectives are judged without dispute. For example, in Theology, theologians call the interpretation of non-white theologians (African American, Hispanic, Asian) with a different perspective "liberation theology,” thereby removing their theological interpretation from the mainstream of thought and marginalizing their perspectives instead of critically challenging their own long held suppositions.

The article in Spectrum begins with some long held 'white' suppositions about race that need to be challenged. One is "white" innocence or naivety that whites always appeal to whenever they say or do something that is beyond the pale of decency or protocol. The new trend is to call anything they say that is out of order an attack against "political correctness." You will hear this whenever someone white goes off the rails and says something so abhorrent or obscene that it defies any sensibility or ethical sanity.

Second, the article did a poor job of investigating the facts in general and the specific incident surrounding the student's original engagement with the professor. As the article points out, the student was the professor's "reader." As such, she regularly graded papers for the professor from other students and knew the quality of papers other students turned in and the grades they received for the work they produced. What caused the "red flag" for her was receiving such a "low" grade when she knew that the quality of her paper exceeded that of other students in the class. It was this fact, based on her knowledge of papers that she previously graded for the professor that caused her to challenge the grade she received. It was upon inquiry, that she discovered her professor's objection with her paper was based more on the "content" than its quality. He disagreed with her position on "white privilege'" and based on that disagreement, gave her a lower grade.

Spectrum ignores this discriminatory issue that students of color often face and to what extent this kind of racist behavior, either consciously or subconsciously effects the ability of Anglo professors to fairly treat and grade them. How often have students of color been subjected to harsh, unfair treatment or a lesser grade, because they were non-white; or because their views did not comport with those of their white professor? Why is it that Spectrum did not in any way explore this issue? Why did they not investigate whether this particular professor had a history of this kind of behavior of racial bias in his grading in previous classes or with previous students? Instead it dealt with the very low hanging fruit of trying to understand, sympathize or justify the professor’s actions as a possible misunderstanding or lack of sensitivity, portraying the matter in more unambiguous or defensible terms.

The reality is, the professor allowed his racial bias to cloud his ability to fairly analyze and evaluate the quality of his student's academic work. He penalized her unduly because her views on race did not agree with his. Her position on white privilege triggered in him hidden biases that he had about the issue and caused him to mistreat her and punish her for voicing that opinion in her paper. In his position of power, this bias was exacerbated when he penalized her academically by giving her a lower grade.

Spectrum’s shoddy reporting leads to another problem. Spectrum made several factual errors in the article. It said the “It’s Time” movement was the result of an MLK program. That is factually inaccurate. It is well documented that it actually was a Black History Chapel. But I guess to Spectrum, it was just another “Black” program so what difference did it make…"MLK," “Black History,” …Tomàto…Tomäto…what’s the difference, why bother getting it right, they all look alike.

I could go on about the authors treatment of the faculty member’s “colorblind” view of race in order to explain away his comment to the student that she shouldn’t express pride for being black, using some kind of false spirituality in trying to make Jesus complicit in his bigotry by saying we are “One in Christ.” Really? Why is it that no one ever tells Jews to stop taking pride in being Jewish because we are “One in Christ.” I wonder how that would come across?

Spectrum, like many, so called “liberal” magazines, thinks it can get a pass with this kind of inept racial reporting because from time-to-time it tries to hold the General Conference’s feet to the fire on issues like Women’s Ordination or creation science. But it continues to do a poor job when it comes to making an honest credible effort on issues of race, specifically related to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Does Spectrum have the kind of editorial board and racial representation with individuals in positions of power so that when it ventures into subjects like this it will do a better job of getting to the REAL problem and hold itself accountable in the future? Only time will tell.

This comment is from the blog of Timothy Nixon. The blog has been in existence since 2015. You can find the original blog and comments made to his blog at: timothypnixon.com. Timothy Nixon, D Min., pastors in the Lake Region Conference.

Image courtesy of Timothy Nixon.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10398

I am familiar with the entire evidentiary record in this case, as I have been advising Dr. Markovic in a non-legal capacity. I prefer not to comment but must do so not only because Dr. Nixon’s blog is riddled with factual errors but also because he puts Dr. Markovic in a false light.

  1. The student did not grade other student papers for Dr. Markovic. As a reader, she graded quizzes but not research papers.
  2. The student was not provided access to the papers written by other students in the class.
  3. The student has never alleged, as Dr. Nixon now alleges, that the quality of her paper is comparatively better than the other student papers for the class. No comparison of any kind has ever been alleged or offered by the student.
  4. The student’s paper is about white stereotypes of blacks, not white privilege.
  5. Dr. Markovic graded the paper fairly, as established by an independent review.
  6. Ironically, the student’s grade for the paper and overall class grade are very good.

Readers are lead to draw numerous erroneous inferences, so the following clarifications are important:

  1. Dr. Markovic has never offered as a defense “white innocence or naivety.”
  2. The words “political correctness” do not appear in any writing he has submitted in this case.
  3. Dr. Nixon’s suggestion that there may be a history of racial bias on the part of Dr. Markovic has no factual support. In Dr. Markovic’s thirty years of teaching, this is the first formal complaint ever made against him by a student.

(Let me interject a personal comment about a factual inaccuracy that does not involve this case. Liberation Theology is not a catch-all term used to encompass the theological interpretations of non-whites. Liberation Theology has a specific subject matter content and hermeneutic. The overwhelming majority of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian Seventh-day Adventist scholars reject Liberation Theology).

Dr. Markovic is the leading authority at Andrews University on the issues that pertain to race and racism. He is a liberal/progressive on these issues, close to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and far to the left of conservatives, including black heavyweights such as Justice Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, and Thomas Sowell. Here are some quotes from a book chapter Dr. Markovic has written on racism:

“The Bible demands we discard all notions, concepts, ideas, ideologies, behaviors and policies that legitimize, affirm and promote racism, antisemitism and racialism.”

“Racist and antisemitic ideas have become a part of contemporary culture long time ago, and, unfortunately, to a lesser or a greater degree, penetrated even the Seventh-day Adventist culture. Without much critical thought, people cherish them, and keep repeating them. Gradually people accept them as normative.”

“It is puzzling, and unfortunate, that we Christians, and even Seventh-day Adventists, who claim to be the people of the Word of God, struggle with racism and antisemitism.”

“I cannot but ask: Why do we Seventh-day Adventists keep silent about the persistent existence of racist and antisemitic notions and ideas in our midst?”

“The problem is systemic in nature. Individually, many are not racists, but the socio-political system forces upon the population racism.”

“We unfortunately live in racialized societies, but we must not racialize and allow others to racialize us.”

“Like sex and politics, racism and antisemitism are, more often than not, not popular topics around the dinner table and at potluck gatherings. This attitude and discomfort is seen among theologians as well…Why the silence? It is rarely spoken of from the pulpit either, and it should be.”

“We live in a racialized society, where we are “forced” to think and speak racially.”

“Researchers also discover that most people who believe they are not racists, after being pressed with more detailed inquiry, begin to express racialized thinking and attitudes. People in general believe that racists and anti-Semites are always the ‘others.’”

“Racism as an ideology and practice is not only bad and undesirable, it is nothing less than evil."

“It was in that cultural context that I as well, without much critical thought, adopted the idea that there are different human races. It was my graduate work and studies on the origins of the ideas of race, racism, antisemitism, and nationalism that helped me recognize the malign nature of these doctrines and helped me promptly discard them.”

“The Adventist community must operate on a higher non-racial platform.”

“Most of the time emotions and anger take over, and when such happens, a reasonable discussion is impossible.”

“Stand up for equality, equal treatment for all, and justice—for all. Period. Act righteously…Do not show partiality. Be fair.”

“In this postmodern age of ecumenical unity, where diversity, multiculturalism, and tolerance are emphasized—but not always followed—always be a peacemaker.”

“Whether we are the people of the Bible is already being tested, and today we are tested against, this time over racism.”

10 Likes

If I may, I don’t think there is a disagreement here. I think the author is well aware that liberation theology is not a catch-all for the views of non-white theologians. I read him as saying that non-white theologians with differing perspectives often have their views characterized (hence the scare quotes) as “liberation theology,” and this characterization is used to marginalize or set aside their perspectives among mainstream theologians. This can and does happen.

I read him as saying that white scholars are racists, in that they allegedly mischaracterize the views of non-white scholars by attaching to those views the label Liberation Theology. In reality, white scholars and non-white scholars know what Liberation Theology is and are very careful in the language they use to describe the views of others.

1 Like

Full disclosure: I am melanin challenged, particularly evident after winter and sheltering in sunless rooms. In addition, I know little about being discriminated against on the bases of sexual orientation, gender, dominant language, socioeconomic status, weight or height.

However, I do know journalism. I have taught it on the college level for 24 years, worked full-time in the publishing industry for 11 years, and written several books and hundreds of published articles.

In sum, the complaints about Dr. Lecourt’s “shoddy” journalistic reporting I find mystifying. Lecourt sticks to evidential facts with the incident. She then points to likely future considerations for the AU provost. At no point could I detect “inept racial reporting”; rather, treatment toward all involved parties is even-handed. Moreover, at the conclusion of the article I found myself sympathizing more with the student than with the professor.

From many experiences at Andrews I do know that the campus has been riven for decades by racial tension. Countless AU people have worked long and diligently to bring about more loving unity in diversity. May their tribe–both melanin-challenged and melanin-gifted–increase as they work together in mutual appreciation.

1 Like

I’ll go with you there. Certainly, not all white scholars are racists. However, it has been hard for some black theologians to find a place within historically white institutions (the latest exodus of five black scholars from Duke Divinity would be an example), and that is unfortunate. Should mainstream theology that emanates from a largely euro-centic frame be subject to scrutiny with regard to potential bias or blind spots? I would say so. Can this be done within the mainstream branches of historical, biblical and systematic theology? I would hope so. But too often, the critical and corrective (some would say over-corrective) work being done is from what some call “standpoint theologies” (black, womanist, feminist, mujerista, queer, post-colonial, etc.). What we need, in my view, is a way within the main branches of theology for scholars from diverse backgrounds to exercise some of these critical lenses without their work being relegated to sub-branches. IMHO, theology can be a very human enterprise, and I think it would be naive to think that issues like power, privilege and perspective would not find their way into the discipline. For instance, the hashtag #SeminaryWhileBlack is indicative of the fact that much of what is taught and assigned in historically white seminaries is not representative of the black experience. Something is going on there and has been brewing there for quite some time.

2 Likes

in reading helga’s twitter feed about this incident, in her own words, it is evident that this statement is incorrect…markovic’s concern with helga’s treatment of racial stereotyping was that she had resorted to its use herself…

and we can see this tendency for ourselves, when helga states, after an argument with one white male professor at AU: “I am mentally exhausted with the white male professors at AU.”

6 Likes

Unfortunately, in these kind of debates the focus is on the “in the moment” incident , and not the history of someone’s position on these issues.

For example, if you take an analog of someone like Brett Weinstein in the Evergreen U, he simply objected to a policy of “no white people allowed on campus during that day”, which he pointed out as in line with the racism ideology that existed in the past. He held a fairly liberal position, before he got caught up in the whirlwind of that situation that really spun out of control and he had to resign.

So, the outrage, even as pointed out by the student, doesn’t seem to be about the grade. It seemed to be about how that particular conversation progressed, including all of the tangents it moved into.

I wonder if you can provide an alternative POV in that respect… not in the details of the “soap opera”, but what the AU policy is in respect to responsibility students and professors?

Pastor Nixon wrote this on his blog and got a couple replies that challenged his assertions. And he seems to indicate that the problem as he sees it that situation was in lack of a conversation between equals as it should have been, but rather it was one person in a position of power bludgeoning another over disagreement. Obviously, his son came up in conversation… or perhaps got implied.

So, does AU have some policy which puts students and professors as “equals” when it comes to debating the legitimacy of grades or certain academic perspective on views that professors may choose to correct?

1 Like

I’m curious as to which perspective would that be? Obviously it’s not the perspective of the Eastern Europeans.

You are mentioning “Anglo” perspective, but what does it have to do with this conversation?

It seems to be inconceivable for you that “white people” are not a homogenous blob, and there’s a divergent, and at times irreconcilable range of ethnic preferences that you would consider under “Anglo” umbrella.

Have you done any investigating as to which of these cultural perspectives someone may be discussing from here? Or do you think that just because someone writes in English, and one lacks melanin, therefore one is of the white “Anglo” ideology?

Have you considered that someone like yourself has far more adherence to “Anglo” perspective than someone like I?

1 Like

What’s more I think is the use of this term which doesn’t make sense. The notion that any person whose skin happens to white is lumped into a category is problematic.

The professor in question is Serbian not Anglo Saxon. This would be the same as saying that Americans whose ancestors came from southern Indian or African continent are all black. It is illogical and completely unhelpful.

The problem of racism cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created it to begin with. Mr. Nixon is perpetuating stereotypes and misunderstandings, and embellished points in his comments. His blog for the most part just took the word of the student as a factual account and it appears he threw the Professor under the bus based solely on this.

We simply don’t know enough and based on analysis Mr. Nixon clearly doesn’t either.

5 Likes

I, melanin challenged as Blake is, spent about 8 years in Africa as med missionary. I did not know of the tribal situation there till I arrived, and actually several yrs after.

The world powers, when they drew maps of countries there did not take tribal borders into account, but rather water sheds, rivers etc. So tribes would be divided between countries etc, was in the middle east.

There was quite a bit of prejudice, one tribe toward another that the government worked to suppress, aiming to unify the counrity into a whole. It was a from of racism, or a sectional rivalry. Everyone has a weakness here, a us vs them.

  1. the leading authority on race and racism at Andrews? What qualifies him for this generous declaration? I’m sure there are a people who have worked or attended Andrews, past or present, would debate this? Hence my question about what qualifies him for this honor.
  2. what chapter, and in which book, did he write this?

Dr. Markovic is a professor and educator with a PhD in history and BA in history and theology with post-graduate courses in theology at the Theological Seminary of Andrews University. He has taught history for more than thirty years. During those thirty years, he has participated in many seminars and institutes on nationalism, antisemitism, and racism. Six of these seminars and institutes were sponsored by highly competitive and academically respected organizations, (three by National Endowment of Humanities, two by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and one by National Science Foundation). In addition to his public presentations and conference papers, he has written one book chapter on antisemitism and one book chapter on racism and racialization of society, both of which are listed as follows:

John Jovan Markovic, “The Ecclesiastical Roots of the Holocaust: from the Adversus Judaeos Tradition to the Holocaust,” Thinking in the Shadow of Hell. The Impact of the Holocaust on Theology and Jewish-Christian Relations , ed. Jacques B. Doukhan (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 2002), 3-27.
John Jovan Markovic, “The Idea of Different Human Races, Racialization, and the Kingdom of God,” Church and Society: Missiological Challenges for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ed. Rudy Maier, (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Department of World Mission, Andrews University, 2015), 397-426. The quotations cited in my earlier comment are from this text.

No one at Andrews University has given more lectures about racism, conducted more classroom discussions about racism, and participated in more one-on-one conversations with students about racism than Dr. Markovic. No one at Andrews University has devoted more thought and study to the problem of racism and how racism should be dealt with and discussed than Dr. Markovic. As one of the few historians at Andrews University, no one understands racism in all of its historical manifestations better than Dr. Markovic.

3 Likes

Appreciate the response, as this is an individual i have never heard of.
I will be purchasing the books he is documented in.

I wonder, if in addition to this being a convo between a superior (teacher) and an inferior (student), there the following is not also to be considered. Dr Markovic is white, the student is black. He has written and studied…she has lived.

It would be the same as if i were speaking to a woman about women’s issues. I could be the foremost womanist in all of Adventist, which is laudable, but i am still not a woman. How can i lecture or condescending to those who are experience what i have only studied.

The same could be said for classism. If i am the rich, i can understand all the dynamics of poverty, the socio-educational, political, the psychological, etc. and yet i have never lived poor. I could even visit the poor, and have poor friends, but at some level the poor, or as above, the woman, or as original the black, will still have more experiential authority on the given topics than myself, a white, and/or male, and/or middle to upperclass citizen.

The Bible seems to hint at this in Eph 3 where is says the following:

Eph 3:18 May be able to comprehend (katalambano) with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Eph 3:19 And to know (ginosko)the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge (gnosis), that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

We are encouraged to possess the comprehendible and perceptible 4 dimensional love of God, and then to go further that comprehension and perception, to the greater “know” of experiencing this love, which surpasses all intellectual, theological, and scientific explanation.
As we can see the bible places the higher knowing on what is experienced, over what is studied.

Just a thought…

Again, Thank you for your response.

That is an impressive set of accomplishments.

3 Likes

I agree that experience is an important informant of one’s expertise. Dr. Markovic’s expertise is informed in part by experience. He, too, has “lived.” His experiential knowledge far exceeds the experiential knowledge of the student.

I am not nihilistic in my approach to hermeneutics. There are many manifestations of distance, such as differences in race, that impede understanding, so your point is well taken. But the function of hermeneutics is to bridge and overcome those manifestations of distance. To suggest that a white person is inherently incapable of understanding a black person or that a man is inherently incapable of understanding a woman bespeaks a nihilism that is foreign to biblical thinking and aspirations. Scripture teaches that we share many commonalities with each other. And in the words of Jesus, we are to "be one just as We are one.” John 17:22 NKJV.

@admins were the mass deletions in the other thread admin, or community action?
In any event, great shame on us all for each our failures to speak-our own truth,
and to hear the others.
And shame on us for hearing untruths-and running to gossip in the face god.
Might I suggest, like (heavenly) father, like son also applies to the earthly.

Thank you for responding
I don’t believe i said inherently. What i said a studied and perceived intellectual knowledge can never replace living it. Additionally, to you point on nihilism, with all hermeneutics accounted for, no man is a woman, and thus no man lives under sexism unless he chooses to, and even then such a choice is evidence of privilege, as the man will always be a man and away be abe to return to his male societal position.
no Mae gynecologist experiential knows what its like to give birth, not matter how much he has studied, and no matter how many births he had helped.
The same can be said it’s classim. And the same can most certainly be declared with racism.
My only point is that if the knowledge in this circumstance is intellection, and not a lived, without quotes, experience, intellection with all of it’s truth is separate from, subordinate to, and supportive of, experience.
In so far as the ones spoken of in the Bible, it is not synonymity rather is complementary and appreciative, even as the hand is not synonymous with the eye. Imaging the hand tell the eye, “i have studied and observed your tow for a while, so i will am the authority on the eye experience”. Or the ear telling the foot “because we are all one body, our experiences are the same, so eat me tell you about the foot experience. listen to me and i, the ear, will make you a better foot”. That is not the oneness of the Bible. The Bible teaches a mutual appreciate and complementary unity. I Cor 12 speaks to this.

Thank you for your dialogue thus far

Jason

I have not read the paper, but based on some other claims of she made, it would seem that the scope of that argument extended beyond individual experience. That’s what academic work is largely about, and that’s why students go to learn from professors that consolidate broader range of experience that’s not “their”, and allow for expanded perspective on subjects where perspective of individuals may be misleading when it comes to making global assumptions.

In the argument above you are reifying concepts that are not concrete. There isn’t “the man” and there isn’t “the societal position” in a scope of generalization that you are describing it.

Instead, there are a range of men, and there’s a range of positions.

I hope you understand why it is problematic.

Yet, there’s a reason why a woman would go to a gynecologist, who arguably understands the procedural perspective on birth and various potential implications and complications better than individual can from the narrow perspective of individual.

And I think this is really where your criticism falls short. The young woman was not writing a paper on personal experience of racism. She was writing a paper making global claims.

So, either you think that Academic rules for citing support, or making false generalizations don’t apply in the realm of personal experience, or you are setting a double-standard to make marginalized people feel better by giving them preferential treatment by allowing their personal experience override academic perspective.

Either way, it’s not a practice that helps marginalized minorities to form accurate perspective on broader implications of their personal experience.

I lived in former USSR, and my personal experience doesn’t make me an expert on all things USSR. There are undoubtedly hundreds, if not thousands of US historians and scholars who can contextualize my experience in broader scope of that setting than I ever could. And these scholars may never even been to that part of the world.

Again, you are switching the scope. There are different scope of experience. Individual perspective on experience can be short-sighted and plain wrong.

Individual perspective is simply too narrow to formulate global assumptions. And at the level of discussing experience of other people, both professor and young lady have to conduct research which is bound by methodological constraints to make it more viable. And at that level… claims of individual, like we say in marketing research, is a data point of one.

Again, that’s why we go to the institutions of higher learning in the first place. These allow us to gain broader perspective on some consolidated experience of humanity.

So, the question you have to ask is what scope of her experience or lack there of was the professor correcting and challenging? Was he challenging her experience? Or was he challenging her global assumptions for which she had no experience?

1 Like

In my overly simplistic synoptic, emotion trumps reason.

There are many issues where it is virtually impossible to have a reason-focused discussion without engaging in unobtainable emotional exactions.

1 Like