Until Next Time

(Harry Allen) #21

Thanks, @vandieman.

I said:

Actually, @vandieman, no, that’s not true, unless you’re arguing that the Boers somehow popped out of the rich South African soil when the Xhosa did, ready to dominate.

You said:

In response:

That’s not what you said. You said:

My point is that it was the result of a trend: The trend that created the oxymoronic “white South African.” They never became a population majority, but they didn’t have to either, because they were the Effective Majority.

American white people were not the majority immediately, either; not at Plymouth Rock, and not in Jamestown. And while demonymic data for the indigenous population on the continent in 1776 is not readily available, it’s also not clear that, at the country’s founding, the estimated 2.5 million white people here were the population’s majority, especially added free and enslaved Black people, as well as others.

(Nearly a hundred years later, in 1860, the populations of Mississippi and South Caroline were 55% and 57% enslaved, respectively, though these were the only predominantly slave states at that time.)

I said:

But it was also egregious because it interlocked with a global white ethos called white supremacy.

You said:

In response:


I said:

Racism is white supremacy. This is its only functional form.

You said:

In response:

You are the first person I’ve ever heard say this, on this forum, this way, and you are precisely correct.

I’m not saying that you’re the first to say it. But you are the first I’ve seen do so.

I said:

So, racism doesn’t necessarily “have to do” with who is the numerical minority. More, it has to do with who is the Effective Majority: Who are the people that a) cannot be overruled, and b) have the last word on what is thought, said, and/or done, in all areas of people activity: economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex, and/or war. Under white supremacy, those people are white; i.e., the White Nation.

You said:

In response:

I certainly think that it is one thing that needs to be studied more.

That is, clearly, white people have run an incredible marketing campaign for themselves, over the centuries. In this campaign, they deem themselves the locus of truth, beauty, and goodness. They did this, not merely by offering it as a suggestion, but at the tip of the sword.

So, to me, it’s clear why something like this would exist…

…while something advocating the reverse effect does not.

How this happens—the precise, psychological mechanics by which a person comes to believe that their skin color is insufficient and wrong—is not clear to me. I also don’t think that it’s clear to many people, especially the people who need to know, in order to change their thinking.

However, I believe that it begins with white people committed to white supremacy, who then go about telling a certain kind of story about themselves; one that culminates in this:


(Harry Allen) #22

Thanks, @Jimmy.

If you’re going to respond to me, you have to hit the button that says REPLY, under the post by me to which you’re sending a response.

Otherwise, I won’t know to whom you are speaking, or if it is me. I found what you’ve written, here, by looking, and surmising it was a response to me, based on its content.

You said:

In response:

I don’t understand what you’re saying. You have to write this more clearly, if you want me to respond, please.

You said:

In response:

I think you’re saying that, today, some Black people want to treat white people as badly as slavers, centuries ago, treated Black people, even though today’s white people had nothing to do with slavery.

If so, this statement is probably false, and certainly irrelevant.

If not, I don’t understand what you’ve written.

You said:

In response:

These statements are generalizations and irrelevant to the issues I am discussing.

You quoted me as saying:

What I actually said was:

Well, because that’s nonsense: “People of European extraction” didn’t bring “a civilized type of society,” anywhere.

They decimated the civilizations that already existed all over the globe, then, through ruthlessness, guns, disease, and drugs, made those civilizations vassal states.

You said:

In response:

What many historians would say about the previous paragraph is, “This is racist claptrap.”

What I’ll say is this: If your argument is that non-white, indigenous people fought each other, and did so with such tenacity that they did not have the wherewithal to develop escalators and vitamins, you’d be pressed to then explain:

a) Why should we believe that this actually happened;

b) Why similar white in-fighting was not as counter-productive; and

c) What role half-a-millennium of white brutality against Black people, in the form of chattel slavery, pogroms, and other savagery, played in the outcomes of which you speak.

In short, yours is a frequent, confident, white response to, and summary of, their own ignorance about the history of the African continent: Black people were so busy fighting each other, they needed white people to bring them the Slinky®.

Such notions are so balefully ignorant they don’t warrant a serious response. But ridicule, or disdain? Yes, by the dump truck load.

You said:

In response:

Where those Jesuits white people?

You said:

In response:

We have a global white supremacy system, and have seen its disastrous results.

We don’t have a global “Black supremacy” system. As such, it’s difficult to say what the outcome of such a hypothetical system would be.

However, I have never urged that white supremacy be replaced with “Black supremacy.” I’ve called that white supremacy be replaced with justice; RWSWJ.

You said:

In response:

I don’t see the point in “putting aside color,” whatever that means, during a discussion about racism (aka white supremacy).

You said:

In response:

Personally, I don’t care about these other issues, at the moment.

However, I strongly feel that indigenous South Africans should get back the land which was taken away from them during the “apartheid era.” I don’t think deference to white sensibilities on this will do much but confuse the issue around a very recent, and profound, offense.

You said:

In response:

You haven’t asked me about “hate crimes.”

We were talking about judicial remedies for land theft.

I think such matters require legal reinstatement of, and restoration to, deprived people.

Do you?


(Margaret Ernst) #23

Hi, Joseph–

I am sure you did very well in the conversation with your daughter, including ideas that would feature in such a conversation regardless of race: I love you; I’m sorry you are subjected to that; now that you know how it feels, I am happy to think that it will NEVER be you making someone else feel that way… I will do everything I can to keep you safe; there are limits to that, sadly, so here are some strategies for being safe when I am not there (or when my presence can’t keep you safe).

The value of your comment in this discussion, for me, is that it perfectly exemplifies the kind of conversational move that makes a discussion of American structural racism so exhausting for people on one side and so superficial for people on the other side. That is, whites deflect or seek assurances from their black interlocutor: “I don’t see race.” “I would never do that.” “Do you think I’m racist?” or “Are you calling me a racist?” Or they do what you did; they change the subject: “Blacks can use color as a pretext to hurt people, too, and here is my story about that.”

And since it’s uncomfortable to hold a conversation that your interlocutor doesn’t want, the default becomes superficial making-nice rather than making a space for learning and entertaining new perspectives.

So the issue of color/culture/race becomes (at least in culturally mixed company such as we have on this website) small, personal, and moral, and any ideas for cultural and societal changes that would result in fewer black young people killed, better black maternal/infant outcomes, better-educated black pupils, fewer black people imprisoned … seldom get heard, discussed, or enacted, because we whites want to have some other, less uncomfortable, conversation.

We had a momentary flare-up of conversation about race in my multicultural church a while back. A question arose as to whether a perceived slight had a racial basis. (Our church’s racial make-up has changed a lot over the past decade.) Hurt feelings ensued. People rushed to defend themselves/each other from charges of racism. (“Do you really think so-and-so’s racist? What, do you think I’m racist?”) The conversation ceased. The moment passed. Superficial harmony reigns once more.

Underneath? Well, who knows? I haven’t had the courage to say, “How is your child’s experience in our church and in my primary classroom? How does your experience of our church compare with your experience outside church?” And I don’t know that I deserve the gift of honesty in this regard–I’m not sure I could receive it as that person’s gift and not as a statement about little me and my moral standing.

(Joseph Olstad) #24

The time invested and the insights in your response are appreciated. I would like to add though that I am not trying to “change” the subject in some dismissive way, but to add and broaden the conversation to include a dimension of racial tension, that to my knowledge, no one is really discussing. Here is another example:

  1. I have a friend who is a teacher who sent a student to the principal’s office for being disruptive: student responds that he is being disciplined for being Black.
  2. I have a friend who is an ER doctor who leaves the bullet in a Black patient based on medical protocol: he is berated by the patient’s mother that if, “her son were White, he’d remove the bullet.”
  3. I have friend who is an officer who arrests a Black man for breaking the law: the man says he’s only being arrested for being Black.

Now I don’t doubt for a moment that in other circumstances and other times, these unfortunate situations (real or perceived) were happening precisely because one was Black. But in these cases, I can confidently say it wasn’t and yet the assumption was that the friends were all racists. Couple these testimonies with my daughter’s experience (related above) at a multiracial school, and one begins to see how some (many?) White people actually experience the reality of racial tension in this country. I don’t share this to diminish the plight of black Americans. ( I mean, how could it? Their experiences are exponentially worse on both intensity and scale.) But nevertheless, I fear that unless some national airtime is given to the dynamics of race relations like those I have shared, resentments may fester into something worse and the spiraling of racism will continue.


I am very sympathetic to your situation. As a father you want your child to not have to endure bullying. In your mind that is of paramount importance. However, I would challenge that focusing on this is diverting the conversation slightly. As important of a personal topic this is to you, that isn’t exactly the focus of this conversation. While white parents have to help their children navigate a multicultural world to avoid or deal with bullying, black parents have to help their children navigate a multicultural world to avoid getting arrested or killed. Both are concerning, but not equivalent. There is systematic disparity in reaction to the offenses (or merely the existence) of people of color in places where they are the minority. What you are dealing with is terrible, but not the result of national systemic issues. In your case, which is more on an individual level, conversation is absolutely appropriate. Converse with the parents of these children if you know them. If you don’t know them, get to know them. As mentioned, we often like to sit and have race relations “conversations” on large scale platforms to solve systemic problems—that is futile. Conversation is not all bad though: it has its place. And what you’ve described appears to be the perfect place to insert meaningful relationsl connections through conversation.


If you read to the end solutions are offered. Furthermore, pointing out the disparity in reactions that would likely result in a different demographic being the victim is not a “chip”. It’s a well researched and well documented phenomenon called Fundamental Attribution Error. Copious amounts of data—not just anecdotal evidence—supports this conclusion.

(Joseph Olstad) #27

Agreed. I realize I am diverting the conversation slightly but I do so because I want to take this opportunity to further my knowledge ( by picking your brain) of the big picture of race in this country that helps explain the situations I’ve brought up here. Here are my 2 questions for anyone who wants to take them head on.

  1. I’m a bit concerned that you and another have reduced my daughter’s experience to simply one of bullying when my daughter’s skin color was the primary attack. It seems like “bullying” is being used as a euphemism for potential racism. I think it would be inaccurate to refer to the plight of Blacks as systemic bullying. Is bullying the only word I should have used in processing my daughter’s experience with her? Something feels wrong about that…

  2. I cannot tell you how surreal it is (as a White guy) to listen to the large scale conversation of systemic White racism in this country and the plight of Black people ( which I don’t deny for a moment) but then have virtually all first hand and second hand experiences deal with a reversal of sorts between colors of the victim and perpetrator. Statements similar to your own (“training” of children for example) where White families in Georgia know and train their children which Black neighborhoods to avoid for safety sake. Is the Black community aware that this is the common experience of many White families? I’ve seen these experiences push White people to begin speaking about Blacks in prejudicial ways ( which is tragic) and I think if these dynamics were discussed more frequently between the races, this trend could be avoided. From this perspective, I’m dealing exactly with a goal of this article (at least I hope) and that is to think of ways to relieve and reverse racial tension in our country.

(Margaret Ernst) #28

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my belated reply, Joseph. I like it that you give specific examples (albeit second-hand, but trustworthily so) of what you are talking about. I have experienced similar episodes in my work as a college teacher.

For instance, I assign an in-class writing assignment the first day of fresh-year writing as the final step of our sorting of students into the appropriate class. On one recent occasion, on the strength of my professional opinion as to which course would be most helpful, I suggested to two students that they take Basic Writing before enrolling again in fresh-year composition. These students compared notes, took a look at the other students in the class, and went to my supervisor to lodge a complaint about my bias.

I felt immediately defensive and wanted to prove (via these students’ writing samples) that my judgment was correct and they were “playing the race card.” But I’ve been a college teacher a long time, and I have kids (white kids, but still) older than my students. I have seen how suffering can be real even though a slight is unintended or even (objectively speaking) not even present. How sickeningly disappointing to come to class full of excitement and hope about this new stage of life and then to feel disrespect and disparagement from the very person I’m supposed to learn from.

So by God’s grace I was able to come to the conversation from a place of curiosity about them and their experience. I don’t recall the outcome in terms of my course roster, but I remember the sense of freedom that (for me) came from feeling, not attacked, but rather curious and compassionate.

(Of course it helps that I’m tenured and there’s little chance that my students’ complaints will materially affect my quality of life.–That is to say, America’s structural racism threatens me as little as it does your friends the teacher, the ER doctor, and the peace officer.)

I take your point that your effort is to “broaden the conversation to include a dimension of racial tension, that to my knowledge, no one is really discussing.” Obviously, we move in very different circles; I am part of networks where those commenting often explore the dimension of racial tension you’re sketching. (I’m thinking in particular of an online website called “Inside Higher Ed” which I subscribe to as a college teacher–a part of my life where I’m known as Margaret Christian, my professional name.) On the basis of my reading comments there–and just on the basis of following the polarized politics in the US–I would say that your fear that “resentments may fester into something worse and the spiraling of racism will continue” is completely and tragically justified.

May we all experience the good care God is taking of us to the extent that we are able to move beyond registering and analyzing our own experiences and be open to receiving the confidences and experiences of others. Isn’t that what Jesus did? Let’s hope, Joseph, that we as white Seventh-day Adventist brothers and sisters, will by God’s grace be able to follow Jesus’s example.

(Margaret Ernst) #29

Hi again, Joseph. I really appreciate the care with which you’re refraining from drawing false equivalences. And THANKS for thinking about ways to relieve and reverse racial tension in our country. I wish more people were thinking/talking/writing about it.

About your point #1: I can’t speak for Dr. Ray, for whom the term “bullying” may have a more precise meaning, but I agree with you in that I too “think it would be inaccurate to refer to the plight of Blacks as systemic bullying.”

I would use “bullying” to mean interpersonal meanness (that hopefully falls short of physical assault) as opposed to the damage that results from systems or institutions. I definitely think racial language can be used to “bully” another.

What would distinguish “bullying,” including that conducted through abusive racial language, from “American structural racism”? I think it’s the difference between individuals and institutions.

Structural racism (as I understand it) is the umbrella term allowing us to talk about the phenomenon that, even if we assume that American judges, police officers, teachers, health-care providers, bankers, and car salespersons as individuals have the best of intentions (except for those of them who do not; let’s hope ideologically, conscientiously racist individuals are few and far between), outcomes are measurably worse across the board in America for black defendants, black detainees, black pupils, black patients, and black lenders.

For instance, I was very sad to read recently that the best-educated African-American mothers and their infants have worse health outcomes, not only than their well-educated white American peers, but than recent immigrants from Africa. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/magazine/black-mothers-babies-death-maternal-mortality.html

About your point #2: I think the large-scale, national conversation is appropriately about systemic racism and how society and institutions can promote more equitable outcomes for black Americans. I hope other large-scale conversations are going on at schools and workplaces about “how we treat people here” (to make it crystal clear that abusive attitudes, language, and practices, whether race-based, religious, or gendered/sexual, are officially and culturally not tolerated).

I agree that the individual-scale conversation can be about what we experience personally. I think the goal for a white person in this conversation should be to gain admittance to another’s lived experience and not to listen in order to correct, defend, explain, etc. We (I think) need to get better at sitting and listening non-defensively, non-reactively, without changing the subject or seeing reassurance or deflecting (playing devil’s advocate and asking our black interlocutor to try seeing it from the white state trooper’s point of view, for example).

I am not holding myself forth as an example! I’m the one who doesn’t know how her Primary Sabbath School members experience our church family or even my class. But that (above and in my earlier comments) is what I think it would take.

As I wrote above, my personal goal is to respond to others’ observations (judgments) that I am being racist with curiosity and an open mind rather than with defensiveness. (My own internal dialogue gives me ample evidence that “implicit racism” is alive and well … and has easy access to Margaret Ernst!–But having the mental category “implicit racism” available means that I can bracket that racist internal dialogue and set it to the side: “I’m on alert, but that doesn’t mean anything is necessarily wrong here.” “Yes, that was a ‘racist’ thought, but it doesn’t mean I’m a horrible person–it means I’m part of a culture suffused with racial stereotypes.”)

As far as what hits my ears as racism against me … I don’t have any experience of that, at least that springs to mind. I hope I would have the presence of mind to respond as I would when I hear something that hits my ears as inappropriate, unhelpful, or abusive (sexist, say). “I don’t want this to be an awkward moment, but did you say ‘_________’? That’s a very loaded [or whatever] word. Could you clarify?”

Again, THANKS for thinking about ways to relieve and reverse racial tension in our country. Best,


(Joseph Olstad) #30

Well Margaret, this was just the type of conversation I was hoping for. I’d like to hear more from our Black brothers and sisters on these topics, but that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for your thoughtful and valuable input. I’m going to float one last idea on race that I’ve never shared publically and I’m hoping for some community feed back and then I think I will be done for now.

As an ameuteur theologian, I have a reverant awe for the power of words to shape thinking and experience. Some of my reading has alerted me to the fact that Black leaders do not believe it appropriate (to say the least) to use the word “racism” in terms of racial backlash behavior from Blacks (I imagine this is why “bullying” was used by those responding to me). I’m open to this caution because of the possibility to naively come to the conclusion of a cancelling
out such as, “We now know that there are White racists AND Black racists so no one’s better than the other and let’s stop putting all the blame on Whites.” Obviously this doesn’t capture for a moment the complexity and history of what got us here today. So perhaps another word should be used or coined to describe the realities I’ve mentioned. I don’t know. But there isn’t another word I know of so for now, I’m
using it. Here is my recommendation:

Would race relationships look different if “racism” was held to be a universal sin problem that transcends race itself. I wonder if this would reorient Blacks and Whites to see it as a common enemy instead of it being primarily associated with whiteness. But if it is universal, why the tremendous discrepancy between Whites’ and Blacks’ experience of racism. I believe that it was the powerful and privileged positions Whites were in that allowed them to exploit racism to new heights (so when it comes to racism, Whites win…a most inglorious award). What I like about this perspective is that it affirms the incongrous experience of Blacks and Whites in terms of the scale and intensity of racism but at the same, can cut off “racism” ( or whatever you want to call it) from sneaking in the backdoor among the Black or White community and therefore perpetuating racial problems. Racism is too easy of a sin for universal sinful nature not to take advantage of at every opportunity. I think all families must consider it a dangerous dimension of our shared humanity so that we can prepare the next generation to resist it.

(Steve Mga) #31

It seems to me that it is in “COMMUNITY” that we HAVE to learn to Love one another.
To see ourselves as EQUALS in God’s House. Where we all need to Live all day
long, every day. Love by God. Loved by each other. Accepting that we are all THE
Racism comes when at least two [or more] groups believe, or SENSE that both
groups are different, and because of the difference, are SCORNFUL of the
difference, and so turn that SCORNFULNESS into an action of treating that SCORNED group
as less than.
The SCORNED group eventually believe that THEY ARE less than, and become angry
that they cannot RISE above their status. And so behaviors set in.
To get back to God’s ORIGINAL DESIGN, Both groups have to give up their behaviors.
Become ONE COMMUNITY UNDER GOD. Receive Healing.

Can ALL SKIN COLORS in the SDA church become ONE COMMUNITY IN GOD. Receive

(Margaret Ernst) #32

Hi, Joseph–

I’m sorry that my explanation of “bullying” as a word choice was not more helpful; I don’t see that this word contradicts or minimizes the fact that classmates used racial language with the intention of hurting and humiliating your daughter. (Isn’t it “bullying” when white children use racial language to taunt black classmates?)

The distinction I see is between an interaction between individuals and an experience an individual has within an institution that represents larger society. (Keep in mind that I’m not an expert; I may be using the words incorrectly or failing to emphasize the relevant dimension.)

It looks like your interest is in personal relationships rather than structural inequities in American institutions. I would just note that many people think that putting interracial personal relationships on a better footing will not address the inequities in outcome on a societal scale (policing, education, heath, financial prosperity) mentioned in this thread–or at least not address them immediately or at a meaningful scale.

I agree that the universal sin problem is at the root of racism, whether ideological or structural or otherwise. I find the category “sin” less helpful in the discussion than you anticipate, since it feels more personal and more shame-inducing than other categories–in discussions I’ve participated in, it seems that moralizing and spiritualizing the motivations behind other people’s behavior shuts things down rather than opens things up.

Also, since “sin problem” is not universally recognized in the larger national discourse that has the potential for improving social institutions, we need recourse to other language as well.

Changing hearts matters interpersonally and for eternity, but changing policies, laws, and revenue has its place in improving policing, education, health outcomes, etc. “Occupy till I come.” “Do justly; love mercy.”

OK! Nice engaging with you. Good luck following through with Dr. Ray’s suggestions to get to know the parents of the children who were mean to your daughter, and may we all continue to experience more deeply the riches of the knowledge of the love of God in Jesus Christ.


I guess some of us have lived through things like the white church (white because there was also a “Black church” and a “Filipino church” and a “Spanish church” all in the same city) completely shutting down the elementary school because there were too many black kids attending and their parents thought they should have representation on the school board.

Or working in the church office and having the pastor comment on an article about a black pastor getting his PhD saying “It shows they can learn, I guess.”

And, BTW, this was “liberal” California not some red state backwater.

(Harry Allen) #34

Thanks, @godknowsyou

You said:

In response:

I don’t know if this is what you mean. However, many have said, beginning with Frederick Douglass, in his Narrative of the Life of…, that slavery degraded both the slave and the slave-owner. Many forms of mistreatment, perhaps all, have this binary quality.

For example, think of the gut-wrenching image of a man raping a little girl. Is she being degraded by this act? Obviously.

Is he, though?

Very much so. No one could say that, by his actions, he is “living up to his potential,” “doing his best,” “reflecting the image of God,” etc.

His own actions have put him in a far lower, more contemptible state. He is literally doing one of the lowest things a member of our species can do.

However, few would call him a victim of child sexual abuse. Even if he actually is one, and his drives were misshapen by the same when he was a child, few would raise it as an excuse for his actions, or equate his abuse with that of his child victim. They would say, he should not have carried out this act against the child.

So, when you say…

… I say, “Potentially, yes,” much the way that one may realize that child sex abuse often “pays it forward.” However, that does not mean that the adult mistreating the child should be treated identically to his victim.

When you say…

It’s for the somewhat similar reasons child molesters and molested children have different experiences of sexual abuse.