Have you seen the video with the basketball players and the bear? You have to check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB_lTKZm1Ts
Now, it’s probably nearly impossible to watch that footage again without seeing the once hidden but now so obvious moon-walking bear. Education works this way and as a matter of fact, so does faith. It’s hard to un-see what has been made clear and it is nearly impossible to not be changed by truth. No wonder people work so hard to avoid, minimize, distort, and even destroy it. However, the source of all truth is eternal and society’s attempts at masking or suppressing truth-tellers only exposes the wickedness and depths of our sin.
Basic sociology provides a clear and concise understanding of systems of injustice. White supremacy and its outcomes are fed a hearty diet through the selective cluelessness, wicked apathy, and downright delusion of Anglo-Western culture. Delusion and feigned outrage are essential reactions that ensure persistence of white supremacy when it’s called out. But, how can one repent of a sin that we claim does not exist?
As one Christian college president recently noted, the evidence of the wickedness of the ideology of white supremacy is the incalculable body count throughout recent history. People of color have long lifted the banner for social justice and in many cases have fought for the humanity of whites by holding up mirrors to expose the sin of racism. However, history cannot hide the high costs that whites also pay when they call out white supremacy. I am not white but I can only imagine the fear that whites have of disapproving fellow whites and the physical, social, and economic costs of truth-telling.
Juliette Hampton Morgan, a southern librarian, is a name too often lost to the annals of history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described her as “sensitive and frail” but her persistent use of the pen to call out the wickedness of segregation resulted in her being threatened and ostracized even by family. King went on to say that “she did not long survive the rejection and condemnation of the white community” and in the summer 1957 Morgan took her own life. (Please read more about Morgan here: http://www.tolerance.org/lesson/juliette-hampton-morgan-white-woman-who-understood)
How I wish that there had been a community of faith that would have loved and empowered Ms. Morgan to go on a little while longer in the name of truth. I meet white Christians on a frequent basis frustrated with and shamed by the realities of racism and puzzled as to what to do about the dancing bear that they now cannot stop seeing. I often encourage students, both white and people of color, to pursue the noble vocation of truth-telling by means of academic activism. Using the God-given gift of our brains, the resources of research, the strength of robust think tanks, academia at its best is able to chip away at the injustices that surround us. Like protestors, public servants, and ministers of the Gospel, academics have the privilege of pointing out injustice and pointing to accountable remedies.
Today, I am saddened but not puzzled that the words of Calvin College Professor Joe Kuilema would elicit such a tizzy. If you ever want to see somebody get mad…really mad, threaten their idol. That’s right. The golden calf of their life or rather the dancing bear. White supremacy is America’s (including the church’s) moonwalking bear. Plus, there is something profound about an in-group whistleblower. To every white Christian who takes the Gospel seriously, know that it will come at a cost. We are not just called to tell the ultimate truth about Jesus’s grace but the truth about over-selves and society. The wickedness of white supremacy and white privilege must be called out along with the MANY other idols of our hearts.
Finally, John the Baptist once called out the leader of the land for his unlawful marriage. Bearing a seething grudge, Herod’s wife, Herodias, plotted to kill John. The goal was to cut off his head and to ultimately end his voice. Through manipulation the initial goal was accomplished but He who is the truth, Jesus, could not be stayed and his mission was accomplished. Silencing truth tellers through snarky blogs, vicious letters, and even physical violence does not end the Truth. We who have been captivated by the truth of the gospel will not bury our heads in the sand and ignore the truth of injustice that surrounds us even when we benefit from it.
May God bless the Christian academics around the world who are bold enough to say what is true and do what is right. Let them not be found without a community of faith to encourage and empower them. Amen.