Isn't "anti-racism" negative?

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Whenever I hear the term "anti-racism" I cringe a bit. I am reminded about a conversation and an initiative that took place 20 years ago. The chief of a native reserve adjacent to our town and I had regular conversations about white perceptions of natives and about native perceptions about white people.

The chief was an evangelical Christian who frequently preached in our local CRC while we were vacant. I suggested that we create an Anti-racism Coalition (ARC) consisting of a half dozen leaders from each of the two communities. He said that the term was too negative so he suggested Diversity Awareness Coalition.

He said that the native community was as racist as the white folks in town and that there was a need to bring both sides together to make each other aware of our differences. Awareness conquers bigotry ... usually. 

So we did that. We had teams of two (one from each community) visit local factories to talk about misconceptions and racial stereotyping. They also visited school assemblies, held discussions in church basements, and met with civic officials.

Which leads me to my point: Denominational statements may have a point but how do those statements translate into local action at the congregational or classical level? Unless we start talking to each other -- across all racial and even socioeconomic lines -- we won't understand each other. That also certainly applies to our Christian school communities at all levels.

Diversity awareness is a two-way street that comes from dialogue and discussion. We can learn from our Safe Church documents and statements. Unless it comes alive within a congregational setting, it's just that: a document.

 

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Anti-racist is by strict definition,  not racist.

Is there a negative inference in that you're saying people are racist, yes and rightly so!

It's not a nice word,  because its not a nice thing! The goal isn't to make people feel warm and fuzzy. The goal is to point to the the sin of racism! That's not nice!

I believe part of the problem is that most people don't know what a racist is. Case in point,  the indigenous leader who suggested the change to diversity and the readiness of white people to accept it. Why, because it felt/ sounded better? Who did the research to determine the difference or sameness of the two terms? Are they interchangeable?

I suggest a one day workshop offered by our denomination to explain terms and basic history (Canadian or U.S.A.). Its very easy to have misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentments when we're starting with flawed definitions and/or definitions based on biased perceptions, not facts.

Neil Shenvi offers balanced and biblical reflection on the term "anti-racism" and terms within the realm of anti-racism.  Shenvi reflects even-handedly on the positives and negatives of each term.  https://shenviapologetics.com/an-antiracism-glossary/

My answer to your question, Keith, is yes and no.  To be sure, the purest version of anti- (opposed to; against) racism is beneficial to the extent that it opposes unrighteousness.  That much seems plain on its face.  But, as usual, the devil is in the details.  When anti-racism imports worldly philosophies and definitions that are contrary to scripture, then the term is harmful to the witness of the church and not God-honoring.  Unfortunately much of what we see today in the church is inseparable and indistinct from the anti-Christian methods and philosophy of the world in the realm of anti-racism.  

Community Builder

Thanks, Eric.

It is a given that racism -- bigotry -- is a sin and that every Bible-believing Christian should be opposed to it.

The challenge for the local church -- and that's really where the rubber hits the road -- is "What are you going to do about it?" You can preach against it off the pulpit as much as you like but until you engage in meaningful discussion and dialogue, and sit down with the 'other side' in an attempt to understand their struggles and their culture, very little will change.

 

To be sure, preaching and beliefs without action are empty - James drives that point home.  Of course that is true for all sins/teachings/challenges.  The question that it seemed your post was getting at was the language that we use in pursuit of justice.  The church has the language to deal with sin and injustice.  The meaningful discussion and dialogue that we should all strive to have should be God-honoring and honest.  Much of the world's approach and language in the realm of racism/anti-racism and justice/injustice drags in baggage from worldviews and moral frameworks that compete with a biblical worldview and moral framework.  The end result of using the world's language, methods, and worldview for our conversations and dialogues is often something that actually does not resemble biblical justice.  I wish that in the CRC there was room for more honest dialogue about all the factors at play in these discussions, but frankly the denominational offices tasked with that sort of work have done an exceedingly poor job of fostering honest and broad dialogue.  

Community Builder

Thanks, Eric.

It is a given that racism -- bigotry -- is a sin and that every Bible-believing Christian should be opposed to it.

The challenge for the local church -- and that's really where the rubber hits the road -- is "What are you going to do about it?" You can preach against it off the pulpit as much as you like but until you engage in meaningful discussion and dialogue, and sit down with the 'other side' in an attempt to understand their struggles and their culture, very little will change.