If you are a chicken in a coop and every time you see a fellow egg layer hauled off and plucked it’s by the hands of a wolf, soon enough, you begin to distrust anything wolfish. Over time, you register certain profiles dangerous and untrustworthy and make adjustments. That is exactly what happens in urban contexts where certain concentrated ethnicities commit crimes.
If you live in a predominantly black city and each evening’s news broadcast is filled with yet another black youth being charged with murder and theft, you get a little cautious. Most of the violent crime in New Orleans fits this description. It is mostly black on black drug-related offenses and progressively the white population begins to mistrust anyone who is black. If most of the criminals in the city were Hispanic or Asian there would be the same bias. But is the chicken somehow wrong for learning that wolves will eat him? And how is he suppose to know that the current wolf at his door is really a vegetarian?
Now let’s be clear about a vital point – I am not a racist. In fact, I can’t even be one at all since I don’t believe in races to begin with. There is only one human race – mankind. We were created in God’s image from one blood and we exist as people groups in differing geographical regions with various physical traits. Our differences as people create varied cultures and subcultures and those pockets of variance and difference become shaping influences. Those influences along with our genetic predispositions, parenting, personalities and choices mold us into who we become. We are not born prejudiced; we learn it. However, not all prejudices are wrong as any chicken can tell you.
What virtually gets ignored in the ‘race’ discussion is the fact that stereotypes come from truth not fiction. It is not an invention that certain ethnicities like certain foods and that certain people groups prefer certain colors and types of automobiles. Do all of them? Of course not. But to recognize major trends and truths as being correct does not make one a bigot. And what about those who live under negative stereotypes such as criminal labels? Take a look at this video report about an experiment done by a high school film maker.
Can it be that the children pick white baby dolls as the safe doll cause most of what they see in their own communities shows them ‘darker skinned people’ as thugs and ‘ganstas’? Perhaps a high percentage of negative and poor examples in their lives are from the black side? It seems that everyone assumes racism here but if a ‘race’ reinforces the stereotype by promoting it and in many cases (as in rap music and hip-hop) glorifying it, why are we shocked? Bill Cosby makes similar arguments as have many others when speaking about the double-standard in using the “N” word.
Here are a few Cosby quotes from a Washington Post article about his appearance at a Constitution Hall event in Washington years ago commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that paved the way for integrated schools
“Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids – $500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for ‘Hooked on Phonics.’
“They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk: ‘Why you ain’t,’ ‘Where you is’ … And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. … Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. … You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!”
On imprisoned blacks:
“These are not political criminals…these are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?”
Straight talk with sensibility. Too bad some choose to either ignore real hate disguised as ethno-prejudice or play a minority victim with two-faced requirements and special pleadings. But thankfully we have not been called to dwell too heavily on this asphalt playground. While we are to bring a taste of redemptive renewal and glory to the streets where we live, we are commanded to look beyond the neon sky’s ‘race’ baiting and inconsistent mantras to the new heaven where we shall see a multiethnic multitude so vast we cannot even count them. There, every nation and every tribe and every tongue and every people will be united with their God for all eternity drinking from the water of life.