Someone recently said the world would be a better place if we were all colorblind. I listened with sensitive ears because the person’s words reminded me of a song performed by one of my favorite gospel artists, John P. Kee, in 1994. The title is “Color Blind.” The song’s lyrics induce tears when I recall a former commitment to racist ideas.
By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit used Kee to sedate vestiges of racism in my heart with a call to repent and lament. Which raises the question: Is color blindness the answer to social unrest in the United States of America?
In 2004, I took a course at Dallas Theological Seminary with the late Dr. Eddie B. Lane, who introduced principles from a book titled Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. I had immediate pushback against the title, even though I had never read the book. I understood “color blindness” as the belief that one should treat all persons equally, without regard to their race.
This definition of color blindness, at first blush, seems prosocial and compassionate. After all, we live in an age where many people of color have influence, power and wealth — as evidenced by the fact that our country experienced a two-term black presidency before the Trump era. You might even recall political pundits arguing for the dawning of post-racial society. More to the point, Galatians 3:28 states that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, and neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ.
As a result, some people unwittingly claim there is no such thing as a black Christian or a white Christian — we are all just Christians. Unfortunately, a noble desire to promote racial unity becomes an ignoble commitment to ethnic disunity when the beauty of God’s creative mosaic is erased.
Color blindness insists that ignoring racial categories and looking beyond ethnic differences will lead us to a more racially equal and just society. Right? Wrong.
The problem with color blindness is that U.S. citizens have inherited race-based social constructs based on a biological fiction. As a result, Silva points out how the U.S. continues to uphold structures and ideas which prioritize and marginalize groups based on their perceived racial category — in both intentional and unintentional ways.
The truth of the matter is that so-called color blindness will not create reconciled community, because racism is a theological problem. In other words, color blindness inadvertently exacerbates the very racism it seeks to avoid since the remedy betrays God’s vision for the world.
We cannot deny the reality of racial privilege in the American psyche nor look beyond the color of one’s skin as if it does not matter in the public eye.
We live in a country which historically made, and continues to make, decisions based on false beliefs about skin color and race. Ethnic discrimination is part of the ordinary and everyday rhythm of the American experience — so we must address it frankly and wisely through the spirituality of the Word.
We cannot pretend skin colors do not exist. We must use the spiritual disciplines to train our hearts to see skin color without contempt by acknowledging and celebrating the fact that God made men and women in a variety of shades — and this is a part of His original good creation.
Racism: a systemic problem
Racism and ethnic discrimination possess both individual and systemic dimensions. These forms of discrimination are deeply ingrained in the structural fabric of the United States, including within many Christian spaces and institutions, often showing up in subtle ways.
Please understand that this statement does not suggest every individual person intentionally practices racist behavior against those from a different race, nor does this necessarily mean every problem experienced by black and brown people in America or in any given context results from racism. Nevertheless, sociologists have rightly shown that we — and our children — live in a racialized society, where one’s perceived race provides advantages or disadvantages in social interactions and achievements. And many of the challenges some image bearers of varying hues have historically experienced in the U.S. have been directly caused by racism.
In the U.S. experience, racial injustice has been especially evident between blacks and whites but also can be seen amongst other marginalized groups as well. Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, the Irish, Jews, Arabs and many other groups have experienced racism and discrimination simply because of their perceived differences.
American history, tragically, is marred by the legacy of a social order which placed some people created in the image of God at the bottom of the human flourishing barrel. We have made progress, but our current battles against racial injustice from all kinds of men and women of goodwill have reached the tipping point, leading to non-violent social demonstration by some and the hateful destruction of their neighbor by others.
A biblical response to rage
Satan, the unseen ruler of this age, will cause humanity to draw swords against one another based on color and an unlawful use of power. Do not become victim to the serpent’s bite. He is a liar. If you are a believer in Christ, put on the full armor of God so that you may stand against the schemes of the devil during this season of social unrest.
Let your anger be bathed in love since biblical indignation inspires a distinctly Christian posture toward racial hatred and social injustice. Which is to say, only a fool will embrace evil to promote justice.Rage, steeped in hatred, is demonic. Rage, motivated by love, is divine. Our brother James provides us with a God-honoring understanding of rage. He states, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which can save your souls” (1:19-21).
Any conversation about properly appropriating rage requires listening well to the Holy Spirit. He writes, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). The Spirit reminds us that Jesus overturned tables in the temple without becoming sinful, so you must study the life of Christ to exemplify righteous indignation (John 2:14-15).
When Paul tells believers to “be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph 4:26), he sets parameters for rage to protect us from ourselves. Wisdom literature says, “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back” (Prov 29:11). “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Prov 29:22).
The Spirit will produce hearts that “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away, along with all malice.” He inclines us to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32). Do not allow the devil to cause you to hate those who hate you. Jesus spoke those words, knowing every aspect of sin that would infest this planet before His return. We need prayer and Bible intake to protect our hearts from lawlessness. Satan wants to devour you. Stay alert!
Take time to breathe in and pray these passages over your heart:
• To keep away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel. (Prov 20:3)
• Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. (Eccl 7:9)
• A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov 15:1)
• Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions, than capturing a city. (Prov 16:32)
• Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt 5:9)
• Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow But the one who endures to the end will be saved. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt 24:12-14)
Curtis Woods is associate executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.