A few weeks ago, a black friend said to me, “black people can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racists. Reverse-racism doesn’t exist.” I’ve been mulling over the comments ever since, especially because the comments are not from an unbeliever—they are from a Christian. And as I’ve discovered, there are many other black Christians who share the same sentiments.

The conversation came about after the friend invited me to sit in on her Sociology lecture—a lecture about racism. At the lecture, the Professor contended, as do other Sociologists, that racism is defined as: “prejudice plus power.” Meaning, only the racial majority in a community, such as white people in Canada, possess the social power to discriminate against the racial minorities; i.e., racism.

The trouble with that, obviously, is that it is not the original and proper definition of racism—at least not according to every trusted dictionary in the world. For example, The Oxford Dictionary defines racism as: “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

The concept of reverse-racism being a myth becomes even more bizarre when we understand that the term was actually coined by Hosea Williams, the black civil rights leader and good friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he accused the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—an influential civil rights group—of reverse-racism.

This redefinition of racism and the supposed myth of reverse-racism emphasizes the concept of relativism—the philosophical doctrine that all criteria of judgment are relative to the individuals and situations involved. True to its natural inconsistencies, this relativistic understanding of racism suggests that what’s racism for some races isn’t racism for others. Frankly speaking, however, the assertion that black people can’t be racist or be as prejudiced as white people can be, is akin to suggesting that black people aren’t as sinful as white people are.

Whatever we choose to call it, prejudice or racism falls under one category of sin: hatred.

Because of the reality of sin, we are all prone to hate people who are not like us, racially or otherwise. We are all sinners. We are all capable of racism; we are all capable of hating others.

Yes, black people have suffered through slavery, segregation, and inequality for much of our existence in the western world. That however doesn’t negate the reality of our natural ability to hate others. That doesn’t erase our own history of owning and selling black slaves during the Arab Slave Trade and the Atlantic Slave Trade. All of humanity is prone to the same sins (Romans 3:10-18).

Still, because God didn’t show partiality or favouritism to any race when He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of white, black, Asian, brown, and other types of people (Galatians 2:6); we believers must resist favouring our races above others (James 2:4, 9).

The Israelites in first century had become so angry and bitter towards their oppressors, the Gentiles, that many of them dismissed the reality of their own sinfulness and need for salvation in Christ. They had become so fixated on salvation from the Romans, instead of salvation from their sins. Sadly, many black people are falling to the same distraction, to their own doom and hopelessness.

We black believers, however, should know that our hope is not in the colour of our skin; Instead, our hope is in the One who covers our sins.

  • theRKF

    I learned something today. Thanks, Sam. I wasn’t expecting the official definition of racism to include the last bit: “based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”. I’ve tended to think of racism more in terms of prejudice (which can lead to discrimination, etc.) based on general assumptions. (ex: All young black men play basketball, listen to hip hop; all Asians are into technology and anime; white men can’t jump) (BTW: Random examples, not my beliefs!)

    Many common racial generalizations don’t involve the superiority of race, just common assumptions. In fact, many white people would default to assuming a black person is likely to be a superior athlete, musician, etc. If racism is a term to be applied only when superiority of one’s own race is assumed, what would be the correct way to address the less-harmful (though probably still ignorant) generalizations based on race?

    • SammySey

      Sir, I agree with you that racism isn’t always a case of one thinking that their race is superior than another. So as generally true as Oxford’s dictionary is, I agree that racism sometimes doesn’t involve the thinking of racial superiority.

      Since I do not that that racism is a term only to be applied when superiority of one’s race is assumed, I’m not sure if the following will answer your question, but I would apply texts like Proverbs 18:2 to address ignorant generalizations of race.

      Does that answer the question?

      • theRKF

        It’s hard to go wrong when you’re quoting Proverbs 🙂