Everyday Racism

By Eric M. Wallace, Ph.D.

Three years ago, I was contacted by WGN and asked to be interviewed for a segment they were doing on Everyday Racism. I agreed to do the interview, not really knowing much about the feature or how long it would be. However, I felt that the issue deserved another point of view.  At least, that was how it was presented to me. I should have, at that point, asked against what other point of view? I should have known then that there was already a particular narrative that was being proffered. And anything I said contrary to that narrative was not going to be fully expressed.

WGN reporter Gaynor Hall interviewed me for about a half-hour. She asked me questions about my background, my politics, and my experiences with racism. I answered all her questions as my wife listened. I also made it clear that I see the world through a Biblical worldview. What I meant by that was we are all sinners, and racism is a sin. It is part of our human nature that can’t be legislated away. Racism is an inward thought about the inferiority of other races and harboring negative stereotypes of those races. The overt act, which I said we must be more concerned about, is discrimination. I also mentioned that racism is a secular construct that is not evidenced in Scripture. There is only one race—the human race.

I conveyed that to be overly concerned about what people think about race is to position ourselves as the thought police. Only God knows peoples’ thoughts until they are articulated or demonstrated. Why should I care if someone doesn’t like me because of my skin color if they’re not discriminating against me? President Trump was an example. The narrative out of the mouths of the progressive left is that Trump is a racist. However, his tax policy has opened the door for more jobs and economic growth for all Americans. Why should I care if he harbors ill feelings toward Blacks in his mind if his policies help Blacks? To be clear, I saw no evidence of his supposed racism.  I heard the accusations but saw little proof.  I have friends who work in and with the administration, and they said he was not a racist.

I also brought up Donald Sterling, the man who used to own the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. From the outside looking in, no one knew he was a racist until his girlfriend outed him. His racism was contained in his mind and only came out in the comfort of his home. He showed no signs of racism from what we know. He had a Black coach and several Black players on a team that ended up going to the NBA playoffs. Nobody cared about his private thoughts. There was no evidence of racial discrimination. So why would we care?

At some point in the discussion, I commented that people are "to easily offended.” (see video here) “I said I was tired of people using the “R” word every time there’s an incident between someone Black and someone White. It’s got to be racism. Maybe, sometimes somebody did something wrong that they shouldn’t have. I said that, “racism is going to be here. It’s a part of sin nature. It’s part of the human condition, just like lying and stealing and all these other things that people do. I’m not saying that racism doesn’t matter at all, but we shouldn’t spend our time trying to scope out every person that may have a racist thought.  We need to make changes ourselves within the community and stop looking for someone to save us. We can save ourselves.”  My comments were followed by a comment from Patrisse Cullors, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter, rejecting the idea of self-help and personal responsibility calling it “a lie.” She went on to say, “We should talk about how we collectively change the system that so often hurts and harms us.” In my opinion, that moved the discussion from peoples’ personal bias to Systemic Racism, a different conversation.  I think it is even harder to prove or identify. But it still misidentifies what holds people, in this case, Black people, back. It’s not the attitude of others that holds us back but our attitude. The constant preoccupation with what others think about us prevents us from using our mental fortitude to proceed forward regardless of what others may think.

The story upon which the program was centered involved a twelve-year-old boy, Iain Bady, who was arrested by the Evanston IL police. He had been riding on the bicycle's rear wheel pegs while a young girl was riding on the handlebars while someone else was operating the bike.  The bike ran a stoplight with all its riders and caused a few cars to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the kids. (Read story here) Police officers saw the incident and followed the kids into a Starbucks. Two of the kids were arrested. It appears the third got away. Both kids who were arrested are Black. I’ve not seen anything that identifies the third kid’s race. The problem with the whole ordeal is that the kids were wrong and should have been disciplined. But, as you can guess, it’s been turned into a racial incident because the perps are black. The question is: Would the police arrest these kids if they were White? Unfortunately, that question can’t be answered with any certainty. You’d have to have white kids and black kids doing the same thing then have a discrepancy in how they were treated even to begin to ask the question. But to those who have suspended critical thinking, it must be racism because they were arrested. In other words, the story around which the program “Everyday Racism” was centered was not even a clear indication of that racism. It may be bad policing, allowing the third kid to get away, or charging the kids with a crime. I see no racism, although many are spending a lot of time trying to conjure it up.

Chasing down racist or conjuring it up speaks to me of seeking approval from the greater society. We don’t need permission from anyone for Blacks to progress.  We don’t need white people to like us so we can advance. The civil rights movement wasn’t to change racist people into admirers of black people but to change the law to stop racism once it was demonstrated in the discrimination that impeded our forward progress. Jim Crow is gone. So, let’s move on despite any vestiges of “everyday racism” in the minds of those who hate Blacks. Let’s pray they change their minds like many over the centuries have. However, in the meantime, let’s use our energy to fix our communities, families, and businesses. Let's restore the legacy of our ancestors who overcame great odds to achieve great things in sports, academia, entertainment, politics, and industry, establishing towns like Black Wall Street while giving honor and glory to God along the way.  

[Originally published in 2018 updated for 2021 and republished to show not much has changed. ]

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