Trying to understand

As an investigative reporter, I have often taken very tough issues and tried to boil them down to their crux. This Daily Jot is an attempt to walk you through some of my process on racial issues as I tried to understand what people mean by systemic racism in America. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard where there is one race—the human race created by God—and our belief system should be centered on the commandment of Christ found in John 13:34 and other places: “That you love one another.” My heart tells me that most people do not practice racism, therefore, they can’t comprehend that it exists. Herein is the conflict of the mind, often resulting in anxiety, anger and if/then/either/or and “yeah, but” justifications.

A lot of research and study of history prompted me to reduce this issue to a couple of concepts that sincere and empathetic minds can embrace, or reject, depending on your state of mind and heart. But at least walk with me for a bit. Hear me out. The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The exception was the slave institution in existence from the early 1600s until in 1865 when slavery was abolished by the Constitution’s 13th Amendment. From 1789 until 1865, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a man.

While America abolished slavery and attempted through Special Orders to allocate 40 acres of land to freed slaves, Democratic President Andrew Johnson, who took office after Lincoln’s assassination, returned that land to southern owners, granted amnesty to most Confederates, and allowed the rebel states to elect new governments. The Democrats in local, state and federal government then enacted Jim Crow Laws that for over 100 years from 1865 to the late 1960s oppressed blacks by mandating the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, housing, and of restrooms, drinking fountains, and restaurants. The result was definitely separate, but not equal. Laws allowed arresting blacks for the smallest of crimes to be incarcerated to hard labor and would never be allowed to vote, thus perpetuating slavery.

These “separate but equal” laws began to be deconstructed with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, although these reforms were opposed by Democrats at all levels of government well into the 1970s. Keep in mind that police were enforcing these mandates for over 100 years. So when the words “systemic racism” are used, this is what is meant. It is not as simple as ending slavery or segregation. It is deep-rooted both consciously and unconsciously, resulting in tremendous disparities in income, housing, education, criminal codes and so on for generations. There is certainly a political cause rooted in racism and hatred. The sum of the parts add up to what we have today underscored by senseless deaths, distrust, cause hijackers, and violence. The answer may be found in the love of Christ and the Christian response.

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Bill Wilson

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