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The thoughts for this piece came from the book by Shelby Steele, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country. I highly recommend this book.
Idealism is at the core of the racism problems we face today. Competing groups have their views on the “truth and way” regarding racism (John 14:6). Because sin penetrates all idealistic perspectives, anyone’s best plans, and aspirations can take radical turns to keep them from their ideals while deforming those good intentions (Romans 5:12).
The civil rights movement, for example, was born out of the ideal that America is a great country. Martin Luther King often talked about the guiding principles of this country, which gave him confidence that we would win the fight against racism. He believed that America was great and it could reach higher because the Declaration of Independence laid out a roadmap for the equality of all people.
Even though many of the framers of America’s plan for our future had slaves, they inherently knew that it was not right and that our country could do better. Like the addict who knows what he’s doing is wrong and understands there is a better way, the stain of sin flowed from the framer’s pens as they wrote about an ideal future (Romans 7:21-25).
Mercifully, it was their desire for what was moral that motivated them to press on with this notion that all men (and women) are created equal and should have the same rights in this land of the free (James 4:17). America could have stayed a country that promoted slaves, but our forefathers, though guilty of the sins they were writing against, did not capitulate from the ideal of moving America forward.
They penned the documents that caused a country to take a moral leap from a dark past, hoping that progress, idealism, courage, and change would be in our future. King, a fellow sinner/saint, understood the sinner/saint complex, which is why he did not separate himself from the framers of our country but inserted himself into the continuum they had started.
We can do this. We can be a country of free men and women. —Americans
You, too, are ever-evolving (1 John 1:9). You were not what you should have been, but you strove for a better version of yourself (1 Peter 2:2). To expect perfection of your old self is as illogical as a parent demanding the perfect one-year-old, two-year-old, three-year-old, and so forth (Ephesians 4:22-24).
America, in its infant state, was not perfect, and history has never tried to hide our blemishes. The stain of the fall was all over our country then, as it is now. You can be honest about your past while always trying to improve from what you used to be (Colossians 3:9).
King could not have anticipated how those who came after him would not follow the 200-year continuum that was bringing change. He believed in the American dream that said it did not matter what the color of your skin was but the content of your character (Romans 5:3-5).
He taught that becoming educated, working hard, and providing for your family were three vital ingredients to personal freedom and advancement (1 Timothy 5:8). He intuitively knew how a self-reliant spirit was the key that unlocked the door to America’s privileges.
The new activist chose another route to a different kind of freedom, a “freedom” that does not set the captive free (Colossians 3:5). Education, hard work, and the family were not quick enough for the new reformers. They demanded the governmental engineering approach. Unwittingly, they were rejecting the traditional slave owner for a new one. Rather than seeing the “grace and the guilt” of Thomas Jefferson and his friends, they only saw the error of their ways.
Not recognizing (or blind to) the reality of the stain of sin on all things, they drew a circle around the past, labeled it anathema, and tossed it into the trash heap. Rather than following King on the continuum to newer, unfolding freedoms, they embraced a new attitude (Psalm 75:4):
It’s all wrong. We’re going to force the government to “socially engineer” what we want. If the government does not give us what we want, we will tear down America.
They are yet to realize how their chucking of the past and embracing a new slave mentality will take them back into the slavery that they disdain. The irony is appalling as you watch so many Americans, black and white, marching toward the slave blocks of the government. The new activists are bowing to a different paternalistic master.
The potent fuel that feeds their anger is race envy. The new activist sees a disparity between individuals and demographics. They mandate that racial, economic, or social equality must come now. It’s the newly married couple who demands they have all the perks and pleasures of their parents without doing the work that brought their parents those things.
The American way holds out opportunities for anyone. Some people will have more obstacles, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that if you want it and are willing to work for it, the chances of obtaining your dream are higher in this country than in any other. America has done a better job reforming itself than any other country in the world.
The confusion comes when folks conflate equality and disparity. Jefferson, King, and others pushed for every American to have an equal chance, but that does not mean the results will be identical. When you take a macro view of how America has changed, it’s stunning. We’ve never been so close to equality for all, but if you believe that equality should lead to the same results for everyone, you will stay angry.
After the activist rejected the past as evil, and the only way to make it right was through governmental intervention, America began its descent to where we are today. It’s the great regression. It’s that newly married couple who believes that disparity is a wicked inequality, and the only way to fix it is for someone outside of themselves to give them stuff so they have as much as their parents.
The idealism of Martin Luther King that believed America had “come a long way, baby, but was not quite there yet” changed to “we’re going to get there today through governmental engineering.” Their logic says,
We are walking away from the hard-fought freedom of our forefathers, who were black and white, and rather than continue the fight for freedom their way, which is foundational to what it means to be an American, we’re going to embrace an entitlement attitude.
The weapon of choice for the post-King activist is white guilt. There is truth in the word guilt because many who went before us were guilty of horrendous acts of racial violence against black Americans. No rational person would deny this truth. Saying that some white people are guilty is accurate. Labeling every white person in America—past and present—as guilty is an overreach that will incarcerate both whites and blacks.
With redrawn battle lines, it was no longer a fight for freedom through hard work, educational advancement, and strengthening the black family. The new activists placed their hopes in manipulating white people into contrition, hoping these “gaslit guilty” folks would do their bidding through governmental privilege. They mixed real guilt with gaslit white guilt, which produced their sense of entitlement.
The evolving freedoms that Martin Luther King led a generation to shifted toward a fixation on the government to bring about equality for all. King distanced the black community from slavery that depended on the benevolence of their masters. The new activists moved the cause away from America’s moral progress by swerving toward the government as the “new master” that would bring the long-awaited equality.
The old-time slave was dependent on his master. The post-modern black slave is hitching his chain to the government. They make their appeals to the predominantly white, paternalistic congressperson to give them a handout. The detrimental irony of this handshake with the devil is that the modern slave owner does not genuinely love the black person. The white liberal uses the black person to assuage their “white guilt” while keeping the black community in bondage to their programs, which keeps the master in charge and the black person enslaved.
This bargain with the devil and facade of love has its appeal, especially when the promises come. It’s sad to watch each politically liberal-minded person fall all over themselves to give more stuff than the last liberal. Its liberal one-upmanship as the “sympathetic” paternal leader proves their sorrow over the past by giving out more to those who believe they are entitled.
The black person who bows to their governmental masters believes it’s an advancement in morality. It’s not. It’s a lie. The master is catching the slave all over again. In blindness, the black person applauds the paternal government for giving them what they wanted. The white person experiences vindication for their white guilt, and the black person senses equality.
The black person continues to be small in this revamped, liberal ecosystem, but there is more irony: the entitled blacks and paternal liberals blame the conservatives for where we are. It’s incredible how liberalism gave us the KKK and other oppressive groups and initiatives, and it was the conservatives who fought along with the blacks for their freedom. This new pact with the devil is complete:
The surreal truth in this political power play is that conservatives don’t want to rule over blacks. We don’t see them as inferior or unequal. We see them like us: Americans. We believe in cooperating with others to help each other gain all our aspirations. Conservatives embrace equal freedom for everyone, which puts destiny in the hand of the worker to become whatever they desire.
From Washington to King, our country was making tremendous progress. Despite our sins, moral advancement was happening. Of course, this created a problem for the liberal power brokers. The only way they can survive is to make promises, give away free stuff, and create a dependent class. If equality did come, there would be no place for the liberal. They need our country to swerve off the path. If freedom did ring, they would be out of business. They had to change things, which they did in eleven sequential steps.
Racial problems are complicated, and they won’t change anytime soon. Though there will never be perfect harmony in a sin-cursed world, we can get back to making progress. My appeal to you is to think less globally about the problem and more personally. It’s easy to be swept away by the problems you see in the media. It’s wiser to step away from that noise and focus on what you can change.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).