The New “R-word” Label
For more than two centuries the despicable “N-word” has been hatefully hurled at “people of color.” Now its use virtually is the equivalent of profanity and borders on being verbal hate speech, worthy of criminal prosecution. Another term rapidly finding a new and intensified niche is “racist.” If one wishes to defame another with whom he has a grievance, label him a racist. No one wants to be thought of as a racist. The epithet received a celebrity boost recently when former president Jimmy Carter charged that a significant portion of those who oppose the current president’s policies are motivated by racism.
Racism is a reality that is gray-headed with history. It probably began to foment after the dispersing of the human family in the days of the post-Flood era. Early humanity largely neglected the Creator’s charge to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). A significant portion absolutely refused to do so (cf. 11:4). Accordingly, God “confounded” their speech and “scattered them abroad” (vv. 6ff). The subsequent separations created the circumstances that accommodated the physical variations of the human family. An incredibly rich genetic pool, together with a population dispersal, created just the right diversity of environments for the development of multiple physical features.
Yet in his book, Human Heredity, noted anthropologist, Dr. Ashley Montagu, a militant evolutionist, conceded that “all the ethnic groups of man must have originated from a single ancestral stock. . . . [T]he more we study the different ethnic groups of man the more alike they turn out to be” (1960, 184).
When God chose the nation of Israel for a special role designed to facilitate the coming of the Messiah, a tendency to disdain other peoples eventually developed. They had been elevated by God, but not because of intrinsic worth, rather it was due to the role to which they had been appointed. It was not the divine ideal that racial barriers be erected. Realistically, however, the worship of Jehovah isolated the Israelites from the pagan polytheists, and a new word became prominent in Old Testament literature—“strangers,” i.e., non-Hebrews (cf. Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4).
It is interesting that the law of Moses embodied a number of ordinances that were designed to show kindness to the Gentile “strangers.” They were not to be oppressed (Exodus 23:9); instead, the Hebrews were to love them and show them hospitality (Leviticus 19:33-34). Strangers were classed with widows and orphans as deserving of special care (Exodus 22:21-24). They could be incorporated into the Jewish worship system by becoming proselytes (cf. Acts 2:10b), which involved full legal rights (Numbers 15:14-16).
It was never the divine intention, however, that hostilities develop that would cause hatred and bloodshed among the greater community of divine offspring (cf. Acts 17:26, 28). Yet in the New Testament era, “Jews had no dealings with Samaritans” (Luke 10:31-32; John 4:9), Samaritans hated Jews (Luke 9:52-53), and the Jews felt contaminated by all Gentiles (cf. Mark 7:3-4), hence engaged in multiple ritual washings to purge themselves of “contamination.” It was social chaos.
Our beloved nation was bathed in its own blood as a result of the black-white conflict over slavery, namely the Civil War (1861-65); and that legacy lingers today. What many people forget, however, is that while whites trafficked in black flesh (a practice condemned in Scripture—see “menstealers” [1 Timothy 1:10]) many Africans sold their own people into bondage. It was not a one-sided sin. Nevertheless, for the past century and a half there has been a legacy of hate, suspicion, abuse, and reactionary strife because of racism.
Nothing can be resolved unless it is defined. Racism is not restricted to one element of our population. It is white, black, brown, and yellow. How is racism to be recognized?
- A racist generally is a person who judges others on exterior features, such as skin pigmentation, language accent, or other externals.
- A racist will resist hiring one of another race, or will hire a less qualified person over a more qualified one, to accommodate his own race.
- A racist cringes to see people of different color in marriage—“People need to marry their own kind.” We are all the same “kind.” We are descendants of Adam and Eve. Each human cell contains that marvelous chemical substance known as DNA (short for deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA is the code that was programmed by the Creator for the productions of different varieties of biological organisms, which includes the potential for variability within humankind. The responsibility for “race diversity” lies ultimately with God.
- Those who define as “racists” others who disagree with them are in fact racists themselves. For some, every act of conflict is perceived as racially-motivated.
- Racists have priorities reversed. As Martin Luther King Jr. expressed it, they make decisions according to the “color of one’s skin,” rather than “the content of his character”—either against people or for them.
- A white racist believes all blacks somehow are inferior. (Charles Darwin, the apostle of evolution, argued this position.) Many non-white racists believe all whites are racists!
Racism is an insidious evil. It dishonors God’s plan of human development and ethnic diversity. It is judgmental. It constitutes “respect of persons” and thus is not God-like (Acts 10:34; James 2:1); the Greek text literally reads, “God is no respecter of faces.” Human beings ought not to be either.
No person should be exalted merely because of his color or disdained because of it. The issues of life are: what does a person stand for in his life and his teaching?
- Montagu, Ashley. 1960. Human Heredity. New York, NY: Mentor.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.