The Racial Problem In America
In the Gospel Guardian (May 6 and 13 issues) brother Bryan Vinson cited some of the "complex and grievous problems" confronting our nation today, and some of the causes for these conditions. Indeed, this nation is having tremendous problems. The question is: How can we Christians hold the right attitudes and react in the best manner to help in solving the problems satisfactorily to God and man?
It is my personal judgment that holding to the White Supremacist view will do nothing to solve present-day problems in America. I believe this view is wrong. If Lincoln, Clay and Campbell held such views over a hundred years ago it does not prove the validity of the position. These men like we today, were subject to human weakness and prejudice.
Brother Vinson called to our attention some of Lincoln's statements of pre-Civil War days (1850's) upholding the White Supremacist view:
"Negroes should not have voting rights nor serve on juries ... "
But today this view held by Lincoln is in violation of Constitutional Amendments XIII, XIV, and XV. Christians are to obey the laws of the land (Rom. 13). Permitting black people citizenship, the right to vote and the right to be seated on a jury violates no law of God known to me. No Christian today should deny black these rights. I disagree with Mr. Lincoln.
"They (Negroes) are not equal in color ..."
"Equal" means the same size, number, quality or value. But how can this term be applied to color without having some point of reference? (Technically neither white nor black is a color.) White is a better color for reflecting light and is, therefore, chosen for projection screens. Black is a better color where reflection is not desired. Neither white nor black is superior or inferior as colors — they simply are different.
"What I would most desire would be a separation of the white and black races ... "
Did Lincoln mean a complete separation of these races as they worked in field or factory? What of the use of public roads? What about public libraries and public schools? Should we today have separate polling places? Should we have separate court systems for whites and blacks, white judges and jurors trying whites and black judges and jurors trying blacks? What of those cases involving both blacks and whites — should we select mulattoes for judges and juries? Regardless of the frictions and problems our pluralistic society has created it is now a political, industrial and legal impossibility to separate the white and black races as desired by Lincoln. We cannot and should not give legal sanction to discrimination based on race.
"I do not understand that because I do not want a Negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife .. . "
Here I agree with Mr. Lincoln, but not for his reason — that blacks are inferior as a race to the white race. I do not want to marry that Jewish widow, Golda Meir, but none of my reasons for not wishing to do so include my thinking she is "inferior" to me.
Marriage is of private concern where one may be as discriminating as he or she pleases, discriminating as to religion, character, beauty, social grace, intellectual acumen, wealth, etc. Private judgments will differ here. A close and careful study should be given to expediencies. I see dangers involved in marriages where great differences exist in backgrounds, in culture, in religions, in wealth, in education. Here in the West many white Americans have married Orientals (yellow race), and are faithful Christians. Did they sin in marrying one of another race? What law of God did they transgress? Are they living in a sinful relationship still? White Supremacy would rule out such marriages but does God's word? What scripture could be cited? I repeat, I believe it expedient and less dangerous in marriage to marry one of similarities instead of differences.
In 1848 Henry Clay suggested we transport all Negroes back to Africa where "their condition physically, morally and socially and politically (would be) better and happier than anything which they could attain to or hope for here," as quoted by brother Vinson.
But time has repudiated Clay's judgment in this, for in no place on earth have black people advanced so far and accomplished so much as in the United States — in music, art, literature, medicine, business, etc. (See The Negro In American Culture, by Margaret Just Butcher, Mentor Books, New York, N. Y.) The Black American does not wish to go to Africa, and can no more be sent there than can the Oriental American be sent to Asia or the White American to Europe. The suggestion looks worse in 1971 than it must have in 1848!
Campbell, too, held to the transport-the-blacks-to-Africa view, or, to colonize them somewhere in the American continent. Some blacks would accept the latter view, but most would not, so this offers no solution to our problems.
Campbell said in 1845, "I sympathize much more with the owners of slaves, their heirs, and successors, than with the slaves they possess and bequeath ... "
Astonishing! Even for 1845! How different were Paul's warm feelings for both the runaway slave and his master (Philemon). Slavery presented a terrible problem for all concerned. If Campbell could have stood with Lincoln in New Orleans witnessing a slave auction, where people were sold like cattle, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters being separated forever, surely it would have better balanced his sympathies!
Brother Vinson shows that Campbell strongly denied that all men are "born free and equal." He cited as proof that Paul, being born a Roman citizen, had advantages over one born in Galilee; and that men are born to different levels of wealth and intellectual abilities.
But blacks and whites as American citizens are "Roman born," to follow the illustration of Campbell's. But the main point is this: the "free and equal" status of American citizens before our Constitution has no reference as to differing levels of intellect, of wealth, etc. Justice Harlan in a dissenting opinion said in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896:
"The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country, and so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and power . . . But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant ruling class of citizens . . . Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. (Emphasis mine, E. L. F.) The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved . . . " (American Constitutional Law, Mason and Beaney, Pub. Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 474.)
I believe every Christian will agree with Justice Harlan that every citizen — black, yellow or white — should be able to stand equal before the law of the land. In this matter we are "born free and equal!" I do not believe in either discrimination or in preferential treatment of whites or blacks before our courts. I feel certain there has been violation of these principles in both directions.
In the I. Corematen v. United States case in 1945, which considered before the Supreme Court the detention and relocation of Japanese — Americans (although loyal American citizens.) Justice Murphy rendered a blistering dissent to the violation of these persons' rights simply because of race origin. All agree today that Justice Murphy was right, and regret this shameful page in our history.
"It is but an assumption men are born free and equal."
As men (citizens) relate to the law of the land, the Constitution, they are born free and equal (as per Justice Harlan cited above). The discussion of differences in degree of intelligence, in culture and social graces, etc., is irrelevant. We cannot jump from a discussion of personal, individual choices, preferences and differences to a consideration of the legal and civil rights of other citizens, regardless of how great may be those individual differences in abilities or tastes. Some blacks are more intelligent, more wealthy, more cultured than are some whites and Orientals. Some Orientals and whites are more intelligent, more wealthy, more cultured than are some blacks. But still they are free and equal before the law.
Brother Vinson grants the black man the right to be taught of God and the right to work to sustain life. (Gospel Guardian, May 13, 1971, p. 3).
But to learn of God and to learn a skill or profession the black man will need the right to attend our public schools to get an education. To have a voice in choosing those to conduct his schools and his government he needs the right to vote. Rights are like grapes — they must come in a cluster. They support one another. There is no scriptural reason why a black man should not have the same rights that a white man has before God and before the laws of his country.
Brother Vinson states whites are superior to blacks and suggested he had "evidence existing to support such conclusion." (Ibid)
He should have presented the supporting evidence. He did mention that history shows the superior attainments of the whites over the blacks, but this assertion opens up a vast arena for discussion and human judgment, involving immeasurable factors of heredity versus environment, native intelligence versus educational opportunities and stimulation, and many other pertinent factors.
It must be remembered, too, history written by the white man has had little to say of the accomplishments of the black people in our country: the first operation on a human heart by Dr. Daniel Williams (1893); the first blood bank established by Dr. Charles Drew; and many other outstanding accomplishments by blacks in our country (Butcher, op. cit., p. 226). Many races other than whites have established great civilizations and cultures in past history.
The "history" of the Army Entrance Tests reveal that Texans, for example, make lower grades than Iowans. This is an "historical fact," but does it prove Texans are inferior to Iowans? I think not! Why do Texans make lower grades than Iowans? Is it climate? educational system? environment? racial mixture? I do not know, but I do not conclude Iowans are superior to Texans from this.
But let us just suppose that it could be proven that Iowans are, indeed, superior to Texans in intellect, in morals, in social culture: should that deny Texans the rights before the law enjoyed by Iowans? Should that bar a Texan from moving into Iowa to live and work so that his children could benefit by Iowa's schools and cultural climate? Should the black citizen be barred from living and working and educating his children where he believes they will profit the most? Brethren, this is the black American's country, too.
A great deal of our difficulty and confusion is in the matter of "social rights," a term nearly impossible to define. Why is going to school not a social event, but eating lunch in the school cafeteria is such? Why is it strictly business when a black family traveling stop at a service station and spend ten dollars on gas, oil and other services, while stepping into the adjoining cafeteria to eat a catfish dinner while his car is being serviced becomes a social occasion? Why is it strictly "spiritual business" for a black family to attend the worship at a white congregation while traveling, but a social (therefore, taboo) occasion if some white family invited the black family of Christians home to eat with them? If they were Orientals (yellow) instead of black, would such then be permissible? I believe an individual, be he black or white or yellow or brown, may invite whomsoever he wishes to his private, personal social affairs. He may have preferences and prejudices in his choices. But we can never give legal sanction in permitting him to carry these preferences and prejudices into public situations; into civil rights of other citizens.
Brother Vinson suggests God made different races, distinct and different, as He made different trees. (Ibid. p. 4)
The Bible states God made the tree "after his kind," whose seed was in itself (Gen. 1:11-12). He made the oak tree with its seed, the acorn. He made the pine tree after its kind, with the cone as its seed. Every kind of tree had its own seed in itself. But God made only one man and one woman whose seed was in them to reproduce their kind, mankind! The acorn will not produce the pine tree, nor will the pine cone bring forth an apple tree. But a man's seed of any race will fertilize a woman's seed of any race. Surely none will deny all mankind has a common blood and parentage (Acts 17:26a; Gen. 7:1,13).
It is true within our "kind" we have developed many differences in color, features, etc. God must have had some purpose in bringing this about. It must have played a part in scattering people throughout the world and developing nations (Acts 17b; Gen. 11:1-9). But who can prove that it is God's will and law today that the races should maintain strict separation?
I do not believe in evolution: but rather that God created our common ancestor. I do not believe in evolution: that some races have regressed into an inferior man, a sort of halfway man.
I detest the concept of White Supremacy (see Webster) as much as I do Black Supremacy or Hitler's Aryan Supremacy! Men should be judged as individuals, not as races or even families.
Three-fourths of this world's population is not white! God is no respecter of persons. If we hope to reach the non-whites with the gospel of Christ we must rid ourselves of notions of White Supremacy, a concept neither logical of scriptural. Many races are now American citizens; many are already Christians; many are subscribers to this publication. Let us grant to them those same rights we want for ourselves. It is the Christian thing to do and the legal thing also.
The Civil War is over! All citizens stand "free and equal" before the law. I want all men to knows including my Oriental and black friends and brethren in Christ, that I am glad that this is so. I want them to know also that in my personal, private and individual affairs I will discriminate as to my associates and contacts, exercising my right to do so, but granting to them the same.
We trust none of the readers of this article feel like old Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania, a foe of woman's suffrage, who being taunted by a suffragette that he might as well be for woman's suffrage because it was coming anyway. The Senator's retort was: "So is death, but I don't have to go out and meet it half way!" (V. O. Key, Jr., Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups, p. 665).
(For an excellent study of "Racial Problems," see Franklin Puckett's lecture given at Florida College, 1963, and printed in Messiah and The Modem Man, a booklet published by Florida College.)
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