Darrow Miller and Friends

Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #2b

  1. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue Between Christians
  2. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #1
  3. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation Dialogue: Dennae #1
  4. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #2a
  5. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #2b
  6. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae 2a
  7. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae #2b
  8. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3a
  9. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3b
  10. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3c
  11. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3d
  12. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae 3a
  13. Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae 3b

What’s driving today’s polarization around race? And what’s the answer?

Two opposite answers—two narratives, if you will—are unfolding. One emphasizes systemic injustice and institutional racism. It views the problems black people face as sourced outside their community and attributes these problems to historic slavery and pervasive, systemic white oppression.

The other narrative emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility; evil is rooted in human hearts. Yes, white racism persists, but much bigger challenges confront the black community, challenges that can be overcome by the actions and decisions of black people in ways that are not ultimately dependent on the actions of white people.

Here’s the latest in our current series, A Dialogue on Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation.


[This is part 2 of Scott’s response. Go here to read part 1.]


Thank you for recommending the article by Tim Keller. I appreciated much of his biblical exposition on race and racism at the beginning of his article. However, towards the end when he began talking about whiteness and modern social theory, I began to struggle.

He wrote: “… when the African slave trade started, the idea that there was a ‘white’ race, as opposed to other non-white races including ‘black’—was a way to justify slavery and give it something it never had in antiquity—a strict racial basis … No longer were you primarily Irish or German or Swedish–you were primarily white.”

The contention that “whiteness” was an invention of white slaveholders to justify the slavery of black Africans seems plausible. But then Keller goes on and says “the account of the historical creation of ‘whiteness’ in modern times is helpful.” How is it helpful? And who “created whiteness” in modern times? He doesn’t answer either question, but many attribute the creation of the concept to W.E.B. DuBois. Much can be said about DuBois, but it is worth noting that while he was a brilliant social theorist, he was also an atheist who was deeply sympathetic to Marxist theory and used it as a lens to view race relations in America.

Latasha Morrison writes about racismLatasha Morrison has a lot to say about whiteness. She writes in her Whiteness 101 curricula, “Most white people find that they have neither a healthy way to describe their whiteness nor positive emotions to attach to those descriptions.” She goes on, “The task for whites is to develop a positive white identity.” To do that, a white person “must become aware of his or her whiteness, accept it as personally and socially significant, and learn to feel good about it.”

Connect what Keller and Morrison say about whiteness, and it seems contradictory and confusing, at least to me. Whiteness—the (evil) idea that was invented to justify the slave trade according to Keller—is something that defines me as a white person and I’m supposed to “accept” it as part of my identity and “learn to feel good about” according to Morrison.

She continues: “It is essential that [white people] … acknowledge the role we have played in the oppression of people of color.” The obvious question in response is this: How have I (a person with white skin) oppressed POC? Her implied answer seems to be this: Because I am white, therefore I have this inherent (evil) condition called “whiteness” combined with “white privilege” which are both, by nature, oppressive to POC.

She continues: “This self-examination can (and should) be painful. It can be tempting to … live in denial rather than face our complicity … Privilege—and its opposite, oppression—are related to white identity.”

Morrison seems to adopt a good deal of her thinking on this from Robin DiAngelo’s now-famous book White Fragility, which she quotes several times in her curriculum. DiAngelo is one of America’s best-known popularizers of critical race theory, and helped pioneer the academic field called “Whiteness Studies.” Like W.E.B. DuBois before her, DiAngelo is a non-Christian social theorist who seems to be significantly influenced by Marxian presuppositions applied to race, whereby “white” is the new oppressor, the new “capitalist bourgeoisie.”

I’m left wondering how such confusing, derogatory, and unbiblical concepts such as whiteness and white fragility can be “helpful” for Christians to adopt in pursuing racial reconciliation. My main problem with the concept of whiteness is that it seems very difficult to distinguish between whiteness and white people. Notice, for example, how the hugely influential Ta-Nehesi Coates Ta-Nehesi Coates speaks about racismdescribes whiteness. Notice how he blurs the line between whiteness and white people:

  • “Whiteness” is “an existential danger to the country and the world.”
  • “Whites have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion.”
  • “The power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, ‘white people’ would cease to exist for want of reasons.”

These are not fringe beliefs. Coates is a widely admired, mainstream spokesperson on these topics from his perch at The Atlantic. His drawing of the line between good and evil between groups based on skin color is very problematic to me, dangerous even. It seems like a way of “othering” (Tim Keller’s word) and problematizing an entire group of people based on their skin color.

It seems clear to me that such thinking can only divide, can only exacerbate racial hostility. Morrison, as a Christian, doesn’t go as far as the atheist Coates, but she seems to be drinking water from the same well. My point is that this set of ideas goes in the opposite direction of reconciliation, which is what we both long for.

You wrote: “our American and ecclesial structures have institutionalized whiteness intentionally and explicitly.” How do you see this “institutionalizing of whiteness” today in the church in Phoenix, for example?

Racism in America’s creation

You wrote: “Racism, as a philosophical, political, economic and theological concept has been explicitly and implicitly used in the creation of America.”

I don’t think I’m alone in considering the cornerstone of our creation (that is, our founding as the United States) to be the Declaration of Independence, which laid the ideological foundation for our constitution. I also don’t think I’m alone in considering the most important sentence in the Declaration to be this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Perhaps you disagree with me about the Declaration and the centrality of this sentence to our creation, but I fail to see how “racism, as a concept was used in the creation of America,” for this certainly, is not a racist statement. It is just the opposite. The fact that we’ve struggled with racism, and only imperfectly live up to this principle doesn’t negate the principle or make our founding explicitly racist. I would argue that the anti-racist nature of this principle provided the driving force behind the abolitionist movement and eradication of slavery, as well as the end of Jim Crow segregation. It was King’s “promissory note” that had yet to fully apply to black people, and he was right. It has been a force for great good, not only in America but around the world.

Again, I strongly affirm our common desire to racial reconciliation as followers of Christ and appreciate this dialogue to sharpen one another on the best ways to accomplish this desired end.

Warmly in Christ,



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Scott Allen serves as president of the DNA secretariat office. After serving with Food for the Hungry for 19 years in both the United States and Japan, working in the areas of human resources, staff training and program management, he teamed up with Darrow Miller and Bob Moffitt to launch the DNA in 2008. Scott is the author of Beyond the Sacred-Secular Divide: A Call to Wholistic Life and Ministry and co-author of several books including, As the Family Goes, So Goes the Nation: Principles and Practices for Building Healthy Families. His most recent book is Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice. Scott lives with his wife, Kim, in Bend, OR. They have five children.