The phrase “Systemic Racism” needs to be defined. Systemic racism is often called, Institutional Racism and Structural Racism. According to Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, systemic racism is, the “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans.” Andrea Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University defines it as, “the rules, practices and customs once rooted in law. These may have changed over time, resulting in a facade of ‘equality,’ but the residual effects reverberate throughout entire societal systems.”
In almost every debate, our terms need to be defined. Along with defining our terms, we need to know the presuppositions that will inform the debate. Since this blog is primarily written for Christ followers, I want to ask and answer the following question: Is there such a thing as “Social Sin?” In other words, is sin only personal or can a group sin? Maybe even more important is answering this question, “Can I (by default) be part of a group that sins although I did not actively participate in that sin?” Before you answer that, read Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:4-6. Daniel said,
4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6 “Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.”
Daniel confessed the nation’s sin although he did not active participate in any of the behavior that he describes.
Millard Erickson, wrote in his 3 volume theology series, Christian Theology; “We are faced with a paradox here. We may become quite sensitized to God’s displeasure with our individual sins, but be considerably less aware of the sinfulness of a group of which we are part. Thus, some persons who would never think of killing another human being, taking another’s property, or cheating in a business deal, may be part of a corporation, nation, or social class which in effect does these very things.”
Systemic Racism can be viewed as one manifestation (among many) of social sins begun in the past that has a lasting effect today. Christians can benefit from a social sin without themselves participating in sinful acts. Just as true, Christians suffer from other’s social sin without being lazy, irresponsible or sinful themselves. The key is to stop looking solely at one’s personal acts and look at the impact that a system has on others.
As a believer, I tend to view all the systems of this world as broken due to the sinfulness of man, the fallen nature of this world and the deceitfulness of Satan. So does systemic racism exist? In my opinion, “The social sin of racism which began centuries ago in America still has a lasting impact in our society and culture to this very day.”
However, with this said, this should not be the case in the church. I will address this in a future blog.