The story of America cannot be told without coming to grips with the development and promotion of white supremacy.
To many, “white supremacy” evokes white hoods and violence toward people of color. Such is certainly a part of white supremacy, yet one can still be a white supremacist without going to such an extreme. White supremacy includes everything from such kinds of overt racism and violence to the preference, stated or unstated, to have white people be in positions of authority and influence, and discomfort, stated or unstated, when people of color gain such prominence in concern, authority, and influence. Those who might object to such a broad definition of “white supremacy” are welcome to choose or establish a term or phrase which will just as effectively communicate this condition in which a white person feels as if their experience, as normal, should be normative for everyone else, and would rather have white people in charge.
Such notions of supremacy were woven in the warp and woof of “Western civilization,” which always looked for reasons to justify their treatment of other people as inferior. The Greeks considered all non-Greeks to be “barbaric,” and considered them inferior in civilization and temperament. The Romans felt the same about the “uncivilized hordes” to their north. Throughout the medieval and early modern era Europeans went to great lengths to attempt to justify their civilization as superior to other alternatives around them.
Such attitudes easily became racialized on the American continent. White settlers proved responsible for the genocide of untold millions of Native Americans and subjected millions of Africans to bondage and inhumane conditions for economic exploitation. America’s “original sin,” as many call slavery, continue to affect the lives of its citizens to this day. Even though we have come to recognize that race is not a biological category but a social construct, race continues to profoundly shape how we experience life as Americans and as Christians to this day.
In the eyes of many, “Western civilization” is a “Christian” civilization, and the people of God have always needed to reckon with their culture’s claims of supremacy. Many Christians throughout time have stood firm in the Gospel and critiqued the pretensions of their societies and cultures. And yet many other Christians, in various ways, have remained silent regarding such things, justified such ideas, and many even wholeheartedly embraced them in the name of Jesus. Some Christians in the past supported American chattel slavery. Many others deeply imbibed from the wells of race theory which were taken for granted as true for the better part of three hundred years. Many Christians actively defended the deeply segregated and white supremacist ways, not only of the South in the Jim Crow era, but also in the North, despite its smug claims of superiority in such matters.
Much has changed over the past fifty years, yet white supremacy remains. It does not always wear the hood, or burns the cross, or lynches the black man, but their pernicious effects still cause great pain, distress, and fear among people of color.
In this section we will explore some of the heritage of God’s people as it relates to the issue of white supremacy. We will have opportunity to explicitly identify and document precisely what was said and felt. We will lament and mourn what has transpired. We will also explore what heritage of white supremacy may still exist among the Lord’s people, however consciously recognized, and why we must recognize our complicity in the white supremacy in our culture, lament it, strive to reduce and eliminate it, and seek to advocate for those who do not share in our benefits and privileges. This humble service and seeking the welfare of the less fortunate is the way of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46, Philippians 2:1-11).