©2020 Robert Osburn
I tell our international mentees about the student who goes to the doctor, coughing, feverish, blowing his nose, generally miserable. After examining him, the doctor announces, “You have a broken arm. I will put a cast on your arm for the next six weeks until it heals.”
Who grants this doctor permission to practice medicine? And, yet, many of the doctors of our civilization and society, cloistered in academia’s hallowed ivory towers, misdiagnose our social maladies and offer failed remedies. The current and perhaps the most destructive misdiagnosis is systemic racism, which maintains that disparities between racial groups are caused by malignant racism that festers not only in human hearts but in the structures and institutions of society.
The New York Times, with its 1619 Project, teaches our students that this titanic evil is baked into the American Founding and that the hearts of White people are, whether they know it or not, stained with the permanent, unredeemable sin of White supremacy.
But the diagnosis—systemic racism— is theoretically weak, mistaking effects for causes, that is, assuming that disparities must be evidence of racism. Furthermore, this confuses correlation with causation. Just because Blacks have much lower household wealth does not in and of itself imply a racist cause, nor can we say that wealthy Whites sought their wealth at the expense of Blacks. There are countless other valid explanations for the disparities.
Assuming, however, that systemic racism is the cause of such disparities, how do we measure the existence of racism? Can we actually know the phenomenon without the capacity to do what God only can, which is to peer into the human heart? To my knowledge, there is no worthy, fool-proof measure. There are tools that are used, but all involve perceived racism, which means that we simply do not have an objective measure of racism.
Do I agree that racism happens? Virtually every Black friend of mine reports it and the humiliation they feel. But, without discounting them, what is it, and how do we separate perceived from real incidents? While we can objectively say that Officer Derek Chauvin criminally murdered George Floyd, how does anyone know it was motivated by racism? To be sure, I have no doubt there are a few malevolent White racists and that some police departments badly-need reform.
I have suggested that the progressive worldview, or, more specifically, the postmodern worldview, teaches a faulty diagnosis, or at least one that cannot be proven. But, with a faulty diagnosis comes failed remedies that often do more harm: Black rage, White apologies, mandated diversity training, marching in protests, posting Black Lives Matter signs in yards, abolishing police departments, and re-distributing resources ($15 trillion in the last 55 years, by the way) are mandated. The massive redistribution effort, which looks more and more like a veiled reparations program, involves minority scholarships, affirmative action programs, countless diversity and social justice programs, minority set-aside programs, rental assistance, and hundreds if not thousands of variants on all of the above.
All of these well-intentioned efforts at showing solidarity with Blacks are failed remedies built on a faulty diagnosis.
The progressive worldview that has become a quasi-religious dogma in our social sciences tragically fails our Black neighbors and our society as a whole. It makes little difference while Blacks endlessly murder other Black people in their neighborhoods (11 Whites per million are murdered by other Whites in America, versus 56 Blacks per million killed by other Blacks).
A Cameroonian mentee back home for almost four years in her West African homeland wrote me a few days ago with her diagnosis of the problem:
I have said to my Caucasian friends before: When you have a victim mentality, it is easy to become bitter and to create a narrative to justify why you think others are responsible for every problem that plagues you. Such a mindset is enslaving. Tragically, many Christians in America are choosing to embrace this false narrative rather than speak gospel truth to the lies it declares. We must speak against injustice and stand for the oppressed, yes, but reacting from emotions rather than truth hurts more than it heals. I see white brothers and sisters who are rightly angered by racism but who fail to understand that racism does not come in one color but is in the hearts of sinful men. I believe that failing to see the fundamental issues plaguing the black communities and also the fundamental truth that this is spiritual warfare will keep the Church from addressing the problems correctly. Lord, help your people!
I suggest that the core of the problem is black family dysfunction. This destroys the lives of many Black children who do poorly in school and have, consequently, limited opportunities at good paying jobs. They also have much, much higher rates of criminality. Mitch Pearlstein has elaborated this painful reality in this bookthat was followed by another.
This is not “blaming the victim,” as some will accuse me. Instead, Leviticus 19:18 is the only Old Testament passage commanding us “to love our neighbors as ourselves.” But, what does love entail? Telling him or her the truth “lest you incur sin on account of him” (v. 17).
The most popular thing for me and most Whites is to declare, “We are racists.” But, according to the beginning of verse 17, I would be “hating my brother” if I uttered that lie. Read the text for yourself if you doubt me.
Until we as a society confess the truth that we hate our Black brothers and sisters by repeating the false mantra “systemic racism,” the lives of many Black children will be destroyed by family dysfunction that demolishes their futures. That is an America I can no longer tolerate.
Those of us in healthy God-honoring families must help our Black neighbors find solutions like this and this(and multitudes of others) that heal their families. We must love them by publicly rejecting faulty diagnosis and failed remedies and, instead, speaking the truth in love, point them to the true diagnosis and successful remedies found in the Word of God.
Robert, this is a wonderful essay. What a breath of fresh air and wisdom. Keep speaking truth in love.
Yes, indeed. By stating this so clearly, the cause of truth is upheld! Thank you, Bob!
Thank you for sharing sir.
Right on brother!
Brother praise the Lord for this understanding of the issue and the blog. Alone I read two times, this morning I read with my wife and son and in unison we Amen. It is so true of sinful heart; cutting across nations and continents. In the developed/western world you call it racism and in developing countries like India we have castism, communalisn, tribalism and and clanism. As always and everywhere, solution is the cross and the redeeming blood of Jesus. With you Amen. Thangboi
Bob I wish there were 5000 other comments rather than 5, but that’s a start. I plan to send this good sense piece around to others I think are ready for it. Jim Backstrom