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The Myth of Reverse Racism



I keep hearing the term “reverse racism." And I’ve been thinking a lot about it. “Reverse racism” is generally how White people describe what they perceive to be racism toward them.


But not everyone agrees that reverse racism is real. An article released last month on Today.com (“What does 'reverse racism' mean and is it actually real? Experts weigh in”) asserted that reverse racism is a “social lie that doesn’t exist,” calling it “a mythological ideology that stems from discourse and propaganda on anti-Blackness.” 


According to Critical Race Theory (and cultural sensibility of our day), reverse racism is impossible because Whites have power and People of Color do not. By definition, there can be no such thing as “reverse racism.” As this Facebook string testifies:


A couple days ago, I came across this blog post, which left me highly confused. Can you help me? Is this racist? (I have underlined some key phrases of concern.)


The Perpetual Perpetrator: Encouragement for Whites in A Minority Focused Culture

By: A White Pastor of a Multi-Ethnic Church

The work of reconciliation as Whites in minority focused culture can be lonely and exhausting. In fact, if we only see this as “work,” chances are we won’t make it to the finish line, but instead will flame out in a fit of (understandable) bitterness like the prophet Jonah. Over the years I’ve often referred to this as the call for Whites to serve as missionaries, seeing the mission field as our Black brothers and sisters. My decades-long exchanges with White people trying to live as Jesus among our minority siblings has led me to conclude the missionary metaphor is inadequate. Sure, there are aspects to the imagery which fit: Cross ethnic/cultural exchanges. Having to learn a new language. Modifying one’s customs. Always having to dial back who you are. But what are we to do when the mission field is supposed to be our home –– a place which has become increasingly violent toward those with White skin? A place where we are continually accused of the racist acts of our forefathers? We will never be able to adequately repent or to divest of “Whiteness” enough to be forgiven or tolerated. To be a White person in our current cultural context is to be a perpetual perpetrator.


I guess I could pull you into my own journey, and inundate you with a litany of sleepless nights, obscene moments where I have been the recipient of overt racism in churches I’ve served. My road to racial reconciliation has led to long walks in the valley of loneliness. Instead, I want to give you some hope. Effective leadership demands a positive attitude. And our attitudes are merely the thermometers of our emotional health. White brother or sister, hear me: The effectiveness and longevity of your ministry will depend on you fighting for your emotional well-being. As the writer of Proverbs says, we must guard our hearts.


In my decades served as a reconciler, I have found these three things to be absolute non-negotiables in nurturing emotional health:


Boundaries:

Missionaries get furloughs –– times where they must leave the field and come back to what’s familiar. As White people in a minority focused culture, we need to take emotional furloughs. Daily. Some of you are expected to make your church diverse, and to be the answer to the ethnic and cultural ills in your community. Listen to me. Have John the Baptist’s words plastered on the walls of your mind, “I am not the Christ.” Stop right now, and say that to yourselves. Say it again. And again. Once you embrace this, you can now put healthy emotional boundaries in place. As a matter of soul care, you have to get away from it. Put the book on race down, and read something else, something mindless. Stop racking your brain over whether you are a critical race theorist. Stop brooding over the email you received chastising you for paying tribute to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson because they owned slaves. In fact, delete the email. Jesus didn’t heal everyone, and neither can you. It’s not your calling. Set boundaries.


Permission to Play:

While you’re on emotional furlough, give yourself permission to play. You know what kept me sane twelve years in Southern California, and what keeps me sane today? Jesus and surfing! I know you were looking for something more spiritual, but that’s all I got. I never would have made it without these two. In fact, I’m convinced Jesus gave me surfing to aid in my emotional well-being. Never confuse hobby with optional. Hobbies are essential. Some of my heroes and mentors in the faith do consistent golf days (you know who you are!), get dirt under their nails gardening, are so good at naps it becomes a sport, vacation well, or attend movies by themselves. They play well, and decades later they are doing well in ministry. This is exponentially more so for we perpetual perpetrators.


Homogenous Enclaves:

You also need to give yourself permission to spend time with people who look like you. No, this doesn’t need to be your exclusive community. And of course, one of the most biblical and redemptive things God has done to form me is to experience rich, vibrant community with people who don’t look like me. But the work of reconciliation is beyond tiring. Always having to explain what you meant. Always needing to restrain dimensions of who you are to not offend. I guess what I’m saying is to be a perpetual perpetrator is to have a perpetual filter. Well, we need moments to put the filter down. My surf club in Newport, CA, was mostly White pastors. I didn’t have to be culturally measured with them. I didn’t have to tiptoe around them. I could also vent. I wasn’t accused of microaggressions. A few good waves and talking with friends over a plate of sushi, gave me the emotional bandwidth to go back to the office measured. As White people, we must have moments where we are unfiltered so we can be filtered.


It’s been said the most important thing a leader can do is to stay encouraged. Do these three things and you will be encouraged, ready to engage our Black and Brown siblings with great joy.


Surfs up!



Is this racist? Or, is this just one pastor’s personal truth being told truthfully?


What bothers me about this post is that it seems to focus on what’s dividing us, rather than bringing Christians together as the family we are. To summarize some of the key points in this post:

  • Fellow Christians are considered a “mission field” to be reached because of their skin color;

  • The need for homogeneous enclaves, to separate oneself in order to find the strength to re-engage and unite;

  • Being around a particular racial group within the body of Christ is described as requiring you to hold back who you “really" are.


I think we could legitimately debate whether these entail overtly racist statements.


Now, what if I told you that the blog you just read was actually a blog written by a prominent Black pastor about White Christians?


It’s true. I simply swapped the racial groups, opposite to the original text. Everything else is the same. You can read the original here. At the very least, I think this post treats White brothers and sisters, who have been declared equal, with race-based partiality.


My guess is that, if my version of the blog were real, it would be loudly condemned as racist because a White pastor is calling Black Christians a mission field, as if they’re in need of something more than the gospel. This pastor would likely be cancelled for stating that White people should get their fair share of rest and retreat from People of Color. 


Yet, as a Black pastor, such language is perfectly acceptable. In my opinion, these comments demean and devalue others, no matter their skin color. But, in this current cultural moment, such statements are deemed allowable as long as they are about White people. This is a double standard that Christians have become ok with. We must resist this. “False weights and unequal measures, the Lord detests double standards of every kind” (Prov. 20:10).


This is not okay!


This is a worldly way of thinking about one another. This brings me back to my original question: Is reverse racism real? My answer is, no, it’s not. But not in the way that CRT advocates label it a White fiction. There is no such thing as “reverse racism.” There is only racism. Let me explain.


I’d like to make three points in an attempt to answer this question.

  1. The concept of “reverse racism” suggests that racism was only meant to go one way: White to Black. Just like a car was optimally designed to go forward, racism also goes in one direction, from one struggling, sinful heart to its victim.

  2. Adopting the term “reverse racism” creates a narrative that perpetually defines People of Color as victims and White people as victimizers. If racism is only capable of going from White to POC, inherent within that dynamic is that Whites are always the Victimizers and POC are always the Victims. 

  3. We must clearly define our terms so that we can clearly give cause for our concern. In the Today.com article, Dr. Nida asserts that reverse racism isn’t a thing. I have to agree, albeit for different reasons. In Romans 3:22b–24 says, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” I cannot ascribe to the idea of “reverse racism” because, like Paul says, “all sin and fall short.”


Now, is what I’m arguing solely a matter of semantics? No. In a culture where racism is clearly defined as something only Whites are able to participate in, it is important for us to consider biblically, how we address this topic and the terms we use. We want to make sure we are clear and consistent. Racism is racism. And, for the reasons stated above, the concept of “reverse racism” is unhelpful, unclear, and deceptive. 


So, getting back to the real article, by Dr. Loritts. My heart is saddened by his words. His suggested “non-negotiables” should be applied to all people. We can all use times of rest, retreat, and boundaries. But fellow Christians aren’t our mission field. The culture is. As Christians, let us be ever cognizant of the work of the cross that has made the two groups one (Eph. 2:14). 


Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:16-17, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” 


As we pursue unity, let us remember, our first step is to understand our identity. We are children of God, made one in Christ Jesus, and approach one another from our new position, not from our old position as oppressed/oppressor, enemies, White/Black, or mission fields to be won over or retreated from. For we are one race, one people, with one Savior.