“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
|Luke 6.43-44, NRSV
Almost everyone will agree (if asked publicly) that racism, the belief in the inherent superiority and likewise inferiority of human beings based on the social coloring of one’s skin, other physical characteristics and the socially prescribed animosity necessary because of these differences, is bad. Some of us might even be willing to admit that it is unfounded. But, this fact will not change one’s belief in it. Because there is power in believing in race and there are benefits to accepting racism.
So, we make excuses for racism: “It is simply the survival of the lightest, whitest of humanity. We were created differently and those differences are indicators that some are better than others in appearance and ability. God made us this way and there is nothing that we can do about it.”
It is the predestinations and predeterminations of appearance: who we are and can become, where we are located economically and the social positions we can aspire to all based on how we “look” to others. It is a social examination and evaluation to determine the privileges and disadvantages of each person. Racism is a benefit in that we can take entire cultural groups and position them so as to profit from those who have been disadvantaged because of race. It is an easy way of ordering the world that serves those who have been socially colored to rule it.
Despite these truths, we are not helpless because of our socially assigned race and should not discuss it as if there is nothing that we can do about its meaning in our society. We should not behave as if God gave us race when we know that we created this system of skin “color”-based privileges. We need only cancel this social policy. There is no rationale for our continuing to behave as if we animals when it comes to race, losing the ability to reason and to will ourselves to change.
There is an Indian proverb that says, “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But, tell me a story and it will live on in my heart forever.” When it comes to racism, it’s not that we do not know or believe that racism is bad. We just want to hear the story. And it is a particular story that ironically, does not acknowledge the facts or the truth. We just don’t want to accept responsibility for our actions. Instead, want to be told what to believe. “Read it to me, again.”
But, if the fruit of race, that is racism, stereotypes and prejudice, is bad, how can the tree be good? Race simply must be pulled up from the root of our society. Having tasted of the fruit of race, what knowledge have we gained? What have our eyes really been opened to?
God is not mocked but knows that we are merely attempting to be divine equivalence, not as sons and daughters but equal in power and ability. Thus, to assert that this unjust system of privilege and self- serving favoritism is from God is anathema. Race is not rooted in God neither is its fruit sustained by anything that comes from God. Paul Tillich tells us that God is “the Ground of being” and this tree was never in the garden of Eden.