I recently received in my inbox an ad for a new book by Sojourners' founder Jim Wallis titled, America's Original Sin which, presumably, is a book about America's racist past. Racism is indeed an ugly fact of American life. The toxin can be found among whites, blacks, and probably every other racial group in the nation. It's an unfortunate part of human nature and a manifestation of our disordered humanity.
Even so, the ad for the book made a startling claim. It uses a pull quote from the book in which Wallis writes: “If white Christians acted more Christian than white, black parents would have less to fear for their children.”
Maybe this good man (I mean that sincerely. Wallis has devoted his life to helping the poor) didn't intend this quote to be interpreted as meaning what it patently means, but if he does it's very disturbing that he would say this. Surely no one who thinks clearly thinks that black parents fear for their children because white Christians are not Christian enough. Black parents' fears for their children stem from the fact that too many other black children are raised in families which have failed to instill basic moral values. A black child is far, far more likely to be harmed by another black than by anyone who is white, Christian or otherwise. Surely, Wallis knows this.
In fact, white parents have a great deal more to fear for their children if they live in or near a black neighborhood than black parents have to fear for their children in white neighborhoods. Thousands of black kids are murdered and maimed every year in cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Detroit and they're not being killed by nominally Christian white kids.
Wallis should ask why it is that many black parents want to get their kids into predominately white schools and neighborhoods where they'll be surrounded by white kids, but white parents whose children attend predominately black schools often live in daily trepidation of their children being beaten, intimidated and extorted by black teens.
To blame white Christians for the fears and problems confronting African American parents in our society is ridiculous, irresponsible and reprehensible.
It's ridiculous because it's so manifestly false. It's irresponsible because it shifts the blame onto people who have little to do with the problem, thus impeding any prospect of solution to the very serious problems facing black Americans, and it's reprehensible because it seeks to make people feel guilty for a problem not of their doing and engendering and reinforcing suspicion and hostility among blacks for whites.
I guess to be fair to Wallis I should read his book and get the context, but this is the pull quote he uses to promote it, and it's mystifying why he'd use it unless he meant what it says. What's needed in this country is to bring people together, to unify us as a people, to stop pointing fingers, to stop the "us vs. them" rhetoric so that we can solve the problems that residual racism causes. If this book is anything like the pull quote it'll only have the opposite effect.