An essay published by a relatively obscure Christian blog was removed from the site Wednesday, but not before it was shared more than 79,000 times and inspired a barrage of scathing tweets and comments.
The reason it went viral? It unintentionally revealed a lot about the depressing depth of anti-black racism — even among people who are trying to overcome it.
If you missed it, “When God Sends Your White Daughter a Black Husband” — of which I grabbed a few excerpts from before it disappeared from the Gospel Coalition’s site — managed to highlight the intensity of the bias against black people in the author’s community despite the author’s earnest effort to offer ways around it.
This sentence summed up her perceived dilemma:
This white, 53-year-old mother hadn’t counted on God sending an African American with dreads named Glenn.
She went on to offer tips and insights for other parents who might be dealing with a similar horror, but the gist of her message was this:
All ethnicities are made in the image of God, have one ancestor, and can trace their roots to the same parents, Adam and Eve.
As you pray for your daughter to choose well, pray for your eyes to see clearly, too. Glenn moved from being a black man to beloved son when I saw his true identity as an image bearer of God, a brother in Christ, and a fellow heir to God’s promises.
It is implied that it would not have required the same mental or spiritual gymnastics to see a white fiancé as a legitimate son-in-law.
To the author’s credit, she found a way to accept Glenn. She doesn’t want anyone to take things too far, though. It’s important to her that racist relatives get the compassion she says they’re due:
Calling Uncle Fred a bigot because he doesn’t want your daughter in an interracial marriage dehumanizes him and doesn’t help your daughter either. Lovingly bear with others’ fears, concerns, and objections while firmly supporting your daughter and son-in-law. Don’t cut naysayers off if they aren’t undermining the marriage. Pray for them.
The writer seems to be quite concerned with the potential dehumanization of Uncle Fred and the experience of her daughter, but the impact of the decision on the “African American with dreads” isn’t given any thought at all. It’s a hint that she may still struggle to see him as fully equal to a white person.
A reminder of how pervasive and deeply held racist beliefs are
You can see why this post, which the author almost certainly thought was a message about tolerance, was read differently by people who were irked by the idea that accepting a person of a different race would be a major feat requiring point-by-point instructions and a mandate from God.
I shudder to think of how she would have treated this person if she hadn’t found a biblical angle that mandated seeing him as human, or if she embraced a different interpretation of scripture.
The author isn’t uniquely unevolved when it comes to her understanding of equality. In fact, what drew so much attention to her essay was the sense that it represented something much bigger than her: the racist attitudes that made the marriage an issue in the first place, which transcend her family. After all, the entire thing rests on the firmly held assumption that the average white person would need a religious reminder to accept a black person as equal.
Racism isn’t confined to law enforcement
That sobering takeaway echoes a point made by the LA Times’s Erin Aubry Kaplan in a piece called “In the Black Lives Matter era, we need justice well beyond the legal sense.”
She argued that supporters of the policy changes pushed for by the Black Lives Matter movement should remember that the widespread and deep-seated cultural beliefs that make it easy to prioritize white Americans and exclude, mistreat, and dismiss black people have to change at some point, too:
It's not who we have to be, but it is who we are. Racism and color hierarchy are us, as much as — sometimes more than — the ideals of democracy and fairness...
The devaluing of black people that perpetuates bad policing descends from slavery, the national trauma that too often gets passed off as a terrible but isolated event in time — done, over with, only tangentially bearing on our national consciousness now.
Then comes Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Ezell Ford and the way so many American institutions willfully ignore the truth despite mountains of statistics and anecdotal evidence: White privilege and black invisibility form the foundation of our society.
...The question is whether America will finally undo what divides black reality from everyone else’s. This time, what’s necessary is not only a change in law or language or police chiefs. We need life change, to undo a truth that’s been commonplace for so long we barely notice it, to dislodge what has been ingrained in us all — that black lives don’t matter.
As far as the Gospel Coalition post, the writer asked for it to be taken down because of the controversy. It’s been replaced on the blog with a recording of a conversation between three African-American men titled “A controversial article and what we can learn.”
In discussions of racial inequality — and especially of racialized police violence — we hear a lot in the abstract that lives of African Americans are undervalued. That this woman had to work so hard to rationalize accepting a black son-in-law is a reminder that this mindset is not confined to troubled law enforcement departments.