By Melvin Caliste

Webster’s dictionary defines racism as: “1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. 2. Racial prejudice or discrimination. 3. Poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race. 4. The belief that some races of people are better than others.”

Racism, then, involves superiority, prejudice, discrimination, and violence. The construct of race is based upon the biological myth that race determines whether some human beings are superior to others. Therefore, individuals who participate in racist behaviors do so upon false presumptions.

The reality and truth is there are no subsets of the human species. Race, then, is not a biological construct but a social and cultural one. Professor Joseph Graves posited in his book The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium , “What we call race is an invention not of nature but of our social institutions and practices.” Graves further stated, “All of America’s racist thinkers have relied on three unchallenged assumptions: 1. That races exist, 2. That each race has its own genetically determined characteristics, and crucially, 3. That social hierarchy results from these differences.”

Angela James noted in her article “Making Sense of Race and Racial Classification,” “Race is an exceedingly slippery concept. Although it appears in social life as ubiquitous, omnipresent, and real, it is hard to pin down the concept in any objective sense; this is because the idea of race is riddled with apparent contradiction. While it is a dynamic phenomena rooted in political struggle, it is commonly observed as a fixed characteristic of human populations; while it does not exist in terms of human biology, people routinely look to the human body for evidence about racial identity – while it is a biological fiction, it is nonetheless a social fact.”

W.E.B. Dubois in his book The Souls of White Folks said, “Race is utilized to maintain and control power due to fear of losing power and the current dominant position.” The Declaration of Independence says it best: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

When we consider the Biblical aspect, the apostle Paul by divine inspiration declared, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children’” (Acts 17:24-29, emp. added).

Therefore, racism is contrary to the truth of God and can never be in harmony with His will. And those who practice it can never be acceptable to God. Ironically, many proponents’ of racist ideology couch their hateful rhetoric and improper deeds in the blanket of “It is the will of God.”

Racism is antithetical to the doctrine of Christ. In Galatians chapter three, the apostle Paul upbraided the apostle Peter for showing a racist attitude toward the Gentiles. The record says,

But when Peter came to Antioch, I [Paul, MC] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’(Galatians 2:11-14)

Moreover, the characteristics of racism are identified in Scripture as deserving of death . The apostle Paul elaborated on this notion by stating, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death , they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32).

Notice the racist’s characteristics in this verse: arrogant, boastful, depraved mind, wickedness, greed, murder, malice, unloving, and unmerciful. While doing research for this article, I came across a very disturbing picture of a mob scene where two African American men had been lynched and their bodies were burning, and the mood of the crowd was very festive. What I saw in this picture were people who were unloving and unmerciful. Violent acts of terrorism are major tools of the racist’s ability to keep and hold power.

Historically, racism has always and in every case cultivated suffering and death. The name Adolf Hitler immediately brings to mind the horrors of the Holocaust in which over six million Jews suffered and died. In America, between the years 1889 and the early 1920s, approximately 50- 100 lynchings occurred—every year. While African Americans were primarily targeted, Italian Americans, Asian Americans, and Jews were lynched as well. These unsettling facts were published in The Story of Race Transcript ( Educator and scholar Robert A. Gibson, in his course entitled “The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States, 1880-1950” taught:

Most of the lynchings were by hanging or shooting, or both. However, many were of a more hideous nature, burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, castration, and other brutal methods of physical torture. Lynching therefore was a cruel combination of racism and sadism, which was utilized primarily to sustain the caste system in the South. Many white people believed that Negroes could only be controlled by fear. To them lynching was seen as the most effective means of control.

The 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the most notorious incidents of racism that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, where four young girls were murdered and many wounded. On the night of June 21, 1964, in Neshoba County, Mississippi, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michal Schwerner were murdered for registering African American voters. In Money, Mississippi, on August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African American, was kidnapped from his aunt’s home and taken to a remote location were his assailants tortured and murdered him.

These are only a few instances of the horrors of racism. Where there is disenfranchisement, discrimination, exploitation, and civil/human rights violations, you will find racism. As people of God, we should never engage in, support, or tolerate the insanity and madness that presents in this manner. Our Lord Jesus has taught us a better way.

The apostle Paul provided the spiritual antidote in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. love never fails…”

In conclusion, racism denies the fundamental Biblical truth that we are all created in the image of God and should be treated as such. Every aspect of racism stands in stark contradiction to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We as Christians must combat this evil by being the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” May our Heavenly Father help us to see others through Christ-colored glasses.

This article first appeared in Think magazine.