Admitting Things

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Yesterday, reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, I wrote that until white neighbors and Christians could admit he was murdered (and didn’t just “die”) and that his murder was the result of 1950-60s white supremacy, racism, etc., we would not heal as we ought and make progress as we ought.

That should not be a controversial statement to anyone familiar with the facts of the country’s history or anyone who has viewed even an introductory documentary on the Civil Rights Movement. What is racial segregation but a society-wide commitment to racism and white supremacy? What is the willful assassination of a Christian preacher because he is African American and opposed to segregation but the forces of hate unleashing itself against the preacher of love and justice? What are the many professing Christians marching and protesting in opposition to other professing Christians seeking basic civil rights but a sneering, shouting, sometimes violent demonstration that the sin of the country was also the sin of the Church?

Admitting the racism and white supremacy of the 1950-60s should not be difficult.

But some people were “angered” by my writing that post. The now customary dismissals and Twitter outrage followed.

But stop for a moment and ask, “Why is this hard to admit?” Why is something so well documented and demonstrable such a difficult thing to acknowledge by some people? Why would a straight-faced denunciation of something so evil be considered unkind and unloving? Why might specifying that white citizens and Christians are particularly responsible to examine these things and admit them be problematic when this particular sin was the almost exclusive province of white people in the 1950s and 1960s? And how might an inability to admit even the historical obvious be causing us trouble in the living present or the coming future?

Might it be the case that the inability to admit the obvious about our past shows itself in fresh aggravation and consternation when we see Neo-Nazis marching today? Could it be that the simple act of failing to admit the historically true turns into complex construals that keep us from forthrightly naming present manifestations around us? I mean, how do Tennessee legislators today fail twice to pass a resolution condemning blatant racism?

But you see, the “denialists” and the “idealists” want to tuck these things safely away in the vault of history. Every instance contrary to their revisionism they either define as an extreme exception or the fault of those race-crazed people who just can’t get over it. There are race-crazed people in the world. Some of them, beloved, are white. The first of them, beloved, are white. The ones who organized the social fabric and laws of entire countries based on racial color caste, from the United States to South Africa, are white. Saying so should not be a hard pill to swallow for honest people who are repentant and who do not on some level protectively idolize their skin color.

We’re not done with racial animus, indifference, and the like. It’s a living reality and will be as long as Adam’s sin haunts humanity’s steps.

As much as a handful of critics don’t want to admit it, our failure at simply admitting compromises our ability to successfully deal with sin. The gospel begins with “Repent….” All the good of the gospel follows that action of admitting and turning. We wonder why “gospel-preaching churches” aren’t seeing more progress in racial reconciliation. Might I simply suggest that progress–of all sorts–begins with admitting.

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