In this episode of As In Heaven, hosts Jim Davis and Mike Aitcheson welcome Collin Hansen to continue a discussion of the history of black people in America begun over the past two episodes by Ligon Duncan. Duncan discussed the onset of chattel slavery in 1619 up to the Civil War, the sordid practices of peonage, vagrancy laws, and sharecropping and how they helped pave the way for Jim Crow laws in America.
Hansen furthers the conversation, picking up with the civil-rights movement, which certainly did not relieve racial tensions in the South, but drove them underground. Hansen addresses what was left undone in the civil-rights era and how that’s led to ongoing present-day frustrations for black people in America. The group discusses:
- Introduction of Collin Hansen (1:31)
- Key events that brought about the civil-rights movement (2:30)
- George Wallace, politics, and students at the University of Alabama (13:05)
- “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (21:58)
- National developments through the 1960s (26:18)
- What was left undone in the civil-rights movement, specifically in churches (32:32)
- Segregation academies (38:24)
- Where things have gotten worse (43:21)
- Challenges facing urban communities post-integration (45:38)
- Fight, flight, and forget (48:49)
- Making it personal (51:30)
- Issues that continue to contribute to the black experience in America (55:50)
1. What stories did you grow up hearing about the civil-rights movement? What narrative have you been taught concerning this era?
2. If your group has time, read “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” What are ways that this letter speaks powerfully today?
3. Following the civil-rights movement, what are ways that segregation and inequality continued to exist?
4. How did the church respond to the civil-rights movement? How has the church continued to be shaped by these events?
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: The problem is, historically in America, and especially the South, preaching the gospel has coexisted perfectly fine alongside segregation and racism and White supremacy. I mean that descriptively, I don’t mean that in reality, but people have had no problem keeping those two things together. Yes, this is the way it is, and yes, I just preach the gospel. This is the stuff that haunts me today. For me, this isn’t just historical, this is present reality, and it just hasn’t changed nearly as much as we would hope.
Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to As In Heaven, a Christian conversation on race and justice. Continuing our trek through the history of Black people in America started by Dr. Lincoln Duncan. We have Collin Hansen on the show today to walk us through 1963 Birmingham to present day. The civil rights movement certainly did not relieve racial tensions in the South, it’s simply drove them underground, and in this episode Collin takes us through what was left undone in the civil rights era, and how that’s led to ongoing present day frustrations for Black people in America. Jim Davis is the host, Mike Aitcheson is the co-host as well as a contributing guest on this episode. The producers of As In Heaven are Mike Graham and myself, Matt Kenyon, and without further ado, please enjoy this episode of As In Heaven with Collin Hansen.
Jim Davis: Welcome to As In Heaven season two. We have my co-host, Mike Aitcheson over there on the other side of the table, who is going to be pulling double duty today, both as co-host and as a guest here with us. Which brings me to the third person we have in our group, Collin Hansen. Collin comes to us today from Birmingham, Alabama. You have an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, you serve as the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, where we met. You’re also on the board of Beeson Divinity School. Most people probably know you from your writings, whether blogs, or books, including Young, Restless and Reformed, Blind Spots. You have also edited books like Our Secular Age, The New City Catechism Devotional, and you also have your own podcast called Gospel Bound. Collin, we’re just really thankful to that you’d give us your time and talk to us on this really important topic today.
Collin Hansen: I’m just really grateful for the invitation, excited to be here.
Jim Davis: Well, what we’ve been doing is walking through three very important historical seasons in the United States based on this topic of race. And so, the first season would be something like Jamestown to the Civil War, and Dr. Ligon Duncan walked with us through that season. The second season, probably the least known season is going to be the Civil War up until the civil rights movement, Dr. Duncan also walked with us through that. And then, now we’re in our most recent season, the civil rights movement up until today. And so, this is a really important season, it can be a very emotional season to talk about, and so we’ve picked you two to be able to join us because not only do you know a lot about this and have very specific knowledge, but you both are very pastoral and charitable in the way that you engage, which is a high value of what we’re doing. So Collin, with that in mind, would you help us to understand the key events really, that brought about what we call the civil rights movement?
Collin Hansen: What we commonly know as the civil rights movement, I mean we have various civil rights acts that are being passed there. This is a nonstop political challenge for the United States, especially because you don’t think about political parties the same way back then as you do now, both of the political parties are national parties in a sense. They have diverse coalition’s they’re liberal and conservative. The democrats which have ruled through the long tenure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who is progressive on a number of these issues, but at the same time, he is also beholden to Southern White voters. If Harry Truman come in there, and again you have these push and pull towards civil rights, but a lot of it blows up with the Supreme Court decision in 1954. Brown versus Board of Education, which basically declares this segregation to be unconstitutional, which had previously been recognized in Plessy v. Ferguson, and had been the law of the land, especially in the Jim Crow South.
So, you have this blown up with Brown versus Board of Education in 1954, and you have then the opening of political possibilities within, especially, the American South for African Americans to be able to exercise various rights that had been denied them in Jim Crow America. Following that, one of the other major events, in fact I hear a lot of people sometimes say dismissively because civil rights movement is so much more than this. It’s a story of Rosa Parks sitting down, Martin Luther King standing up, and Blacks got their rights. So, when you’re talking about Rosa Parks, you’re talking about Montgomery, Alabama 1955, or choosing to not go to the back of the bus, but to stay in her seat in defiance of the local ordinances that would require African Americans to give up their seats to White passengers.
And then, you have a local, not very well known pastor there, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr, there as a pastor, and decides to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which goes on, and on, and on, and on, and ultimately ends with the end of that policy. But, you don’t have some massive, “Okay. Now African Americans have all of their rights now.” You have all kinds of other things happening. You have the ongoing problems of lynching in the American South. Now, you if you covered Jim Crow, especially the early 20th century that part that a lot of Americans, especially White America has never been taught about, and it’s not a coincidence that the national memorial for lynching is located in Montgomery, Alabama. But, it recalls different lynchings such as for example, Emmett Till. The Emmett Till case in Mississippi.
These cases are all too common, where an African American is alleged to have said something, or to act in a certain way, and then is deemed as a threat and Whites take it upon themselves to be able to execute a punishment outside of the justice system. So, this happens with Emmett Till, a teenager visiting family in Mississippi. We will probably never know exactly what he did, what he said, what he allegedly… I mean, we know what he allegedly did and said, but of course it was nothing that would have amounted to anything deserving the brutal death that he was delivered there in rural Mississippi.
But the key I think with Emmett Till was the decision of his mother back in Chicago to be able to display his body in an open casket. So as she said, “The world could see what they had done to my boy.” So, you see there through Jet magazine, the national conscience continues to be pricked, that this is not a past problem, this is not a Civil War era thing. This is something that continues to happen today. And then, you get any number of other pushes in different places around the country to push against segregation, you still see it with the bus systems, but now we’re talking about interstate commerce, which of course falls under the jurisdiction of the constitution. Going back then to Brown versus Board, you see that. Then with the Freedom Riders, comes all the way through there. We just remember John Lewis and his heroic career, a lot of that comes down to those Freedom Rides through the South.
Black and White together, integrating buses here in Birmingham, not far from where I sit right now. We had one of the Freedom Rides come in early 1960s. The police were suddenly somehow nowhere to be found at exactly the time when the Freedom Riders pulled up in Birmingham, the Klan was assembled, the Klan then beat a number of the Freedom Riders there. Carraway Hospital nearby, downtown Birmingham, refused to treat any of the White victims of the beatings. They would have segregated hospitals, so Carraway not only would not treat Blacks, they would also not treat the Whites who would participate in that. Now, what we’re going to get into in more depth, which is what I’ve studied most extensively would be the what dynamic order Pulitzer Prize winner, author says was the climactic battle of the civil rights movement. That’s Birmingham 1963.
And, we can talk a lot about what led up to that and where we went from that, because from that climactic battle, you have the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, you have the March on Washington. You have the, I Have a Dream speech then with Martin Luther King, and then of course you have then continuing with John Lewis’s distinguished career, the march in Selma, march for voting rights, march to Montgomery from Selma, Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I mean, I don’t think a lot of people understand how long it took. I don’t think a lot of people understand that these things were in motion, or at least there were people working towards civil rights well before 1954. I don’t think a lot of people understand the distance between 1954 and 1964, when the Civil Rights Act is finally passed, or at least one of the major ones, there were many Civil Rights Act, but one that we most commonly think of, then the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
But then, a lot of people don’t understand, which is I think the most important thing I want to convey on this podcast, which I’m happy to get into in depth, is that here in Birmingham, at least in many cities across the South, we’re late into the 1960s, into the early to mid-1970s where public schools are actually still segregated across the South. And then, we can talk about where things went from there, but in my timeline, especially when I’m thinking about events in Birmingham. It’s usually all the way from 1954 until 1973, ’74, about that period of time. And, just one anecdote about that, I mean civil rights history is endlessly fascinating, and endlessly complicated. One of the complications I’ll often talk about with groups here in Birmingham would be the specific case of Justice Hugo Black.
Justice Hugo Black was one of the members of the Supreme Court who voted in favor of Brown versus Board. A unanimous decision, so I mean he’s one of the people who voted in that way. One of the consequences of that was the decision was so unpopular that his son was actually forced, basically, he was run out of town on a rail, he was chased out of the state of Alabama. But, Hugo Black’s history is interesting as well, our federal courthouse here is named for him. Hugo Black was himself a member of the Ku Klux Klan, at least he had been. Now some people will say, “Well, he had to, to be able to get ahead in politics at the time.” Nevertheless, we’re talking 1920s, 1930s, as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, which was at that time considered a relatively mainstream organization in the White South, a mainstream violent organization.
And, also Hugo Black was notorious here in Birmingham, for having secured the acquittal of a White minister who killed a Catholic priest, because the Catholic priest had performed a wedding ceremony of this Methodist pastor, this White pastor’s daughter to a Puerto Rican man. Puerto Ricans were not considered Black in Jim Crow, so this was a perfectly legal thing to do to perform the wedding. Pastor didn’t like it. The point is, Hugo Black is the one who defended the Methodist minister who did the killing. Successfully did so through an openly racist appeal to convince the jury that Puerto Ricans, if you really squint and close the blinds a little bit in the courthouse, it basically look Black, so what’s the difference? And, also an appeal to Southern patriarchy, which was a, “Hey, this is what any good father would do if his daughter would so defy his authority.” So, that’s the complicated legacy of Hugo Black that a lot of people don’t realize, but is part of why I think, like I said, it’s so interesting, but also it’s so harrowing, and confusing to try to disentangle. So, that’s a brief overview.
Michael Aitcheson: Collin, thank you. That was very insightful. And, could you unearth a little bit more of that for us? For example, what was going on with George Wallace and students entering Alabama?
Collin Hansen: Sure. So, one of the things that a lot of people don’t realize about George Wallace, he is one of the most notorious of all of the segregationist leaders in the deep South. He was by no means alone. He was simply in many ways just more public about this. I’d mentioned earlier some of the complications about politics. Well, here’s some of the complication, George Wallace had actually run as an integrationist in his earlier political career. He’d run as a political populist, we would describe that as something of a liberal today, he was defeated by a segregationist, and he made one of the most notorious political comments in American history, one that’s been repeated by politicians with different terms later, he said, “I’ll be never out N worded again, nobody will ever beat me in terms of my love for segregation, and for keeping Black people down.”
And so, that’s when George Wallace early 1960s, elected governor declare segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever in Alabama. He turns away students from entering the University of Alabama, the famous stand in the schoolhouse door in 1963, on June 11th. One of the things, I think it’s important to note about that particular case, and this is very common with civil rights history, there was no integration without the bayonet. There was no concession to the unjust nature of segregation by the White majority, and by White power. Consistently throughout the South, and specifically I’m talking here about George Wallace’s Alabama, Bull Connor’s Birmingham, you don’t find any evidence of voluntary segregation. And, the reason I point this out is because we’re talking here in a stream of history. A lot of people don’t understand that that connects back to the Civil War. There was never any surrender without the bayonet. There was never any apology, there was never any… Well, that was really wrong. We never should have done that. We’d like to learn the lessons from that. It is never what happened.
And so, you’ve got there June of 1963, George Wallace is pushed out of the way, forced to allow African Americans to enroll at the University of Alabama by the National Guard which had been nationalized by President Kennedy. President Kennedy then goes on and gives a national address that evening to be able to call for civil rights legislation, to be able to continue to follow through on the legacy of that Brown versus Board decision, and to deconstruct this whole White supremacist structure in the deep South. That was a turning point for Kennedy because people had not regarded Kennedy to be necessarily in favor of civil rights. His brother as the Attorney General Bobby Kennedy had had a mixed record at best. You remember I talked to you about the Freedom Riders coming through Birmingham, RFK, Bobby Kennedy actually had one of his observers there helpless, basically, but on the phone giving him a blow-by-blow of what was happening there in Birmingham, but they felt as if there really wasn’t anything that they could do to stop it.
But, when you’re talking about civil rights, you’re talking about Dr. King above all, and I think ultimately you’re talking about Birmingham, Alabama. Now, just let me set the stage for that because there’s so many things people miss in their basic gloss on civil rights history. Dr. King’s career was basically over by the time he reached to Birmingham. His efforts to desegregate the South had been largely unsuccessful. He’d faced entrenched opposition, and didn’t appear that there was anything that he could do. So, you might in football terms describe what Dr. King was doing in Birmingham Easter Sunday, April 14 1963, as being something of a Hail Mary. He had a campaign the previous year in Albany, Georgia to try to desegregate, and the leaders responded with the exact wrong thing from King’s perspective, they conceded to him. They did not arrest him. They refused to arrest him, they refused to make this into a big issue. King needed segregation to be a big issue. I need to explain why.
The reason he needed it to be a big issue is because he believed that the South had presented itself as something of, sort of the smiling face of how the races can coexist. King knew that the underbelly was much worse than that. What he said was, “We need to dramatize segregation to be able to show its evil sneering face.” So, what he needed was a villain. The villain was Bull Connor, public safety commissioner of Birmingham, Alabama. And, I could get as deep as you want into this, I won’t go all into it. But, Bull Connor had actually been voted out of office, the White leadership of Birmingham saw this coming. They saw what was going to be a problem, they did not want King to visit for obvious reasons. One, because they were segregationist, two, because they didn’t want the national media to come and to highlight what was happening in Birmingham. Three, they knew they were not supporters of Bull Connor, the moderate White leadership so called in Birmingham, and so they knew what Connor was going to do.
Connor’s political base in city of Birmingham were working class, more racist, more violent Whites, so most notoriously during the children’s crusade. The children’s marches to integrate the shopping downtown in Birmingham, Bull Connor unleashes his fire hoses, he unleashes the police dogs to attack these little children. The images go around the country, they shock the country. The images are extremely popular in the Soviet Union, because in the ongoing global propaganda game of the Cold War, “If this is democracy, would all the people of Africa want to be a part of democracy like this?” Bull Connor, like I said, had been already voted out of office, but they hadn’t yet effected a whole massive transformation of city government to be able to get him out, so he was still in charge, and King knew that and he’s he strategized things deliberately so that he could take advantage of Connors leadership, and provoke him to act in this way.
So, we could talk about anything you want to there in depth, but specifically, the biggest consequence of this would be the bombing that fall of 16th Street Baptist Church. In which four men, a breakaway sect of Eastview Caravan 13 in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Birmingham dropped a whole mountain of dynamite in the basement of a 16th Street Baptist Church, blew it up in the middle of Sunday morning between services while especially the children were changing and primping, killed the four little girls, injured, many, many, many others, and like I said, again shocked the nation.
Now, here’s something I just learned this last week, I was talking with a pastor. A Baptist pastor here in Birmingham who’d spoken to his predecessors here in Birmingham, and they said that the White churches of the city did not know in the morning worship services that a church had been exploded in that morning. They all knew by the evening service and made no comment about it. Did not pray about it. Did not acknowledge it. If you want to understand what drove Dr. King to such frustration and to such poetic heights in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, where he castigates these seven religious leaders, I think it was seven, I can’t remember if that… Anyway, something around seven religious leaders there in Birmingham. They were not the art segregationist. They were not the violent clan. They were the ones trying to broker peace and negotiation between King and the White leadership of the city.
Nevertheless, he castigated those leaders because he understood that it’s when these White moderate leaders stood pat, and didn’t even bother to pray when little girls would be killed in their churches that allowed the evils of segregation to persist. So like I said, you can go forward there to Selma, to Bloody Sunday, to then the Voting Rights Act, and everything there. But, that’s the blow-by-blow, at least of the major events that we think of there.
Michael Aitcheson: Yeah. I think that’s so helpful, Collin. Yeah. Just take us a little bit further down the implications of that letter. Because one, I was just in Birmingham recently, my wife’s from there, and I visited the 16th Street, and the museum, and all of that last year, and also just recently reviewed the letter. And, I was thinking, “Man, it was just so prophetic.” So, what was happening? What were some immediate consequences of that letter? And, what atmosphere did it generate?
Collin Hansen: Right. So, the Letter from Birmingham Jail was a response by King. King had been arrested by Bull Connor’s police force, and writes this Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963. I would regard it as one of the two most significant, and poignant, accurate, challenging treatises of public theology in American history, alongside Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. What it really targets there is, it’s written in response to a letter publicly, not to King but publicly issued by these moderate clergymen of all… Just think of all the biggest, most famous, most popular churches in town, including one synagogue there as well. So, more or less the clergymen are saying, “We’ll be able to get there, just can we do this all in good order, and we want to do this locally. We don’t want any of these outside agitators to come in.” Referenced there as to King, also the likes of Andrew Young. Andrew Young was a later on mayor of Atlanta, congressman from Georgia, ambassador of the UN. He had integrated the First Baptist Church in Birmingham at Easter Sunday in 1963.
The atmosphere there, and King’s letter was written in part to that pastor. The only pastor he complimented in that letter. But, the atmosphere was, “We can just handle this together ourselves, stay out.” And, he says, “No, you’re helping to prolong the problem. You keep telling us to wait. Waiting means looking at my daughter, and explaining to her famously, why she can’t go to fun town, and watching just the degradation of segregation to fall upon her and to shape her understanding of herself. We cannot wait any longer.” And, a lot of King’s most famous comments come from Letter from Birmingham Jail. We could talk about any number of them, but that’s the atmospheric. And, King didn’t actually write the letter to those men. Of course, he wrote it for public dissemination, and it was extremely successful in that regard. But, there was always a tension between the dynamics of King’s career, which from Birmingham, his fortunes would turn and he would continue to become more popular, he would win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Like I said, the I Have a Dream speech. But, the situation in Birmingham would continue to actually degrade.
I mentioned there that the bombing that would follow there, the pastor of First Baptist Church because he allowed African Americans to attend he was fired from that church. Black members were not admitted until the early 1980s at that church. First Presbyterian Church, their pastor was fired for the same reason. And, one of the most prominent businessmen in town said the pastor was a communist, because he allowed an African American to worship with them. They fired him. He’d been there for 15 years since 1948. Called him a communist, he went back to Texas, had a heart attack. The way I describe Birmingham, is a city with no happy endings. There was never, and I can’t emphasize this enough, there was never racial integration in Birmingham. How I described it is, fight, flight, forget.
Fight, flight, forget we can talk about that more, but that’s the story of Birmingham. That’s the atmosphere letter from Birmingham Jail. I would say there’s no more urgent document for people to read today. I’m not sure any of the moral force from that document is lost, and I can say, at least sitting here from my position as a church leader in Birmingham, Alabama, I’m not convinced that many if any of the challenges he issued to the churches of Birmingham have actually been met, sadly so.
Michael Aitcheson: Collin, you anticipated my next question, which was what is the significance of that letter to us right now and going forward? Thank you. So, just zooming out a bit from Alabama, walk us through some high level, high altitude developments through the late 1960s.
Collin Hansen: Well, one of the things that happens with King specifically, is that King becomes incredibly unpopular. It’s one of the most important things for us to remember about this period of time, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. We remember him as one of these sanitized figures, like I said, along with Rosa Parks of the civil rights movement. But, one of the things that King did was expand the civil rights movement from simply opposing segregation, and then following that to securing voting rights, because like I said, he had the ’65 Voting Rights Act there. But, to expand it to more broadly bring uplift to African American and other ethnic minority communities. That’s when he started to get into trouble with folks, because he began to, in the middle of President Johnson’s Great Society…
So, Johnson comes into power, of course after Kennedy’s assassination, November 1963. Johnson having been an arch segregationist himself out of Texas, pulls the quote unquote, ultimate betrayal against his former colleagues in the Senate, in the South, and he busts them up and pushes through, does all the arm twisting Johnson was famous for to push through the Civil Rights Act in ’64, and the Voting Rights Act of ’65. He’s able to do that, in part because of the legacy of Kennedy. He’s able to cast it as, “This is what our great martyred president would have wanted us to do.” So, that’s able to push through that legislation, but King presses further, and he says, “We’re the richest nation in the history of mankind.” The Great Society is pushing especially to be able to bring relief to urban areas, but also especially to White poverty in places like Appalachia. But, King presses further to say, “But of course, Black communities.” He goes to Chicago. He lives for months in Chicago in one of the rundown tenements on the South side, says Chicago is the most racist city in the country.
He goes national and say, “Northerners wouldn’t have a big problem with King as long as they understood it was just about the South.” But, he brings the campaign North and he says, “No, no, no, what I saw from the police here in Chicago, the crowds of Chicago is most racist city in the country.” So, he takes it national, he takes it into poverty, and then the key is that he takes it to Vietnam. And, he points out that America is not only doing this to its own people, but America is now also doing this to the people of Vietnam, and to Cambodia, and to Laos, and of course to our own soldiers, many of them being African American in an integrated military for the first time fully.
At Korea you start to see that, but for the first time fully in Vietnam. And so, King becomes… I think his approval rates were somewhere around 10%, or something like that, because he’d alienated most Democrats because of his opposition to President Johnson and Vietnam. Of course, most Republicans, as Republicans begin to shift their electoral prospects to try to steal the South away from Johnson. Republicans begin to turn against King as well, even though they had been as allies and daddy King’s father had been a Republican. And then, he alienated much of the African American community, which was upset because the progress of civil rights had not been as much as they’d wanted. So, you see a complete splintering of the civil rights movement into Black power, into people pushing back against non-violence, advocating more violent means of integration. So, that’s the big picture, and I mean you do see a number of other things which we’ll get into. Loving versus Virginia in 1967, which of course allows interracial marriage for the first time formally, and I mean you can’t leave out the fact that King is assassinated in 1968, Memphis, April 4.
And, just to close the circle of what I was getting out there, with this overview. King was in Memphis, because of economic situation there. I mean, it was both and, most of the sanitary workers are African Americans, you have a case where in rainy conditions you actually get African American sanitation workers killed, and in the most gruesome way possible. King against all of the advice of his advisors who saw this as a fruitless campaign says, “Nevertheless, I will go to Memphis and I will stand with these men for their economic, and for their political rights, and to help them in their protest.”
And ultimately, a fatalism comes around King in the night before he was assassinated, he confesses he doesn’t think he’s going to see that promised land, he’s not going to get there, he’s not going to ever arrive in his lifetime, and sure enough he is then assassinated. He’s not the first African American leader to be assassinated. You’ve seen any number of other martyrs of the movement earlier. You’ve seen Medgar Evers assassinated in front of his wife, in front of his children in his own driveway. And, in many of these cases… I mean, King’s assassin is not tracked down for, I think a couple of weeks, at least 10 days. There’s a great book on that. But, Byron De La Beckwith who killed Evers is not brought to justice for decades afterward, even as he’s an unrepentant White supremacist. The same thing with Birmingham. The final conviction doesn’t come until I think 2002, and the four men who planted the bombing. So, I feel like we’re running hyperdrive through all of this stuff.
I mean, unfortunately, that’s all we can do. This is more of an introductory podcast. You’ve done an outstanding job.
You’ve really you’ve helped us to see some of the major accomplishments as well, as you talked. You mentioned the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which of course ends the use of literacy tests to be able to vote. Dr. Duncan talked a little bit about that in the last episode. The Loving versus Virginia Supreme Court ruling that ended the prohibition of interracial marriage. You mentioned the Civil Rights Act, of course, and 1968 fair housing is signed into law. Provides a lot of equality there, a quantum leap in terms of equality. And, I have a question both for Mike and Collin. We can start with Collin, what do you feel was left undone in the civil rights movement?
Well, let me talk specifically about what I’ve studied most, and that is the situation within churches, Mike perhaps you could speak more broadly, economically, politically around the country. But, I mentioned the paradigm earlier of fight, flight, forget. Into the 1980s, you still have First Baptist Church of Birmingham not allowing African American members. There simply was never any integration. And, when I’m talking to audiences now in Birmingham about the fundamental racial divide, which goes along, also I mean just has tremendous economic consequences, educational consequences for our community. This is really the turning point of the whole thing, is the decision that White families made throughout the 1960s, but into the 1970s and even beyond. Ultimately, that faced with the choice between staying in integrated schools and fleeing to force newly segregated suburban school districts, I should say that was more of a de facto segregation in most of those cases, which was then busted open through busing.
You mentioned earlier, some of the laws that came in to require integration through busting, when it had been avoided there. But basically, the simple choice was, “Do we give up the schools where we’ve been in sock hops together, where we played football. Do we give up the homes where we brought our children back from the hospital and raised them. Do we give up the churches where we were baptized, where we baptized our children, to be able to start an entirely new life where we don’t have to be around African Americans?” And, the choice that the vast majority, nearly all White families made was, “Yes, we’re going to leave it all behind, simply in protest of integration.”
And so, what you have is the ongoing scarring of that. I mean, I could talk specifically about Birmingham, but basically that’s what happens with churches, entire churches simply uproot and move. Very few churches actually integrate. I think one of the challenges when you look at both the Civil War and the civil rights movement, so you don’t understand the effect of them, until you understand how they were enacted. When you understand that they were enacted through physical deadly force, then you understand why they happened.
But, if you understand that a bayonet can stab somebody in the heart, but it can’t change someone’s heart, what you have then is the pervasive continuation of racism. A pervasive racism, which was like it never repented of. And in fact, in most cases never even went underground. Certainly, that’s the case in Birmingham and much of the deep South. I don’t want to speak on behalf of everywhere there, but it’s very common for people to understand, and you probably talked about this term unreconstructed. We still have living today in my environment, unreconstructed Whites who don’t give one inch on anything that had had happened. Now they’re elderly, at this point, not in leadership positions. But, that’s what happens, the civil rights movement can change the politics, but it can’t change people’s voluntary decisions, and this is why it’s so key to talk about churches. The one voluntary association, the one that could never have been forcibly integrated by the bayonet was the church.
The football teams are integrated, in part because you can’t win unless you do. You can talk about that Roll Tide. Then you go through and you say, “Well, I mean you have to integrate the schools, that’s the law.” And, you go through and say, “Well, the military is integrated, again by law.” What doesn’t have to be integrated? The churches. So, churches not only remain segregated, it gets worse than that, they become actually the bastion of integrationist or a segregationist opposition. They become the home, like the headquarters of the opposition. Oftentimes assumed, not necessarily explicit, and not violent, in the same way it had been before. Now, there was some violence, we could talk about the steps of buildings, and elders with shotguns outside churches in the 1960s in Mississippi.
But, it’s simply that the churches were above the law, and they used those First Amendment rights to ensure that even while the rest of society, including their neighborhoods may have integrated, the churches never would. And, our situation is not dramatically different from that today.
That makes me think of the old adage, Sunday being the most segregated day of the week. You talk about the deep South, but it really wasn’t just the deep South. I mean, as you alluded to, I grew up in Orlando, Florida, my mom grew up in Orlando, Florida. She remembers integration happening, and our first private school was formed six hours later, is the phrase that you hear around Orlando.
Yes. Segregation academies are a whole question to talk about. But I mean, I’m telling you, one of the things that’s most difficult about these conversations is that they can dramatically change from place to place, and so you always need to be asking people about their context. In the context where I minister, I mean I can take you not far down the road and show you a 100% White Christian school that started in 1970, that is a few blocks away from a 100% Black public school that had previously been 100%. White. And again, that’s today. That’s right now, and everywhere, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972. It just isn’t a coincidence where all these Christian schools came from. And so, that’s why I have to point out that we like to imagine the power of the gospel to bring transformation to communities.
The problem is historically in America, and especially the South, preaching the gospel has coexisted perfectly fine alongside segregation, and racism, and White supremacy. I mean that descriptively I don’t mean that in reality, but people have had no problem keeping those two things together. Yes, this is the way it is, and yes, I just preach the gospel. This is the stuff that haunts me today. For me, this isn’t just historical, this is present reality, and it just hasn’t changed nearly as much as we would hope.
It’s very real for me as well. My wife is from Mountain Brook-
Just where I am right now-
I’ve got in-laws-
… so I live in Mountain Brook.
I mean, I don’t know what that means, but that’s where I am. I’m one block from Birmingham.
Okay. There you go. All right. I’ve traveled old Reed Road many a day.
Yeah. And so, we got married in 2009. And so, when we got married, it was pretty clear that we needed to inform the leadership that it was going to be an interracial marriage, because as you may know, even better than me, some churches still have segregation in their bylaws. So, we were advised to make sure that we were asking the right questions, and informing people of the full picture of our marriage.
South Avondale Baptist Church is the building where my church meets, and they enacted a ban on Black visitors in 1963. As far as we know, it was still enforced, at least until the 1970s, still on the books until the church closed in 2000. At least we have no evidence that it was ever overturned, but like I said, not enforced. Yeah. It is not that old, and whenever I talk about these things in the South, and specifically in this area, I don’t think I’ve known a single interracial couple yet, that might not be totally fair, but I can’t think of one, and I’m thinking at least of here about 10 examples, where they haven’t been disowned, or at least somehow shunned by one or both sides of the family. I’m not sure I know of a case. So, it’s just amazing to me that when you’re in an online space talking about these things it’s theoretical, and legitimately there’s many parts of the country where this is not a problem. That is not my part of the country. Okay.
It is a problem. The school district where my son, Lord Willing, will start next week, Mountain Brook school system is 95% White, and it is bordering a district that is probably 95% Black. And, that does every day. So, it’s one reason why to me there’s such a level of urgency on these questions, even as I love to study the history, and why I get a little bit baffled by people who continue to insist to me, “Why do you keep dredging up the past? You’re inhibiting progress because you keep talking about the past.” But, I’m thinking I’ll just like Faulkner, another famous Southern said, “The past is never really past.” Certainly not in the South, it’s not. Again, it is different, but not that different. I didn’t even realize we had that connection.
Yeah. Well, next time I’m in town I’ll knock on your door-
… and see if I can get you to write a post entitled, what is the chasm currently communicating?
I think the civil rights movement accomplished a lot. It got a lot of things rolling, so we have to give deference to progress that has been made, otherwise we just continue to spin our wheels in a sense of hopelessness that nothing has happened and nothing ever will happen. I think in many ways we’ve seen progress in some ways. One might argue, things have gotten worse. When I think about some of the things that the civil rights movement got started, but remain are questions about health care, education, criminal justice system, and some of the fallout that resulted from segregation. Certainly you alluded to this de facto segregation, I would listen regularly to the TJMS growing up and I would hear this famous line, “When America catches a cold, Black America catches the flu.” And, these things would continue to be outlined, disparities and health care-
And COVID-1 is a perfect example of that.
education outcome. It’s shined a bright light. And, it’s interesting, people talk about how the cameras are now capturing or presenting what always has been. And, I think Dr. Fauci alluded to this, COVID-19 shined a bright light on what was going on as well within the healthcare system. So, I think about just some of those things that the civil rights movement you talked about, is Martin Luther King got to the edge. He got to the edge of something very significant when he started talking about money. And, some would argue that that was probably the thing that got him in trouble. Once he started tampering with that, of course, in addition to Vietnam. And, we continue even to this present day to see the disparities in income, not just income, but wealth between Black and White homes.
I mean, I’ve seen stats 171500 average White home to 17500 Black home from the ’80s 13X ’90s 11X now 10X, and I’m sure on the other side of COVID it’s probably going to be even greater, I have no doubt. But, those are some of the things I think that continue to garner our attention with regard to the civil rights movement that needs to be addressed.
All right. So Mike, I want to drill down on this, just a little bit more jobs, and some upwardly mobile Black families were moving to the suburbs during the 1970s and 1980s post integration. What were some of the challenges, then, facing those urban communities?
Some of the challenges as people are leaving, White flight, and even upwardly mobile Blacks to the suburbs included job loss, the job work industry is changing, manufacturing to more knowledge based jobs, and of course we know the impact that Blacks not being able to have access to the G.I. Bill had on access to college education. I mean, we think about some of the famous HBCUs that didn’t receive adequate funding, and the thousands of Black people who were turned away from colleges. And so, just in that space alone, access to intellectual capital was impacted by the G.I. Bill, and then you see jobs moving, and you see people moving to the suburbs, and you combine that with restricted communities, folks not being able to buy homes in these communities, you think about issues of transportation, you don’t have enough money, how can you travel out to the suburbs. And, I think Richard Rothstein in the Color of Law does a great job outlining this.
And, it wasn’t just a Southern problem, either. I mean, he unpacks how this was a problem all the way out in San Francisco. In fact, he opens up the book with stories from California, because we would imagine that is the most least likely place for these issues to occur. But, he brings some light to that for us. But then, not only are we dealing with drug law, excuse me, job loss. Now we’re thinking about resources, material resources, social capital, leaders in the community. All right. Financial capital, all sorts of resources that are needed for the urban core have now departed, and then from there we have hopelessness set in. And, when people are hopeless, when they’re desperate, when they’re dealing with structural issues, and they feel powerless to do anything about it. Well, what happens? Escapism.
And so, you start to see the advent of drugs and heroin in these communities. And, what was a health crisis then becomes labeled a criminal crisis. It’s a war on drugs, rather than a healthcare crisis. Much like today, we think about what’s going on in the Appalachian regions and some of the low country areas, and poor Whites who are in poverty, this is what the meth crisis is. It’s a healthcare crisis, but back then it was more labeled a criminal crisis. You look at the joblessness in these communities, and that’s a modern illustration, if you will, of what was taking place in these urban cores as jobs were leaving. People were engaging in drugs because they were escaping their condition about which they were powerless to change.
One thing that’s, just to apply a little bit of Birmingham there, is that the typical attitude, and I mentioned, fight, flight and then forget, is that because we’re still basically in the forget period here, people look back on integration, and the strange thing is that a lot of Whites’ attitude is, “If a community now is under resourced, if it’s a troubled community, it’s the fault of the people who are there.” Which of course, is African Americans. Now, without mitigating aspects of personal responsibility that are certainly valid and important. I simply don’t understand the premise. So, we’re supposed to imagine that if all of the White people who owned homes, and paid for the schools, and had businesses in these communities suddenly within a 10-year period left, that somehow the fault of what happens to the community would be the people who move in. I just don’t understand the premise of this.
And Mike, you’d be interested to know that the illustration I give people is that, let’s imagine Mountain Brook, which has an average household income of about $160000. Imagine what would happen if every year for the next decade, about 10% of the population left. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, it’s not going to look good. I don’t know who’s going to move in, but it’s not going to be… I mean, it’s going to be a mixture of people, some people who see an opportunity, some people who are trying to take advantage of something, it’s going to be pretty eclectic, and it’s not going to be ideal. But, whether you’re talking about purely, just the social capital, or you’re talking about the pure economic capital, it’s not quite sure how you remove all of it from a community, and then expect the community to thrive, and then go so far as to hold up your nose, and to blame those terrible people, and, “Look what they’ve done to our community.”
It’s very strange, but that’s the conceit that you have to engage with, to be able to forget what had happened, and to be able to shirk all of the responsibility that you might directly bear, or that you might be the direct beneficiary of, only one or two generations removed. These things are seemingly pretty obvious, but I have to tell you, they are not anything but obvious in people’s actual lived practices and attitudes as they look back on that period.
Yeah. Collin, you make me think about, I’ve got a friend and mentor, he’s involved in private equity, and he talks about the amount of time that it takes for families to build wealth. He talks about, two and a half to three generations. And, we underestimate very often, just how far behind the line people departing a community brings the residents that remain. All right. So, we’re not even talking about starting at baseline, and then you couple that with denial of loans, and access to capital, and all those things, one has to ask the question, “How much more can you expect from a community that’s been depleted of very foundational things to be on par with thriving communities who have had years upon years of all those necessary things for human flourishing?”
I mean, think about Orlando, we’ve got some stuff here. And again, I want to put Jim’s dad on the spot, I have such a profound respect for him. Because I mean, we’re talking ’70s, ’80s, Black folks are getting denied loans, and here Jim’s dad was one of the courageous guys that stood up, and was offering loans to Black folks when his colleagues was saying, “We don’t do that here.” I’m reading this book on the history of SunTrust Bank here in Central Florida, and I mean he’s right there involved with starting Black business, investment funds, and so on, and so forth. And, I just think that people don’t do the spade work of considering the amount of time that it takes to build a community, and then how far back you set a community, when all the resources leave?
Well, I can’t help but make these things personal in a lot of ways, and I can look at the two sides of my own family. And, I’m fourth generation removed on my father’s side of immigrants, and that’s not common for most White people. The fact that my family, the Hansen family came from Denmark in the late 1920s during the Great Depression. But, within about four generations… I mean, my grandfather had a graduate degree, but basically you can progress pretty quickly. You go from immigrants, to a lot of their kids go to college, especially if they’d served in the military, so they have opportunities that come out of that. All of their kids go to college, then it’s just assumed that their kids will go to college, and graduate school, and things like that. I mean, that’s what you expect of the American dream, that you would hope for the American dream, a good success story.
You look at my wife’s side of the family, and you have a lot of generations of doctors who’ve been very successful and worked very hard in their career. But, the generational wealth that’s built up there goes back all the way to moving into Alabama before it was a state, which was moving into land that was immediately removed from Native American communities after the battles led by Andrew Jackson, so they settle there as farmers. They immediately get involved with slavery. At the outset of Civil War, they have 100 slaves. They send off their eldest son to be one of the first volunteers from the entire State of Alabama to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia. He loses his arm at the Battle of Gettysburg, goes back, he serves as a county treasurer until the 1920s. He has a son who’s a doctor, has a son who goes to Harvard Medical School as a doctor, has a son who becomes chief of surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
You see what I’m saying? That’s the way generational wealth works for a lot of Whites in the South. Not all Whites by any means, but at least a number of them. And, it’s pretty obvious there what the contrast is going to be with most African American stories. I’m just not sure why this needs to be that controversial, or why this needs to be so contentious. That’s just the fact of the matter. No wonder it’s difficult. No wonder there’s such disparities. Those are real problems that are rooted in real injustice.
So Mike, one of the things that Isaac Adams said in his recording is that none of this is recent. It’s just recorded. And that’s really stuck with me over time. There are clearly deep emotions in the Black community, what other factors are putting it under the umbrella of left undone by the civil rights movement? What other factors in this era have contributed to the emotions that the Black community feels?
There are a number of issues that are important in the post-civil rights movement era, and many of these things continue on into the present day, and from a really high altitude, here are some of the things people are concerned about. Beyond instances of interpersonal racism, these issues fall broadly under, basically four overlapping categories of asymmetric relationships to power struggles, and those struggles are law enforcement, the criminal justice system, public policy, and housing. And, the issues with law enforcement have or continue to include driving while Black, and other forms of racial profiling. Not being told why they are being pulled over, being more likely to be searched, being treated with disrespect, violations of our Fourth Amendment rights to unlawful search or seizure, stop and frisk for no good reason, dignity robbing, interactions with law enforcement.
And Oftentimes, this plays out with the expression of cuffs on the curve, put in the back of a squad car, even some rough housing to name of few police brutality. Officer involved shooting of unarmed people, officer involved killings of unarmed people, over policing, and under serving of Black communities. And, another is the inability to seek civil recourse in egregiously unjust cases due to qualified immunity.
So, those are a few of the things that we’re talking about here with law enforcement. When you think about the criminal justice system, which has gained a lot more attention here recently, its failure to convict crimes with Black victims, significant sentencing disparities of crimes with Black victims, significant sentencing disparities of crimes with Black defendants, and then Blacks receiving sentences on average 10% longer than Whites charged with the same crimes. Disparities as large as 100 to one for sentencing of crack cocaine, versus powder cocaine for decades. Underfunding of public defenders, disproportionate impact on racial minorities, public defenders often pursuing bad plea deals, higher bail amounts for the same crimes, under representation of Black persecutors. Prosecutors, excuse me.
You got over 95% of elected prosecutors are White. We’ve got issues also with public policy that have, or continue to persist to this day, and the racialization of the war on drugs, and the criminalizing of health matters. We’ve got previously mentioned qualified immunity for police officers in clearly unjust situations. Not only are we concerned about public policy, but we’ve also got issues related to housing that historically have been a problem, and continue to be a problem, availability of affordable housing, the enduring negative impacts on education, generational wealth, community resources, and tensions with law enforcement, because of redlining, blockbusting, and race based deed restrictions from earlier in the 20th century. All of these, I mean they created hyper segregated by communities.
So, we’ll drill down on some of these, but we don’t have time to drill down on each one of these in full. They all deserve their own dedicated period of time, but each of these things has been written about and studied extensively, so Google is your friend. And you see, Jim, the thing about it is, we talk about the quote unquote, war on drugs. It’s not a ’90s, or just an ’80s phenomenon, this finds its origins way back from the Nixon campaign, and this has been a thread that has continued to plague and concern the Black community now for 40 years. Okay. So, Michelle Alexander documents this well in her book, The New Jim Crow, and how the war on drugs actually in many ways precedes the entrance of drugs into Black and Brown communities.
But, what ends up happening now is you’ve got this war on drugs, and you combine that with the type of sentencing that was taking place, you got people getting felony time for what we probably should deem as misdemeanor offenses, and you’re tearing families apart. Okay. And, you are creating a vicious cycle of people with bad records, who can’t find jobs, and what happens when you can’t find a job? You go back to what’s familiar for you, so now you have recidivism, families torn apart, recidivism, and this vicious cycle of over penalizing people when we need to be concerned more about some of the concerns that people are facing not only behaviorally, but structurally. We’re over penalizing people who want to reenter society, and then we continue to blame them. All right. And in some cases, let me be fair, some of these are behavioral decisions that need to be addressed, but then we over penalize people, and we expect a different outcome.
And so, the war on drugs contributed to tearing apart families, and it’s over criminalization of certain communities, and then what you end up having is this thing that we now call mass incarceration. And, African Americans, which make up about 13% of the US population, comprise 34% of the corrections population. So as of 2015, I believe it is, 6.8 million people in the correctional population, roughly 2.3 million of them are Blacks. 13% of the US population. So, one has to ask the question, what’s going on? And, if it’s not clear why Black folks have the concerns and frustrations that they do, then I would urge us, I would admonish us kindly to just reconsider the history of the war on drugs, and how it has had impacts on generations up to the present. You think about the law enforcement reform that’s needed.
I’ll tell you a story. Growing up, I always got nervous when I saw cops. And, I have family that’s law enforcement, I have friends that are law enforcement. And for years, I remember sharing this with one of my community leaders, and she said, just jokingly, “Maybe you need to use the bathroom or something.” Just in jest. But the older I got, the more I started to reflect on incidents that we had with cops as a family or even personally in my adult life, and it started to make more sense to me why there is on many levels, not saying this is true for everyone, but why on many levels Black folks have a suspicion and a certain concern about law enforcement. I mean, I remember as a kid, I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old, being flanked on a major road by the police, and it was this major scene, and we were being accused of this, that, and the other.
Actually, thinking back it was a traumatic event, the more I think about it, and the impact that it’s had on my family. And so, I grew up, I’m like, “Why is there so much concern? Why do we get to talk? Why do we have so many concerns?” But right along with that, Jim, were the stories of the McDuffie riots in Miami. Okay. 1979 four White cops brutally beat Arthur McDuffie, a Black insurance salesman, and there was a conspiracy to cover it up that manufactured evidence. And, they basically… The medical examiner said that his death was inconsistent with the police report. He was bludgeoned to death. Okay. And then, the cops would later be acquitted, and then the Fraternal Police Order staged a walkout if the men weren’t reassigned, and they were brought back into the force. So, that happened in 1980, four years before I was born.
So, this was very much in near history to my birth, and very much a part of the ecosystem of my community with regard to suspicion for law enforcement. 1992 fast forwarded, Rodney King is beaten in California by police for the world to see. So, within a 12-year span, we see just heinous and gross abuse of power by law enforcement from coast to coast. And so, growing up, all these things are part of my upbringing about being concerned about, and being careful around law enforcement. Again, not saying that all folks are like that, all law enforcement are like that. But then, fast forwarding into my adult life, you think that, “That will never happen to me.” Well, then I’m sitting in front of my house, and I essentially get pulled over by the police in front of my house, and I tell the officer, “My bedroom is about 40 feet away. That bedroom right there is mine. Why are you guys pulling me over? That’s my ID.” And, as he’s walking away he tells me, “You fit the description of someone we’re trying to find.”
That is a refrain that is too familiar to many Black people. One of my colleagues was catching up with a friend of his from 40 years of friendship, and he said, “Hey, how are things going in light of all one White one Black? How things going in light of all the unrest we’re seeing?” He said, “Oh, I’m doing okay.” And, he starts to talk about how many times he’d been stopped by the cops. His Black friend, “How many times you’ve been stopped by the cops?” You said, “Oh, maybe four or five times in the past 40 years.” His Black friend says, “I’ve been stopped 96 times in the past 40 years.” You do the math, that’s about once every five months. He started journaling all the reasons why he was stopped.
And Jim, I’m finding out more and more, even in my close circle of friends, the stories that people have had with law enforcement. Some names I’ll leave, it’s their story to share. But, even some getting out of nice cars and having guns drawn on them. And so, when we talk about these things, my goal is to humanize it as much as possible, and remove it from just a peer conversation about statistics, to understanding that these are real people who have encountered real hurt with regard to law enforcement. And so, that’s why you see this concern and this elevated sense of suspicion for many Black people.
That was so helpful. And, one of the things that Carl Ellis said when he was with us. I think he said, “Different cultures tend to think another culture looks the same.” And, I can remember a dear, dear older Black woman who is very special for my family, she made a comment to me once that, “All you White folks look the same.” But, you put the power in one culture, and then and then you… I want to drill down on this fit the description, because what I’m hearing and seeing is it’s not always easy for somebody in one culture, like the White culture to adequately describe a Black man. Is that a fair statement?
Yeah. That’s a good question. And so, a lot of Black men and even women would tell you that they have experienced that phenomenon of, you fit the description, or they’ve been profiled for whatever reason. And, I think when you look at how 911 calls or descriptions are offered by whoever is contacting law enforcement, they have a certain level of vagueness to them that can be dangerously used as a catch all. So, “Okay. He looks 25 to 40. Maybe he’s 5’10.”
And, I think-
What ends up happening is you could potentially endanger someone because of your lack of specificity. And, part of this is related to a lack of proximity and cultural intelligence. So, if you’re in the dominant culture, and you’re around people who look like you all the time, and you’re not up close in person to people who are different from the subdominant culture, or you’re not looking at movies, or experiencing their culture, and discerning nuances, it’s very easy to just see one and think you’ve seen everybody.
And, what has to be considered is when you make that phone call to law enforcement, what could potentially happen to that person when they are encountered by the cops, and that particular description that you’ve offered is projected on them without specificity. And so again, I think proximity is the way to combat that phenomenon. Getting close to people who are different than you, understanding nuances, and vocal patterns, and hairstyles, and clothing apparel, and the list abounds. But, I have been mistaken right here in our city on a number of occasions. Now, in fairness to the folks who made a mistake, I do look like the guys that they thought I was. One guy looks like he could be my father, and another guy does look like he could be my brother, and we’re all bald and Brown skin.
But it was interesting, when he did that I made a joke. I said, “Don’t worry, some of us think all of y’all look alike too.” But, I’m not sure if he really caught what I was saying. I was trying to give him an out. The next week, he came back to me, he said, “I called you someone else, and that bothered me for a long time.” And, I would hazard a guess that he’s very much aware of how maybe many White people just because of their lack of proximity, or poverty of relationships with Black people can just almost engage their relationships with Black people in a monochromatic sense like they all just look the same. 192 million White people in this nation, and out of the 330 million, 13% of that is Black. And so, when you are part of the dominant culture, a lot of your life will abide with people who look like you, and you don’t have to step out of your comfort zone, if you will. When you’re a minority, you really don’t have the luxury and same measure of not being involved with people from the dominant culture. Okay.
So, I would say that proximity to people, when you’re coming from the dominant culture to folks in subdominant culture is critical for understanding nuances, for disrupting your biases, and to challenge some of those comforts that you may have, and thoughts about… And even just perceptions. And, I think about, somewhat related, when I was in college I had dreads, and I was also on a wall with my pictures with dreads. And, it was a wall that celebrated folks who were recipients of the all-conference honor roll. Well, before I left I was told, “Hey, you’re going to do good in life, but you’re going to need to cut your hair.” There’s evidently a perception about people who had hair like mine.
Now, the person that made that statement was very kind and loving and all that, and perhaps they were preparing me for life out there for people who had my hairstyle, but what it indicated to me was, whatever amount of relationships they had with people that look like me with my hairstyle, was not fully reflective of how laudable, and how noteworthy, and of good character those folks were. So, another way to put it is, maybe the small amount of people that you’ve been around with hairstyles like mine, is causing you to project something about folks on me that’s entirely inaccurate. And so, I would say again, that goes to proximity. So, one of the ways to combat that is having relationships with myriad folks who don’t look like you.
Well, Mike, thank you for all that you’re doing. You really are doing the heavy lifting as you pastor a multi-ethnic church in downtown Orlando. We appreciate your voice. And Collin, it is clear that, not only that you’ve done your homework, but that you care, and so I just really appreciate all the work that you do through your various writing and speaking outlets. I appreciate you giving us your time. We’re thankful for your voice, and certainly praying for you and your ministry.
Great. Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Mike.