Confronting Colorblind Christianity By Joel A. Bowman, Sr.

The year 1968 marked the end of the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century. Through the blood, sweat and tears of African-Americans and their allies, much was accomplished during this era. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Viola Liuzzo, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are the most recognizable people to have paid the ultimate price for Black liberation and equality.

Since 1968, many (including White Christians) have misappropriated Kings’ words so as to forward an agenda he would not have supported. During his “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963, King famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” These words have been coopted by many White Christians who have erroneously claimed that King advocated a “colorblind” society- one in which color did not matter. 

Further, many have misused King’s words to imply he would have been against affirmative action and other programs intended to promote the leveling of the playing field, as it were. Nothing could be further from the truth! In a 1967 interview King did with NBC, he said, “I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps, but it’s a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. And many Negroes by the thousands and millions have been left bootless as a result of all of these years of oppression and as a result of a society that deliberately made his color a stigma and something worthless and degrading.” King clearly was not advocating colorblindness, but racial equity. 

There are four things that make Colorblind Christianity untenable:

1. Colorblind Christianity is unrealistic within a racialized society.

America is a racialized society in that there is a racial hierarchy, with White people at the top and Black people at the bottom. In her book, White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, Anthea Butler said, “A call for colorblindness seems peculiar in a nation wherein race has been the most critical and the most powerful issue in effecting political change.” While it is true that race is a social construction, it is also true that race is the most salient determinant of social power. Colorblindness is both naive and dismissive of this reality. 

James Baldwin said, “Being White means never having to think about it.” White Christians have the privilege of not having to give any serious consideration to the issue of race. Colorblindness enables them to avoid any uncomfortable discussions in this regard. But, Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

2. Colorblind Christianity ignores the identity of each person.

When White Christians say to non-White Christians, “I don’t see color,” it’s just like saying, “I don’t see you.” However well-intentioned people might be, such trite statements are dishonoring to the Imago Dei (“image of God”). God is not colorblind! He created each of us with our distinct ethnicities and cultures, in keeping with His sovereign plan. To use the words of Psalm 139:14, each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

Butler said, “When some evangelicals say they don’t see color, they mean it. They see whiteness- no color but the dominant one.” The problem with a colorblind conception within American Christianity is that white has always been the default color. White supremacy is so thoroughly baked into American ecclesiastical structures that whiteness is seen as the cultural ideal into which non-Whites should assimilate. This is true within predominantly White congregations and para-church organizations. 

3. Colorblind Christianity focuses on individual behavior while ignoring institutional racism. 

Christians who propagate the fallacy of colorblindness have asserted, “Racism is not a skin problem, but a sin problem.” On the surface, this assertion may seem plausible. However, the complex and comprehensive nature of racism requires a nuanced perspective that goes beyond churchy clichés. To be clear, racism is a sin that is rooted in the belief that those with lighter skin are superior to those with darker skin. To trivialize this fact is to burry one’s head in the sand

Further, sin is any disruption of God’s created order in the world. Therefore, racism is not merely a matter of personal sin, but also a matter of systemic sin that harms both individuals and groups. Proverbs 31:9 affirms this by saying, “defend the cause of the oppressed.” Colorblind Christians do not give serious consideration to the racism woven into law enforcement, criminal justice, education, and real estate. At best, they only consider the actions of individual police officers, judges, teachers, and realtors, and thus, miss the big picture. 

4. Colorblind Christianity whitewashes the ethnic diversity present in the Bible and the Body of Christ. 

The writers of both the Old and New Testaments were intentional about distinguishing people groups. This was done to highlight the rich diversity within humanity. We find this in the Table of Nations, in Genesis 10, and on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2. Even in heaven, there will be ethnic diversity. Revelation 7:9a says, “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Nevertheless, colorblind Christianity whitewashes ethnic diversity and minimizes God’s creative genius. 

In her poem, Colorblind Christianity, Dajanae Cole says it best …

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity! 

You know God as the creator of colors except for when it comes to me.

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity!

I won’t support that lie, I am His image-bearing masterpiece.

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity!

I am His sacred creation so your color lies got you claiming a colorless blasphemy.

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity!

You make love seem like it’s afraid of my color, and it shows in your attempt to love me passively.

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity! 

Because when injustice happens you say things likelet’s wait for all the facts” instead of seeing it as a tragedy.

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity!

I love my melanin and the way it radiates, watch me glow magically. 

I don’t want your colorblind Christianity!   

It’s not for me and it’s not for you either. Let go of that lie so you can have freedom.

Why would you want your colorblind Christianity?

By Joel A. Bowman, Sr.

2 thoughts on “Confronting Colorblind Christianity By Joel A. Bowman, Sr.

  1. Such good, powerful words, Brother Joel. Thanks for your faithfulness to the words of God and the works of God, and your continuing belief in the power of Jesus to bring change in people broken by this world.

    Like

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