A Long Review of Yancey’s Beyond Racial Gridlock – Part 2

Part 1 – Synopsis
Part 2 – Pros
Part 3 – Defining and Repurposing Terms
Part 4 – Conclusion

The book’s greatest attribute was its unabashed grounding in Christianity. Racism is a sin. Therefore, if Christianity is true, a Christian understanding of sin is crucial to truly understanding racism: “if racial conflict has a spiritual foundation, then secular models are unable to identify the true source of the conflict… Only if we see how our [sinfulness] is the primary source for all other sources of racial tension will we be able to stop treating symptoms and treat this disease out by its awful roots” (p. 79)

– Not only does Dr. Yancey ground his view of racial reconciliation in a Christian worldview, the book is bursting with the gospel and profound spiritual insight. My favorite example: “Sometimes I say that I forgive…, but in the back of my mind I think, ‘Yeah, the next time I want something from that person, I have an ace to play.’ … It sounds easier to forgive than to repent until you realize that when you forgive, you give up the right to have an ace to play later” (p. 108-109) While this statement is made in the context of corporate repentance and corporate forgiveness, it’s equally applicable to personal forgiveness.

Yancey’s ability to see what is good and valuable in each approach before offering a critique is remarkable and his comments on the advantages and disadvantages of the different models are incisive. This even-handedness gives him credibility when discussing each view’s failings.

– Yancey’s gentle yet firm critique of ‘colorblindness’ and his treatment of the lasting effects of historic racism will be very helpful to whites who have never consider the problems with this view. The continuing residential segregation in the U.S. and its impact on school quality are probably the most salient examples of ‘institutional racism’ today (although I’ll discuss my qualms about this term in the next section). There is a recent and direct connection between residential segregation and racist housing practices. Yet even after these practices were made illegal, their effects persisted and have devastating consequences today for inner-city minorities. A ‘colorblind’ approach makes it difficult to address such racial disparities.

– One useful compromise that might appeal to conservatives is the implementation of ‘colorblind’ solutions which nevertheless intentionally target racial disparities. For example, school funding reform or urban revitalization efforts could be free of explicitly racial language but could still aim to correct the effects of historic racism. Such programs would effectively work as reverse systemic racism, disproportionately benefiting minorities without excluding non-minorities.

– Even in 2008, Yancey noted that the ‘white responsibility’ model was gaining adherents, especially in academia. Ten years later, with the rise of organizations like BLM, it is one of the most influential views in our culture and -increasingly- in the church. Yancey rightly recognizes that the core failing of this model, from a Christian perspective, is its anthropology. Emerging as it did from critical theory, it does not see human beings as united in sin, but as divided into categories of ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressor.’ This is a fundamental error and one that Christians in particular need to recognize and avoid. Yes, oppression is a sin, but it is not the only sin. If we encourage the victims of oppression to see themselves only as people who have been sinned against, and not also as sinners themselves equally in need of a Savior, then we have undermined the gospel.

– Yancey’s approach to ‘hot button’ issues such as reparations and affirmative action is excellent. Rather than presenting “the Christian answer” to these questions, he emphasizes the *process* by which Christians need to engage one another . We should recognize that, in many cases, Christians on both sides of the issue have legitimate concerns. Only if we begin with humility, assuming that sin, bias, and simple ignorance have affected our own beliefs, will we be prepared to truly listen.

Last: Beyond Racial Gridlock – Part 1
Next: Beyond Racial Gridlock – Part 3