Putting racism, white supremacy, and white privilege in context
Chimes: The official student newspaper of Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Joseph Kuilema, Professor of Social Work
A group of students went to write positive messages on snow on cars following the racist comments that were written. Photo Credit Katelyn Bosch
On Sunday, Nov. 22, two members of our community wrote “white power” and drew a swastika in the snow on a car. Many members of our community condemned these actions as hateful and totally incompatible with our mission. In some ways, that’s the easy part. What has been more difficult is to acknowledge that what occurred was not an isolated incident, a freak occurrence in an otherwise loving and inclusive community. While few members of this community openly espouse white supremacy, many members of our community continue to deny white privilege. It must be clearly stated that those who deny white privilege functionally believe in white supremacy, whether they have the courage to write it on a car or not.
In his remarks on the incident, President Le Roy rightly identified the statement “white power” and the swastika with white supremacy and the ideology that shaped Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, chattel slavery in the U.S. and the Jim Crow South. He focused on two scriptures, the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), and Jesus warning that before we remove the splinter in the eye of the other we ought to attend to the plank in our own (Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 6:37-42). He did this largely in the context of not demonizing those who committed these acts, and that is an appropriate concern. Christians should never reduce anyone to the worst thing they have done. None of us stands innocent before the Lord.
However, we should never mention Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa or the Jim Crow South without identifying the connections to us here at Calvin College and the brutality right here in Grand Rapids…
…At the same time, I have to respectfully disagree with President Le Roy’s assertion that we are all racists. I, Joseph Kuilema, am certainly a racist. As a white male, I benefit tremendously from institutions and systems that have been built by and for people like me. This is how the social sciences define racism, not as merely the product of prejudice, explicit or implicit bias, but a system of power based on the invention of the “white race” by people in power. By this definition, we are not all racists…
Read the entire article here.