Ask Dr. Land: Do ‘white privilege’ and ‘critical race theory’ policies reduce racism?

Question:  Does "white fragility" and "critical race theory" impede or promote Dr. King's vision?

I have had an extraordinary experience this past week. Last Friday evening the Trump administration issued an Executive Order mandating all federal agencies to do “everything possible with the law” to cancel contracts or programs promoting “white privilege” and “critical race theory.”

(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)
(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

I sent out a series of tweets expressing my approval of this action, stating that “taxpayers should never be funding programs that target or ‘single out’ any one ethnic group — in this case whites — to the exclusion of other ethnic groups since we are all part of the one human race. It is not only immoral, but likely illegal under current civil rights laws to do so.”

It also violates federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations against racial and gender discrimination in the workplace. Why is gender mentioned? Many of these mandated required programs in the federal workplace also speak about “male toxicity” and single out white males for special indoctrination sessions.

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Holding mandated programs in the federal workplace where “whites only” or “white males only” are required to attend sessions where they are expected to “confirm their white privilege” and acknowledge their “complicity” in perpetrating racism sound more like a parody of a Maoist re-education session than anything that should ever take place on American soil, certainly never at taxpayers’ expense.

I can think of nothing more corrosive to Dr. King’s vision of an America where all are judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I have been shocked by the response to my tweets. I expected a visceral, knee-jerk, negative backlash from those who would accuse the president and me of racism.

There was some of that, but what shocked me more were the very positive responses I received and the stories of many Americans who felt bullied and emotionally abused by these programs not only in the federal workplace but in corporate America and on college campuses.

This response confirmed for me the isolated reports I had been receiving recently from federal workers and those in the corporate world across the country who have been coerced into participating in such emotional self-flagellation sessions — how profoundly un-American.

And how fitting that President Trump issued this directive on the eve of Labor Day Weekend when Americans celebrate the holiday dedicated to improving the living standards, dignity, and working conditions of America’s working men and women. At least federal workers, for now, will no longer be singled out purely by their ethnicity to be harangued and brow-beaten in required sensitivity sessions just because they happened to have been born white and/or male.

The response to my tweet has also revealed that these programs have permeated much deeper into American life than I had previously been aware. Evidently, large swaths of the corporate world have embraced this extremely divisive and counter-productive model. Corporate executives have reached out and complained to me that they felt emotionally abused and that they had no choice but to keep quiet, lest they be labeled a racist — about the worst thing you can be accused of being in current American society, with the possible exception of “child molester.” It was explained to me that if you complained, you were apt to be labeled “uncooperative” and “racially insensitive” and thus ineligible for further promotion. I had several say, “Please don’t use my name or identify me in any way because there will be ‘hell-to-pay.’”                   

So we see the insidious impact of cancel culture on free speech — once again, how un-American. I have been told that a course on “white privilege” has become part of the West Point curriculum — that is certainly going to negatively impact the terribly important military concept of “unit cohesion.”     

Why does all of this activity negatively impact Dr. King’s vision of an America where all are judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”? It should be obvious that singling out “whites” for re-education sessions is quite simply reverse-racism and is discriminating against individuals because of an innate, inborn, ethnic characteristic of their birth — the core definition of “racism.”

Also, Dr. King’s vision was based upon Christian theology and philosophy, not Marxism. As a Christian, I embrace Dr. King’s vision and have dedicated much of my ministry to helping America move ever closer to that goal where all Americans can sit down together as brothers and sisters at the table of brotherhood where race is irrelevant.

“White fragility” says that if you are a white American, you are a racist. If you deny you are a racist, that “proves” you are a racist. As a white male raised in the last half of the 20th century in America, have I been impacted by racism? Yes, one could not live through the 1960s and not be impacted. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963 changed my life at age sixteen and my understanding of what our country could be.

Am I thus a prisoner of my experience with racism and segregation and doomed to always being a racist as white fragility asserts? No. And the insistence that white people in America can never escape the negative imprint of racism is a denial of the Gospel, which Dr. King and I, both Baptist ministers, embrace and espouse.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that in Christ we become new creatures, “born again” from above, a new kind of man (Eph. 2:15), a new creature where all things are new. Does anyone think Saul of Tarsus, Jewish rabbi and Pharisee, was not prejudiced against Gentiles? Of course he was — until he met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Then God made him the “apostle to the Gentiles.”

Christianity asserts that in Christ you can overcome any and all negative background experiences.

In Christ you are not the prisoner of your background.

I believe we can, and will, overcome some day! Consequently, I must reject “critical race theory” and its illegitimate spawn, “white fragility,” because as Christians and Americans we need not be forever imprisoned by our past and we can overcome together — and we will ALL win.    

Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches.

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