Summary: A look at racial issues facing America and the perceptions of America with the resultant challenge that is set forth for the Church.
This past summer has been a revelation in regard to race matters in America. In the first decade of the twenty first century our nation is still confronted with the bitterness of racial profiling, racial disparity, and blatant racism. This past summer we have been reminded of the state of race relations in our nation and while we celebrate our successes we are reminded just how far we still have to go. In two very public expressions we were unfortunately reminded of the state of race matters. One of the issues was the highly publicized handling of the dog betting charges against NFL quarterback Michael Vick. The matter of race in the case was not the issue of charges against Vick but the perspective that most people held about the charges. In my work environment people that felt the charges were unfounded and that prison term should have been out of question happen to be for the most part African American, people who perceived that he should have been banned from the NFL and put in jail were Euro Americans. When I listened to responses from the national media and especially those in Atlanta, Michael Vic supports were African Americans, Vic detractors Euro Americans. What the case showed on a limited but yet very public basis was the profile of race matters in America. That America in this day and time would still have difficulty in the perception of right and wrong simply based on the matter of race. A second very public matter that is defining race matters in America is the Jena 6 trials. In September 2006, as the school year kicked off, a black Jena High School student asked the vice principal if he and some friends could sit under an oak tree where the white students typically congregated. Told by the vice principal they could sit wherever they pleased, the student and his pals plopped down under the sprawling branches of a shade tree in the campus courtyard. The next day, students arrived at school to find three nooses hanging from those branches. "I seen them hanging. I’m thinking the KKK, you know, were hanging nooses. They want to hang somebody. Real nooses, the ones you see on TV, are the kind of nooses they were," Robert Bailey, 17, one of the Jena 6, told the syndicated radio show "Democracy Now!" The school’s principal recommended expulsion for those behind the nooses, according to the local newspaper in nearby Alexandria. Instead, The Town Talk reported, a school district committee overruled the recommendation and suspended three white students for three days for hanging the nooses, a gesture written off as a prank. "Toilet paper, that’s a prank, you know what I’m saying?" Bailey told the radio show. "Nooses hanging there -- nooses ain’t no prank." A series of scuffles ensued over the next three months as racial tension at the school became palpable. The district attorney was summoned to address the student body. Off-campus fights were reported. Bailey said he had a beer bottle broken over his head in one incident, a shotgun pulled on him in another. On November 30, someone torched the school’s main academic building. The arson remains unsolved, but many suspect it’s linked to the discord strangling Jena High. Four days after the arson, several students jumped a white classmate, Justin Barker, knocking him unconscious before stomping and kicking him. Parents of the Jena 6 say they heard Barker was hurling racial epithets. Barker’s parents say he did nothing to provoke the beating. Barker was taken to the hospital with injuries to both eyes and ears as well as cuts. His right eye had blood clots, said his mother, Kelli Barker. Justin Barker was treated and released that day. Bell, Bailey, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and an unidentified juvenile -- all black teens -- were arrested and charged with attempted murder. The weapons used, according to the charges -- shoes. Their bails were set at between $70,000 and $138,000. On Tuesday, LaSalle Parish District Attorney J. Reed Walters reduced the charges against Jones and Shaw to second-degree aggravated battery, the same charge on which Bell was convicted. Only Bell remains in jail, on a $90,000 bond, and the judge has refused to lower it, citing Bell’s criminal record, which includes four juvenile offenses -- two simple battery charges among them. “freethejena6.org”
A third less publicized issue that is defining race matters is the issue of racial disparity. The racial disparities that exist within our educational system show unchanging deficiencies between African American Students and their counterparts in the Virginia Beach School System. No this want make national news, there will be no calls by the NAACP or other national agencies to protest, there will be no protest marches but the disparity is a reflection of race matters in America. Across the board a review and or analysis of the Stanford Achievement Test revels disparaging results. The numbers are consistent across all grades tested although we profile the 6th grade results. The percentages reflect that African Americans are in the lower 50 percentile in every measurable category of reading and mathematics. The numbers are consistent across the board showing a lower percentage rate by ethnicity than any other ethic group and the numbers are consistent over the 5 years in which the test are given. One can assess that the test are racially biased except that every other minority group Hispanic, Asian, Native Americans all had scores higher than that of African Americans. Regardless of reason for the difference in the scores the issue has not been addressed by the Beach school system and they have not adequately provided any explanation of the reason for the scores. Greater yet the racial disparity is not addressed by any Virginia Beach school program intended to help erase the disparity. The state of race matters in America is a political concern, a legislative concern an academic concern and it is a spiritual concern. While we are to challenge our politicians, legal advocates and educational systems we too must challenge ourselves. What is the challenge to the church in matters of black and white?