In light of the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests, it’s hard to avoid the topic of racism in America. Many of us might naively think that racial issues in our society were settled with the Civil Rights Act in 1964. When the Civil Rights Act passed, all the “Jim Crow” laws that officially discriminated against blacks on the basis of their race, and defined things such as where they could live, where they could eat, where they could use the bathroom, all became null and void. Yet, in spite of these changes, racism has remained alive and well in America. Racial tensions remain high, and it usually doesn’t take much more than a headline in the news to resurrect problems we’ve long tried to bury.
In today’s podcast, I am having a friend of mine on the show to discuss racism in America, specifically, the issue of “systemic racism”. My friend Courtney Williams is a colleague of mine at the bank that we both work for. We’ve had many conversations over the years on the issue of race in America, and how the spirit of Jim Crow is still alive and well in America. While I don’t always agree with Courtney on this topic, I find much of what he says compelling, especially as he shares his perspective and insights into what it’s like to live as a black man in America, especially in the South.
Wherever you stand on the issue of racism in America, especially in regard to institutional systemic racism, I think if we are to make any progress as a people (especially for those of us who are Christians) and a nation, such progress requires mature adults sit down and have mutually respectful conversations. Conversations that are hard, and difficult to work through, as we come to grips with the feelings we all have on this sticky subject.
Talking Points From This Conversation On Racism And “The New Jim Crow”
- Opening story from Jimmy: “One of my first jobs about 20 years ago was at a shoe store. The assistant manager, an older white woman, specifically told me to follow black customers around, ‘Because they steal more.’” This was my first real lesson in systemic racism. Up to that point in my life, I just thought racism was about having negative thoughts about people of another race, or something that happened once upon a time in the 1960’s.
- Courtney shares his own story as a black businessman simply trying to sit in the first class section of an airplane, the first time he remembers encountering racism as a child in kindergarten, and the challenges he’s face with being in an interracial marriage.
- Didn’t racism end in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act? If there are no official laws that allow people to officially discriminate against blacks, then isn’t systemic racism just a myth that liberals feed minorities to perpetuate a “victim mentality” in order to get their vote?
- Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
- Jim Crow laws were laws passed in the prior centuries in order to enforce racial segregation. Everything from “Redlining” laws, to what bathroom blacks could use. These laws no longer exist. But you would contend that we live in a society in which Jim Crow is still alive and well.
- Do you think real meaningful progress has been made since 1964? Are things better? Or are things just as hot as they once were? And are you optimistic about the future of race relations in the United States?
- The issue of conscious and unconscious bias, and how we are all naturally hard wired to discriminate against “others” that are not part of the homogenous groups we naturally form. Is racism caught or taught?
- What impact is poverty having on our race relations? Is it possible that the major issues we have are fueled more by poverty, and the problems that are associated with poverty, than racial prejudices?
- And is capitalism to blame? Is it an oppressive system that keeps blacks forever behind when it comes to economic well being? Or does capitalism just need some tweaking? And is socialism the magic pill that will solve all our racial problems?
- Blacks are free and have the same legal rights as I do. Why can’t everyone just pull themselves up by the bootstraps like I have? Is that possible?
- How has the Crime Bill of 1994 impacted the black community? Especially as it relates to crack cocaine, and the mass incarceration of black men.
- What is “white supremacy” and how do we tackle the “root cause of racism?”
- Explaining what “Black Lives Matter” means.
- The public lynching of George Floyd, the attempt to vilify him, and how God has used George Floyd in his death.
- Affirmative action, grants, special loan programs, etc. Our society seems to have a number of social programs aimed at helping minorities. Isn’t this enough, or is something more needed? What sort of reform or additional government programs are needed? And how long will these programs be needed? At what point should we say “We don’t need programs like affirmative action anymore?”
- Some would say we just need to focus on changing hearts and minds. People “just need Jesus.” Do you think we need to something beyond changing hearts?
- The role of the church. Sunday morning is still one of the most segregated institutions we have. As human beings, we tend to go to churches where they live, and where they live is often highly slanted towards a certain demographic makeup. How does the church overcome this? How do we better blend churches when they are mostly reflections of the neighborhoods we live in?
- Books mentioned in today’s podcast: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; Animal Farm by George Orwell; The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.
Special Guest: Courtney Williams
Born and raised in the beautiful city of Belmont, NC, Courtney Williams is an assistant Vice President with a large national bank, as well as a father to four beautiful children, and a husband to very patient and equally as beautiful wife. After graduating from the lauded South Point High School, Courtney attended NCA&T, a historically black college in Greensboro, NC. Those formative years shaped Courtney’s approach to life and gave him the pride that was missing prior to attending this Mecca.
You can often see Courtney cheering on his children during their games and more recently yelling at soccer referees on Saturday mornings. You can email Courtney Williams at: firstname.lastname@example.org