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A Fascinating Perspective on Racial Issues (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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February 17, 2021 5:00 am

A Fascinating Perspective on Racial Issues (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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February 17, 2021 5:00 am

Dr. Shelby Steele addresses racial division in America, examining the civil rights movement of the 1960s and comparing it to the campaign for social justice today. He reminds us of the importance of strong marriages and families as the solution to many societal ills. (Part 1 of 2)

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The seasons of your life are always moving forward. Singlehood, marriage, parenting, aging well. And through it all, Focus on the Family is alongside you with encouragement from a biblical perspective. And now we have a tool that gathers our trusted guidance and support together in one place, the enhanced Focus on the Family app. With it, you can listen to the Focus on the Family broadcast, engage our social media, find a counselor, or make a donation, all on the Focus on the Family app.

Download it today from the App Store or Google Play. I think that the breakdown of the black American family is the single worst and most overwhelming problem we face today, bar none. Our problem is the decline of our family life. That's Dr. Shelby Steele, and he's our guest today on Focus on the Family, sharing some unique perspectives on racial issues in our culture. And I think you're going to find this really interesting, and I do hope you'll stay with us for this important conversation.

This is Focus on the Family with your host, Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, racial injustice is a real hot button topic in the culture today with the unrest and all the things that have occurred over the years, including the death of George Floyd in 2020, Michael Brown in 2014, and others. Those and other incidents have led to violence, unfortunately, and then we try to find out how we got here and search for solutions.

That cycle seems to repeat itself over and over again. The Bible tells us as Christians that we're called to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat others with dignity because we're all created in God's image. And we take that very seriously here at Focus.

That's a command right from the Lord. I thought it would be good to look at what's happening in our culture and hear what some of the thought leaders are thinking about. And I know that some of this discussion will be controversial, and not everyone will agree with what Dr. Steele has to share. But I think it's important for us to hear his insights on racial tensions in this country, and it will expand your thinking, I believe. He's experienced racism growing up on the south side of Chicago, but he's chosen to move beyond it.

And hopefully, he'll offer advice to help our country move in a more positive direction as well. And Dr. Steele is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution specializing in the study of race relations and multiculturalism and affirmative action. He's an accomplished author, and he created a new video documentary called What Killed Michael Brown? That, of course, referring to the 2014 shooting death that you mentioned, Jim. And the documentary forms some of the basis for our conversation today.

Dr. Steele, welcome to Focus on the Family. Well, thank you so much for having me. Very excited to talk with you. I do see you as a thought leader. Sometimes people may think of you as controversial.

I think you're just one of the many voices, but a very reasoned voice, a logical voice in this issue of racial tension. Before we get into that debate and that discussion, let's go back and talk about your upbringing. Let's talk about where you come from, your mom and dad, etc.

Tell us a bit about who you are. Well, my mother and father met and married in the very early civil rights movement in Chicago in the early 40s. They were founding members of CORE, Congress of Racial Equality, which grew into probably the most, the central civil rights movement, the part of the movement that focused on the Gandhian philosophy of passive resistance and so forth. So I grew up as a kind of CORE baby and the brand of Christianity that we were devoted to was focused socially and our argument was against racial segregation, which was prevalent there. So it was this sort of engagement of Christianity with this huge complex problem of race in America that was the sort of cauldron, I suppose, that I grew up in. I remember conversations around the dinner table when Martin Luther King started out and my family wondered whether he really had the stuff.

So it was always a part of my life. Let me ask you, Dr. Shelby, with your dad. Your dad seemed like an incredible person. Have a bit of his background growing up in the South and then his move to Chicago. He was an orphan child, right? Yes, he was.

Yes, he was. He was born in the South, 1900, and his father died when he was about eight. His mother died when he was 12. He was on his own at that point. Lived in the back of a barn. The farmer's son would bring him food at night. That's how he survived two years. And at the age of 14, he took off in the North and then began a new life. It's amazing.

I mean, that kind of tenacity, resiliency, all those attributes. How did you pick those things up? I mean, was it simply seeing your dad work the way he worked and how hard he worked? You know, so often today we look at the fatherless homes. And of course, in the African American community, fatherlessness is a huge problem.

Some studies show 75, 78 percent of black families don't have a father in the home, where there's a child under 18 in the home. Speak to that issue of drive and initiative and how that transferred to you, your father's son. Well, my father was, you'd have to know him. He was, he was always thinking. And he was, he had only a third grade education, but he taught himself to read and write. And he read a great deal. I'd come home from school, he'd be sitting there reading Time Magazine or The New Republic, whatever. He kept up on things and he was always, he was always mulling things over. And he was a gentle man. He would talk us when we did something wrong. He would explain the whole world to us, give us a sense of why it was that what we had just done wouldn't work and why it was wrong and why we shouldn't do it.

And so you'd get this whole sort of the context of your, of whatever crime you had committed. And you, I can remember wishing that he'd just give us the spanking and get it over with. Get on with this, right?

No, I appreciate it. So he was an education in himself all my life. I've relied on him and referred back to him. So I think he would have been a writer himself had he had more opportunity.

Yeah. And that's, you know, again, that's the importance of a father. There's so much social science now coming in regarding the importance of a father in the nuclear family and the unique attributes a father brings to helping to raise children.

They're not going to be moms, they're going to be dads. And that's one of the great breakdowns in the nuclear family in all races, black, white, the black community particularly have suffered tragically in this area. What are your reflections in that regard when it comes to the black family and the fatherlessness and what it contributes to the, you know, obstacle of doing better in the culture? I think that the breakdown of the black American family is the single worst and most overwhelming problem we face today, bar none. Black women get married at half the rate of white women.

They get divorced at twice the rate of white women. The family is, even as you move up in social class, is just simply fragmented and it creates so many problems that it is the single force that collectively as a group keeps us down. It's just hard to, for that many, you look at the inner cities today and it's how do you overcome those kinds of problems that then manifest themselves and the education system and so forth. It's our greatest problem by far. We will claim, I think, quite wrongly that racism is our big problem. That's what keeps us down, not remotely.

I argue against that vociferously. Our problem is the decline of our family life. When I was growing up in the fifties and the sixties, the black family was still strong. Every kid in my neighborhood had a father. Remember, one family, the father died. That was the only family. Then those children were watched out for by the rest of the community. They grew up too with a sense of family. That was a sacred idea.

Boy, that's gone. When that goes, then you face real, as a group, we really face despair. We need the focus on the family more than anything else by far.

Yeah. Well, and we agree with that wholeheartedly because we think that is the core issue for all of America, that the breakdown of the family is contributing in a great way to the social ills that we see. In fact, even when I see the unrest and I watch it on the news, my first inclination is family breakdown and the fact that children, no matter what their race is, aren't learning the things they need to learn to conduct themselves wisely with respect in the culture. That brings a whole set of circumstances to it. Let me get to some of the points that you've made in that terrific documentary that you've made.

I watched it just last night in full. There were so many amazing points that you made. One thing you said I wanted to talk to you about is describing racism as a religion.

What do you mean by that? What I meant is we in black America have created for ourselves what I call a victim-focused identity. Our victimization is who we are and what we bargain with the larger society out of that and so forth. That is then, therefore, our power in American life is our victimization.

If you're going to be a victim, you have to have some great monolithic enemy that you're against that is victimizing you. We make racism into that monolithic, almost a devil figure against which we define ourselves constantly. We make a religion out of it.

We make a faith out of it. If you don't agree that you're victimized, you're not black. We say you're an Uncle Tom. You're not true to your race. If you're black, you must assert your victimization. It's a terrible irony that history's put us in where we actually don't realize it, but we're celebrating the very thing that has been our enemy all along.

Right. I wanted to ask you what your thoughts are when you have sustained decades of victimization. What does that do to the thinking of that community when they're constantly in that modality of victimization?

What does that do to any human being? The issue of slavery and this is an interesting point. It's a 3,000-year-old horrible practice that people have put on each other. It's not just white and black. It certainly occurred in Africa.

I'm Irish. The British held the Irish as slaves. It rides all the way down through history. The Jews, of course, were kept as slaves in Egypt, et cetera.

It's a global phenomena that lasted about 3,000 years. In that context, what is the harm when people continually think of themselves as victims and for good reason? To be a victim is to be impotent.

It's to have no faith in your own capacity to direct your life. As a black victim, I have to join collectively with everybody else in my race. We have to find some way to manipulate our way ahead through white America.

We have to keep white America on edge. We have to keep them feeling guilty toward us and about us. Our great power is that we hold their redemption in our hands. They have to deal with, they have to give us things.

Lyndon Johnson gave us the war on poverty, great society, affirmative action, school busing, public housing, on and on and on. We then begin to believe that whites can socially engineer us out of our suffering. All of the power to activate, we place the victim places in his oppressor, in whites. We put that in their lap, give them that power, and therefore we don't have it. My big argument is, hey, we need to keep that power for ourselves.

We have to be the agent parents of our own development, our own overcoming of all those deficits that came from the past. When you come from four centuries of oppression, you didn't have it. You didn't have freedom. You don't know anything about it. You don't know how to function in it.

You don't know why things are important. You were always in that position where you had to manipulate the white man to get anywhere. Now, all of a sudden, in freedom, we're still manipulating that white man.

We're still working him over with guilt. We're still keeping him on the line, because we still continue to think that's our future. It's not our future. We should not be manipulating anybody. We should be living as free men and women in an open society.

That's scary, because freedom is a scary thing for everybody, for human beings of all backgrounds, because it demands so much responsibility, so much taking on the burdens of life on one's own shoulders. And you've mentioned this with white guilt. I do want to define that.

I think I understand that. But for the listeners, the viewers, let me hear from you what you mean by white guilt and how is it corrosive to the process, et cetera. I was born in the 60s in California. I've never felt I had to own what happened in the 1700s and the 1800s. Some people are probably offended by that, but I don't know what I could have done not being here at that time to change. I know the abolitionists, the Christian church, in part, did what they could do to end slavery.

Of course, Mr. Wilberforce in England, he mounted a global campaign to try to bring an end to slavery, certainly in England, but worldwide. We weren't there. How do we own that?

But help me better understand it. How do I own what white people did in the 1700s? The problem is that white guilt is not actual guilt. Get up in the morning and say, oh my God, I feel guilty about the history of racism in America.

I don't get up and say that about the history of Eskimos or the history of whatever. It's not that kind of actual real feeling of guilt over something that you did that you're now ashamed of, whatever. It is simply the stigmatization of belonging to a group that conducted racism for centuries, that brutally oppressed people, in this case, of color, so stigmatized with the term racism and racist so that whites, in a sense, in America today, even though they don't feel actual guilt, feel a terror at the prospect of being seen as a racist. That's it. The worst thing in the world can happen to a white person is that we imagine somebody running to the president and we have on tape some racist remark that they've made.

They'd be finished. And so whites live under that pressure, that terror. Oh my God, I'm going to cross a line here and be ruined. So white guilt, white guilt is black power. The terror that whites have, the fact that we have that over them is our power. And we created a whole grievance industry in America to exploit that power. And look at corporate America today, giving into Black Lives Matter and groups, they don't really, you know they don't really believe in them, but they're going to give in because they're running from that terror being seen as racist. They're seen in the slightest bit as racist.

It ruins their brand. And so we have the power to, in that sense, ruin the brand of white America. And white America is sort of digging out against that vulnerability. And that's the, race relations today are the symbiosis where, between black and white America, where whites are living in terror and that's what we have over them and we keep using that as our power.

And whites keep giving us things no matter what we ask for, whether we deserve it or not, in order to buy back their innocence. And so there we are. And I'm making that assumption that in what you're saying, and again, I know this is controversial, but that's one of the reasons I wanted to have you on to talk about this, to be a voice. And my head's not in the sand. I know there is racism.

I know it exists. The question is to what degree and we can get into more specifics in a moment regarding that. But we do feel a need to move toward a culture, a society that treats everybody equally. That it's not based on race. I think many people that I know, if not everyone I know, believes what Martin Luther King Jr. said was exactly right. That it's character that counts, not the color of your skin. And I certainly believe that as a Christian, you know, that God sees our hearts, he sees our works, he sees our attitude, those things that are developed within us.

Not immutable traits like the color of our skin, which we cannot change. And I do want to recognize for the critics that will say hearing this, your head's in the sand. You don't see the racism that does exist. So if you could address that, that there are in fact people that are racist that, you know, on all sides that see the world that way. And yet I would want to believe that most people are moving forward in character over skin color. But correct me if I'm wrong. It's a close call.

They're in sharp contrast to each other, but it's a close call. Racism is is on a list of problems that black America faces. Racism is probably 32nd, 35th, something way down the line. Do you know how shocking that sounds to white America?

I mean, that that really is amazing. You're talking somebody who grew up in segregation. I know what I'm talking about. I know what racism is like. I could talk for hours about what I went through growing up in a deeply a society was so racist that it was utterly confident. It thought racism was good manners.

It thought God really had made the races different and that was that and so forth. And you've got no sympathy at all for you. You got contempt and people would just say, well, you can't go in there. You can't do this.

You can't so on and on and on. So I point is, I know racism. We don't have racism is not our problem today, not remotely. White Americans have made the greatest is I think the greatest incident of moral evolution, probably in human history from the 60s to this day of of facing into racism, of understanding it to be an evil, anti-democratic and so forth and aching to move forward and move beyond it. Yet they still have that terror of being seen as racist and they use it against each other and we use it in our politics.

And it stays alive in our society because of this terror. How do we get out of this by whites have to stop being afraid to have to start believing in themselves morally that they are not racist, that they are innocent of that. They do not have racial ill will. They have only when they finally, when they finally, we're a ways away from that, when they finally confidently say oh, why am I continuing to be generation after generation anguished over being seen as a racist when I know I'm not. And when the white community in America begins to have that sort of discussion with itself, owns up to the fact that they're not racist, not own up to the fact that they are, but that they're not. Boy, those are bold statements.

There's some bold statements, but this is where my sense of my experience life has brought me to. I know again that racism is simply not a do what you want. They called the fancy term today is systemic racism. You can structural racism, institutional racism. We are, we as blacks keep inventing, expanding racism even as it declines because it is our source of power in America. We can call you racist and stop the show. We can wield that power in America. So we're going to say, oh, racism is not just an isolated incident.

A boy gets shot by a policeman. Racism is systemic. It's embedded intimately in our, uh, insidiously in our, uh, in our daily lives. And blacks are injured and hurt by this. Uh, no, it's a manipulation. It's of a formerly oppressed group manipulating the former oppressor, squeezing them, uh, with guilt, uh, to get certain things.

What, when did we get this week? How did we survive four centuries of oppression if we were this weekend and sensitive? Yes, you may in fact run into some racism. I certainly won't say you won't, but B take the opposite course. If somebody is racist, it's, it's their problem. They're an idiot and they're going to suffer for it. Focus on what's in front of you and your life, your family, your job, your career.

Move ahead. This side, this creating this idea and then raising your children this way, uh, is, is the teaching them to be afraid. Teaching men and women stand up for themselves. Dr. Shelby Steele on today's episode of focus on the family with a passionate message. As we've heard, part one of a two part conversation about racial issues in this country at John, I so appreciate Shelby's insights and look forward to more of the discussion next time. It's a unique perspective from a man who's chosen not to dwell on past wrongs that he's observed or experienced, but rather to focus on the present.

That's a good reminder for all of us. Taking responsibility for his own words and actions and building toward a better future. His can do attitude is inspiring and I hope this has been helpful today and that you'll come back next time to hear more. In the meantime, look for more information on our website about Shelby's documentary, what killed Michael Brown and as we look for solutions to the issues we've talked about, you may be wondering what can I do to improve my relationships? What does God's word say about reconciliation and unity? Our friend Dr. Tony Evans offers some helpful and practical biblical advice in his excellent book oneness embrace that will challenge us to find solutions. The book addresses some of the racial division in our country, what we need to do to have godly unity and what it looks like when we get there, both as individuals and corporately as the church. And I think it's a must read for all of us as believers. And we want to send that book to you as our thank you for your support when you make a donation of any amount to focus on the family. Again, that book by Dr. Evans, oneness, embraced reconciliation, the kingdom, and how we are stronger together.

Call 1-800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459, or check the links in the up episode notes, including more information about Shelby's documentary, What Killed Michael Brown? On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family Thrive in Christ. I'm here asking people to define the word appreciate. It's like when something goes up in value.

It's telling someone they did a good job. Focus on the Family invites you to give a gift that appreciates when you give a non-cash gift of stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. You'll avoid a capital gains tax, get a deduction, and help families thrive for generations to come. Find out more about non-cash gifts. Just visit
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-24 05:02:19 / 2023-12-24 05:12:06 / 10

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