Achieving Racial Harmony in America
The American Civil Rights Movement had one overriding goal: to establish racial equality in America. Equal access, equal opportunity, equal treatment before the law, and equal housing to name just a few of the more sweeping civil rights laws that grew out of the movement. Much progress has been made in the area of civil rights by a nation that once condoned chattel slavery.
However, in spite of commendable progress, there remains much to be done. Too many Americans of different races still view each other with mistrust and suspicion as Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and Asians first rather than as fellow Americans. We will not put our racial past behind us and move ahead for the good of all until we replace racial quality with racial harmony.
Racial equality, means all Americans—but especially Black Americans—enjoy the rights and privileges set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, those the Civil Rights Movement delineated in its program (e.g. voting practices, employment opportunities, housing, access to education, and a number of other discriminatory obstacles Black Americans faced). Leaders of the Movement wanted Black Americans to be treated equally. Now it is the to take the next step: racial harmony. It can be achieved only by Christians of all races demonstrating the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, etc.)
God’s Word gives Christians the common ground they need to overcome that inherent mistrust that often divides the race. Living out Christ’s Great Commandment also builds trust. Perhaps the most important Christians have when it comes to racial harmony is forgiveness.
The United States of America was established on the basis of Biblical principles and Christian values. As a result, no country has been so blessed by God. The Biblical principles and Christian values that guided the founders are forever enshrined in our founding documents; the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson. The founder most responsible for development of the Constitution was James Madison. Both of these Founding Fathers hated the institution of slavery, yet both owned slaves. Herein can be seen the great contradiction that has plagued America from the outset.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson penned these eloquent words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In the beginning, these words applied to white Americans but not black. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration, many black Americans were still enslaved, some at his farm in Monticello.
In the Constitution, Madison and his fellow founders wrote: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” One of the main reasons the union, at that time, was not perfect or as nearly perfect as a nation of sinners in a fallen world can be, was the wretched institution of slavery. As long as the institution of slavery endured, America would be a long way from a perfect union.
In establishing a nation Abraham Lincoln later described as “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” the founders were unable to find a way to include all the people. Because the institution of slavery was so deeply embedded in some of the states and because the economies of those states depended on slave labor, the founders could not find a way to convince enough states to ratify the Constitution and eliminate slavery at the same time. For this reason, slavery was treated by the founders as an economic necessity rather than a moral issue. With no economically-viable solution, the founders kicked the can down the road. America has struggled with racial discord since.
America has come a long way in trying to “form a more perfect union” since those early days of the great contradiction. However, we have never completely erased the stain on our national soul put there by slavery. The Constitution has been amended to correct the original sins it contained concerning slavery, civil rights legislation has been passed and implemented, and gateways to success such as education and career opportunities have been opened. This is the good news.
The bad news is America may have come as far as it can in overcoming the lingering effects of the great contradiction by depending on legislation and politics. Legislation encourages racial equality, not racial harmony. Racial harmony is a heart issue not a legal issue. Consequently, the gateway to racial harmony in America is Jesus Christ, not Congress. This is why Christians must take the lead in overcoming the discordant legacy of the great contradiction.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com