Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise

No worse fate could befall a group emerging from oppression than to find itself gripped by a militancy that sees justice in making others responsible for its advancement. Shelby Steele

Shelby Steel talks about “disassociation,” an action taken by whites to demonstrate they are not racist. Corporations disassociate by submitting their employees to long indoctrination sessions in which they are shown how racist they are or how privileged they are, if they’re white. Universities disassociate by banning speakers, or firing teachers, or disavowing links with movements, historical figures, ideas–all to prove they’re in the club. Protestors dissociate by destroying statues of Washington, Jefferson, et. al. to show they, the protestors, aren’t racist. And white “scholars” churn out books to prove their bona fides: we white scholars, we’re in the club, too.

Jamar Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise is a brief historical survey of ways the American church compromised itself and showed its racist colors. Here we’re not dealing with Steele’s disassociation, obviously. Mr. Tisby is a mostly diligent and always thoughtful Christian writer who seeks to expose his white Christian brothers and sisters to the shameful role their church has played in perpetuating black oppression. But what will the consequences of that exposure be?

My guess is, based on Mr. Tisby’s book, we’ll see churches, religious leaders, and universities disassociating themselves from George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, the Southern Baptist Convention, and anyone else tarred in Mr. Tisby’s book because two hundred years ago or fifty years ago they refused to combat structural racism. In other words, The Color of Compromise will aid in increasing that long list of folks who are desperate to join the I’m-not-a-racist club.

It’s sad. Mr. Tisby is talented, and he has his heart set on racial justice, which is an admirable place to be. But I doubt justice can be achieved by picking at the scabs of the past and I hope he doesn’t continue to spin his wheels in the victimhood rut like so many other misguided black leaders. For our Lord has actually given Mr. Tisby and others a means, not to find justice, but to find peace of mind, which I suspect is what they’re after, even though they may not even realize it. I pray for them that they discover that means soon; for it needs repeating seventy times seven and even that may only be the beginning.


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