Thabiti Anyabwile on racism

if race can explain everything, does it explain anything?

Though it poses as an efficient explanatory variable in the popular and scientific mind, "race" as a construct does not in fact deliver on its promises to explain very much. So, here's a short list of things that are not explained (or perhaps a better word is "caused") by race, in no particular order, with brief suggestions as to why the construct fails. It's a partial list, perhaps a debatable list, but one that I hope triggers us to be less anchored in a way of viewing people that falls short of how God views people.
  • Individual educational achievement. You're proficient at what you practice.
  • Prevalence of certain diseases. Usually has more to do with an individual's or family's diet and lifestyle.
  • Election of God. Obviously.... Eph. 1.
  • Crime rates. Perhaps James 4 is a better explanation.
  • Musical preferences. Cases in point: the success of Hip Hop in Japan... and Mark Dever bobbing his head to Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle... or my strange enjoyment of country music.
  • Illegitimacy. Rates are high across the board, but the biggest decreases in recent years have been among African Americans (teens in particular).
  • Church preference. Allowing there may be many positive reasons for making a choice, on the negative side spiritual immaturity can play a prominent role here as the superficial trumps the fundamental. And, a certain idolatry of the group self plays a part.
  • "Receptivity" to spiritual things. Romans 3:9-18.
  • Athletic ability. Again, you're generally proficient at what you practice.
  • Sexual habits or ability. Everybody does it... with varying frequencies and enjoyment levels.
  • Reading levels, eloquence or writing ability. Did I mention you're generally proficient at what you practice?
  • Racism and racist attitudes. Idolatry is a better explanatory factor and cause.
  • Quality of preaching. Good and bad to go around.
  • Political orientation or party affiliation. Self-interest, even incorrectly calculated, is probably the bigger factor.
The sharpest way of putting it is that "race" as we've grown accustomed to thinking of it... social and cultural practices rooted in biological differences and categories... does not exist. And since a thing doesn't exist it can not explain very much... much less cause anything. It's like saying the universe came into being "by chance." "Chance," strictly speaking, doesn't exist. It's a mathematical device for explaining probability (i.e., "the chances of something happening is..."). Chance is not a power, has no substance in reality. Likewise, we may use "race" to discuss probabilities of a sort... but strictly speaking, "race" does not exist as a power or causal agent in the many areas of life we care about.


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