Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2004 June 21 -- The Race Card

Of all the current events (read: news) magazines I read, Christianity Today usually has the best, most balanced coverage. If they had a little more of it, and if they came out weekly instead of monthly, I'd dump the others and just read CT.

I suppose they probably preferred to give a balanced perspective on the continuing problem of racism in America too, but lacked the courage (or could not find anybody willing) to offer a counterpoint to Stephen Carter's whine in the July 2004 issue.

There will always be people who take the lazy way, and blame visible and superficial differences for differences in economic opportunities. Those people are rightly called racist, just like the people they blame. We cannot rid the world of such racists, but we do not have to enlarge their numbers by joining them. Their failed blame politics are evident in the demographics that Carter blindly cites: the worst segregation remaining today is in the so-called "liberal" states, where racist political policies aid and abet the blame game instead of encouraging people to take charge of their own destiny.

Once in a while somebody rises above the folly of blame and points to a fixable cause. Bill Cosby recently did that, by reminding people everywhere (and especially his own race) that good parenting encourages people to succeed. Clarence Thomas said similar things before him. Although it's not Politically Correct for anybody else to make the same claim, it's not really a racial problem at all.

Yes, there are disadvantages to be overcome, but the unluckiest of black Americans have a much better chance of economic success than the best of the good Christian people in Sudan. By God's grace alone, I have more advantages than my Christian brothers in Indonesia and China -- and I must apply those advantages in the service of God, as I so attempt even now -- but all people in this great country have most of those advantages. Work hard, learn from other people's mistakes, don't stop to blame.

When enough people in an identifiable demographic group start to take charge of their own destiny, the lazy rest of the public will probably still hate them, but now for their success. I see that in the orientals in America. They have most of the disadvantages of the African-descent people, but they refused to let it stop them. Perhaps it's in their culture: I'm told it is the ethnic Chinese who are the persecuted Christians in Indonesia. Many of them are economically successful there also. It's culture, not race.

The Christian ("Protestant") work ethic builds small opportunities into bigger ones instead of "wasting their substance on riotous living." Those people who wait around trying to win the lottery mostly become suckers for the shysters (government included) who are willing to take what little they have in return for empty promises. You don't have to spend money on actual lottery tickets to live in the lottery mentality, looking for a get-rich-quick alternative to hard work.

Like the games of Risk and Monopoly, luck (read: Providence) will always play a part in what happens, but I win at those games more often than I lose. Statistically, if luck were all it takes, it should be the other way around. Intentionality -- looking for what works and avoiding mistakes that don't work -- that's what wins the game. Life, I have discovered, is like Monopoly or Risk. Seize the opportunity!