Reaching Across the Racial Divide (#598)

Vince Coakley, host of The Vince Coakley Show out of Greenville, SC and a friend of Wayne's, joins the podcast for a very different look at the growing racial divide in our culture. From Charlottesville to #blacklivesmatter, it appears America is coming apart at its racial seams. Is it? How can we change the conversation so that we move toward constructive resolution of our racial angst instead of continue to diverge into a polarized culture? Vince shares from his own childhood and the lessons he's learned about navigating American society as he finds his identity in Christ. This is an honest conversation about racism, immigration, and the current temper of our political dialog.

Podcast Notes:
Helping with Agriculture in Pokot
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16 Comments

  1. Just finished listening to the podcast…appreciated so much that conversation. Once again I can see where discussions overlap…some deep pain Father is walking me through and He has been bringing me back to the issue of identity. Vinces comments on where do we find our identity in the midst of struggle (Black marginalization…poverty marginalization)…and Vinces focus on finding identity in Jesus and the rest begins to “take care of itself”. Long for face to face conversations of this type…but still appreciate being able to “listen in”. Bless you.

  2. I first learned about Bryan Stevenson when you mentioned his TED talk and book Just Mercy on the podcast. We need his voice in this conversation.

  3. Would like to hear a conversation with another black person representing a different viewpoint. I think it’s important to hear all sides. I just feel like there’s a nuance on the issue of race that wasn’t completely heard in this interview. Vince’s view is just one of many. There are real issues when it comes to race and sometimes I don’t think that gets heard in all the fray. Sometimes I feel there’s too much dismissiveness as well as attempts to smooth things over without addressing the real concerns. I do appreciate your comment and acknowledgement, Wayne, that some things “are” about race. That’s what we need–an acknowledgement and recognition of this multi-faceted issue. To me, one can be a Christian and proud of one’s heritage. It would be nice to hear from a Christian with an ethnocentric viewpoint in order to understand it and see that it is not a repudiation of the faith. The two don’t have to be exclusive, particularly when you’ve been in environments in which color-blindness is upheld but it ends up being more of a denial of someone’s real uniqueness as a human being. I don’t know, I guess I’m just jaded by my experience in a white, conservative church where I went in thinking and believing in us all being one, only to have real differences rise up and slap me in the face. I’m not down on white folks, so that’s not where I’m going, but I will say, it would be hard for me to go to a white church again unless it was more of a socially aware one. I understand one can’t know what they don’t know, but one’s ignorance can actually be hurtful.

    As for the hate groups, let’s not assume that because we don’t often see their public demonstrations, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They are very real and not only are they real, there are plenty of people who aren’t part of these organized groups but who hold supremacist views, which often are revealed in one-on-one encounters and I suspect, some of them were part of the marchers with the organized groups in Charlottesville. Thinking that if the demonstrations aren’t covered, they’ll just go away is somewhat naive in my opinion. I just don’t think it works that way. They have in fact not gone away (as we see), but have been lurking in the shadows waiting for a time to rise up, in my opinion, and take back what they feel they’ve lost.

    • That’s true of everything we talk about, Pat. There are lots of voices we don’t get into the podcast, and we hope they find their way here. Thanks for sharing a bit of your experience. I’m so sorry for what you’ve had to endure, especially by people who claim to follow God. The hypocrisy of humanity continues to astound me.

      This is a huge issue to be sure, and I agree that taking our identity in Christ doesn’t mean we lose the heritage or experiences in which we grew up. It helps that Vince talked about not seeing racism in his youth. Those who experienced it early and often certainly have a different viewpoint, as do those who continue to confront it in their daily lives today.

      We do need a better conversation where people value each other and see the world through someone else’s eyes so they can appreciate that not everyone’s experience is like their own. My heart goes out to those who have been oppressed by others, even as they were being used to benefit their oppressors. It’s a tragic heritage of our nation, one we have not fully atoned for yet!

  4. I, like what Brad said, being a white guy from his generation, not able to empathize with a black person, but what I CAN do is to make a conscious effort to take race out of how I perceive him or her. And I have plenty of opportunities for that on a daily basis.

    What Vince said about seeing immigrants from a Christian perspective, beyond a vote or a source of cheap labor, can be overwhelming, simply because there seems to be so many. I am reminded of the movie ‘Schindler’s List’, where the main character, played by Liam Neeson, helped so many, but yet felt so inadequate to the task. The people in power making these decisions know they will never have to deal with the ramifications of them, in this life anyway. They can govern from their glass houses and let others do the real dirty work of somehow coming up with solutions. And I agree with Vince, without a Christian heart, all we will be left with, is a big ole mess.

    Wayne brought up with Vince his encounters with race relations growing up, how Vince wasn’t really impacted until moving to a different environment where racism was prevalent. Growing up in the midwest as well and having a black family in our neighborhood, I can honestly say seemingly we saw them beyond the color of their skin. The kids in the neighborhood embraced the two sons, they did everything we did in an intergrated environment all throughout grade school and high school. So in a way I can back up Vince’s claims at least in the area of the midwest.

    The media’s role in race relations was brought up here as well, but I have also become curious about authority’s role, especially law enforcement. There was a recent incident with an NFL player who was brought to the ground and feared for his life when thought to be part of the trouble occurring in the immediate area. To the other extreme in my area we had a white caucasian homeless man shot dead when he attacked a police officer who was simply trying to get him to a homeless shelter. I’m sure there are racist police officers just as there are people among the general population, but being a caucasian male, I can say I have a healthy fear of authority. I would expect to be dealt with harshly in both incidences I described. Something a prominent sports host said that I could relate to as well, not being to be able to relate to the law enforcement officer that is confronted with, in his or her case, a job situation. How would any of us react? Does race play a role, or simply our job experience and training?

  5. Great podcast focusing on racial issues with guest Vince Coakley. As an Afro American, Vince brings a unique and rarely heard perspective so crucial to understanding root causes for racial unrest. Good stuff and very timely.

  6. It’s good to hear from a viewpoint which sees issues through the absence of identity and the love of Jesus, rather than from the perspective of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil – the root of all comparison. (Jesus said that judgments derived from comparison would open an ugly door into the further judgment of oneself.) When I heard of the incident at Charlottesville, I too wondered why anyone would pay attention too it, especially locally – observation, attendance, clicks, etc. are always interpreted as a source of validation. Hate exists, one does not need to stamp their card for them; they will promote it themselves. Self always lies at the root of such aggrandizement. It also gathers around it like-minded people who help support it like a crutch. Most of the “facts” are being parroted time and again as truth. Today, news isn’t information; it is the dissemination of an agenda, called self. If one cannot have a heart to heart dialogue with some else, how can anyone understand anything or anyone? But that’s the power which fuels hate, ignorance of another’s shoes; then, I don’t have to care; I am the victim after all!The banter, anger, victimization gets blamed upon past events and someone else, over time the sides becomes firmer and more resilient. I do know that hate exists, where love is not; and regardless of any label or blame we are tempted to place upon it..who have I loved or hated today? It’s easier to say I would never…but to place ourselves within the context of the time of slavery and look through all of their eyes to try to see the entire picture is seldom ever attempted. Somehow slavery gets played as the backbone of all racism. Only the security of God’s love can hold us enough for our selves to come out and play. We handed over our identity in the garden in exchange for that darn tree…and have payed for it ever since! Can there really be anyone who understands the relationships which were contained within the context of actual slavery after so many generations have passed? No, but I can seek to know the heart of Father, and that of my neighbor – who is an actual member of the human race – without any need for judgment, guilt or shame; just leaves more room for love doesn’t it?

  7. Really appreciated your comments Mitch. When it comes to the freedom in Father to love our enemies, (forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing) He has to win us there and we are all in different places with learning that. There is so much nuance in learning how to respond to these vatious events (Charlottesville etc) seems the conversation with Vince is at least a door opening.

  8. Racism is a falicy. We are all part of the one human race, mankind, created in the image of Almighty God. We are all of 1 blood, Acts 17. There is no such thing as black blood, or white blood, etc.
    What we are doing is focusing on cultural and/or physical differences and using those to detract from others.

  9. Oh my gosh you guys this needs to have a million listens. This conversation is SO radical on so many levels. I love the redirection to identity and to gathering as family. Vince’s definition of white privilege is totally counter culture. If King were alive he would be ignored because focusing on character does not sell soap. Sex and violence sells stuff. I look forward to more conversations like this.
    p.s. If Vince ever decides to run again I want in on opportunity to support him.

  10. HI Joni. So blessed to hear you enjoyed that conversation. Vince would be the first to say that his experience doesn’t speak for all black Americans, but I agree it is a perspective that gets little time in the press–and should! Our media does not serve us well. There are reasonable people out there who could help us navigate these things, but as you say reasonable does not sell well. Sadly!

  11. Let me first start by saying that I have listened to The GJ almost from its inception. I am also glad but a little disappointed that this and one other podcast (the one where Brian Stevenson TED talk was mentioned) that talked about race in America. I have to say that as a Black man in America (who happens to pastor a small inner-city congregation), Vince Coakley’s comments disturbed me on a number of levels. It’s clear that because he doesn’t seem to have been affected by racism, he seems as if his goal is to prove to white people why “he’s not like the other ones”.

    I am not sure exactly where to begin. Actually, the very fact that white males feel like until recently, there was no issues of race until lately, speaks to the bigger issue. I am one of those Black men that repeatedly see white women clutch their purses when I walk by, or have been stopped by police officers with multiple guns drawn (causing me to literally almost piss my pants, I was so scared). I know I am loved by God, and I know He values me, but when Christ followers -whose actions border those in Nazi Germany and white supremacists, are aligned with, not just fringe cults, I get very concerned. Sandra Bland, who was a member of my wife’s old church, was a person who was pulled over and beaten by a police officer, and died while in custody. Her life is important. This is why Black people are frustrated. It’s hard to continue watching these types of things play out on television and social media, and tell people, Black people to get over it.

    I would greatly appreciate continued conversation with someone of a different opinion than Vince. I think it would prove to be, perhaps more heated, but definitely more fruitful.

    • Hi Gil. This is Wayne. Thanks for chiming in on this one. I think we tried to make clear the Vince wasn’t speaking for everyone here, especially the experience of other blacks. And I’m not sure you have his motive pegged either. I don’t think he was trying to make that distinction. I think he was making a larger point about finding out identity in Christ. And I’m not sure where you got the idea that two white men felt like there were no “issues of race until recently.” We’ve been well aware. I think our point was we didn’t grow up in families or communities that encouraged it. We are well aware our experience doesn’t speak for all of America. What I was personally surprised at is that white supremacy and nazi followers would be so brazen on a public street these days. Oh, I know there are types like them, but they usually operate out of the shadows.

      I agree that we have a big race problem in America and that people are still judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Your email made me sad, because I now you’re right. I’ve had it happen to me a couple of times, where I stepped on an elevator late to find only one other person–a woman in there and felt the tension rise greatly. And I’m white. I can’t imagine being the source of suspicion ALL THE TIME! We are hoping for a better conversation on race.

      I hope you didn’t hear us say, “Black people get over it,” but I can see where the comments on identity might have sounded that way especially to your experience. Thanks for adding your voice and your concern to these pages. To the degree that you felt these concerns were treated dismissively in our our podcasts on race troubles me. But you’re right, that voice wasn’t there. Would you be up for a podcast some time? We generally don’t have people on that Brad and I don’t know for two reasons. (1) it is always less a conversation among friends and more a debate on issues, and that’s never as fruitful, and (2) because we always want to ensure that any guest we have on backs up their words with how they live their lives. It always troubles us when we have someone on who we find out years later cannot live to the words they put out on the podcast. But we could certainly think about this since I love your passion for the issue and your perspective. And I would think we could have it be just as informative without the heat. I don’t think you would find us hostile to your point of view and would enjoy the enlightenment. (If you’re interested, write me privately at waynej@lifestream.org.)

      But we could talk about it and see what God might give us. I’d hate the cover this issue in any format and not include this point of view. I felt like at times I had to play “devil’s advocate” to take seriously those whose lives have been deeply impacted by the racial inequities of our culture. In fact, read a great statement on that this week from a new book, that I haven’t read yet. This from Mark Galli of Christianity Today talking about a new book:

      “I found this such a compelling review, I’ve ordered the book to go even deeper. The book is THE COLOR OF LAW: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF HOW OUR GOVERNMENT SEGREGATED AMERICA by Richard Rothstein. To be fair, it has never been “forgotten” by our black brothers and sisters, but it needs to be remembered by the rest of us that “government functionaries across the nation have aggressively worked for decades to keep black people in inferior, segregated housing.” There is much vague talk and sweeping assertions these days about systemic racism, but this book gets down to specifics and details. One other thing attracts me to this book: ‘Throughout the book, Rothstein makes great efforts to be intellectually honest, which makes his book very different than most modern political debates, where advocates pretend that their desired solutions are cost-free, and their opponents are idiots or driven by malice. Rothstein freely admits where he expects there to be costs, and gives specific reasons why and by whom those costs should be borne.- It’s that lack of honesty in so much else I read on this topic that frustrates me. So I look forward to Rothstein’s take.”

      I’m convinced white America really doesn’t get it and simply thinks that by having equity in our law, we fixed the inequities in our culture. We’re a long way from that.

  12. Wayne,
    Thank you so much for your comprehensive reply. I would love to continue the discussion. I re-read my comments and I apologize if they seemed inflammatory or accusatory. I understand that Vince has a perspective that he speaks from and while I don’t agree, I also don’t want to minimize that perspective. I do think that another conversation that incorporates a view, different from Vince’s that still wholeheartedly adheres to a biblical and more Stephenson-like narrative on justice and mercy would be great as well.

    I will email you offline and thanks again Wayne.

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