The Southwestern Seminary Photo: Why It Matters

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Today at The Washington Post, Jamar Tisby of the Reformed African American Network explains why this picture is so problematic.

  1. If you understand the history of blackface you will see why it is so offensive.
  2. The photo was carefully staged and planned.
  3. A “photo like this evolves in an environment that lacks meaningful interaction with people from other cultures, especially on the leadership level.”

Here is a taste of Tisby’s piece:

On Wednesday, the seminary’s president, Paige Patterson, issued a formal apology entitled “Racism IS a Tragic Sin.” He said, “As all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives.”

Patterson goes on to say, “Southwestern cannot make a moment of bad judgment disappear. But we can and will redouble our efforts to put an end to any form of racism on this campus and to return to a focus that is our priority — namely, getting the Gospel to every man and woman on the earth.”

His apology sounds biblical; For Christians, evangelism is certainly a critical priority. But he treats racism like a distraction from sharing the Gospel. When will white evangelicals realize, addressing racism is inherently a Gospel issue? Patterson also doesn’t provide any specific actions that would address the seminary’s deeper issues of racial awareness and diversity. Fixing this problem isn’t a matter of restating good intentions, it requires a restructuring of historic patterns of racism embedded in evangelical institutions.

Read the rest here.