Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
An NBA program, carried on ESPN and intended to promote the left’s line on race, went a bit sideways. June 23 on NBA Game Time, Isiah Thomas, a basketball great with a master’s degree in education, called for an end to the use of race as an official classification, arguing that it has been misused for bad purposes from its origin. The young woman interviewing him had to smile through the interview, however much this was heresy in the present political moment. His comments accord more with the long time position of Alexander Hamilton III, a lawyer and American Family Radio daily talk show host. Contra Dennis Prager, the answer is not to be “colorblind.” Rather, we should learn from Deuteronomy 16:19, and not the “1619 Project.”
Isiah Thomas earned an education master’s degree at UC Berkeley in 2013. His study focused on the education and life outcomes for black male college athletes.* Instead of promoting the Democrat Party line, Thomas called for an end to the use of “race” as a classification label. He did so on the basis of theories and histories of “racialization,” the invention and development of this relatively new way of labeling and dividing people. Isiah Thomas noted that our government, starting at the national level, has four boxes: national origin, citizenship, ethnicity, and race. It is his position that race has been defined and used for ill purpose and should be eliminated from official programs. You get plenty of descriptive categorization from national origin, citizenship, and ethnicity.
In the Hamilton Corner, Alexander Hamilton III has long argued for rejecting secular invented categories of “sin.” So, “racism” simply is not in the Bible. What is in the Bible is a prohibition against partiality among believers. On June 23, Hamilton expounded on Colossians 3:1-17. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Colossus, admonished:
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.
— Colossians 3: 9-15 ESV
The categories that people understood from the most ancient of times were nationality or ethnicity: “Greek and Jew, . . . barbarian, Scythian . . . .” Here we see a positive command to treat all within the new faith community with that overriding new identity. The Apostle James addressed the sin of partiality in a negative admonition, in the context of rich and poor members:
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
—James 2: 9-12 ESV
The problem of partiality based on peoples’ ancestry was manifested in the very beginning of the new religion, as recorded in The Acts of the Apostles:
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
—Acts 6: 1-3 KJV
This is no new commandment. See Deuteronomy 16:19:
You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.
Living by Deuteronomy 16:19 is quite different from the commands of the “1619 Project.” So, is this a call for color-blindness? Not necessarily. If we acknowledge that all human beings bear the image of their Creator, and if we accept that the riotous variety in this physical universe came from a creative mind, then we should be very cautious about discounting the incredible variety, including of surface covering texture and color tones.
I believe Dennis Prager’s call for colorblindness is in error. He wants to get to the endpoint that there are no “races,” only the human race, all descended from Adam. However, “colorblind,” like “racism,” carries current ideas and agendas into the interpretation of ancient wisdom. It is better to take the ancient wisdom on its own terms and seek to apply it to current circumstances. I believe it is more profitable to think of “partiality,” not the much newer categories: “colorblind,” and “racism.”
* Excerpt from Huffington Post article:
Why is it so common for athletes, especially black male athletes, to graduate at lower rates than their non-black counterparts? Certainly, it is not the case that black male athletes do not aspire to a college degree. I know from personal experiences as a player at Indiana University and then later as a coach at Florida International University, that the young men I coached and played with and against all desired to graduate from the institutions they attended.
However, there are structural forces and institutional structures at play that, when taken together, unintentionally constrain the ability of black male athletes to graduate. The first of these structural forces is that many black student athletes come to campus with poor academic preparation. This is often due to the poor quality of urban public schooling in our nation, and reflects recruiting practices and priorities that privilege athletics and not academics, thus putting young people in situations where it is extremely challenging for them to excel academically. Many (though not all) of these black male student athletes come from high-poverty neighborhoods, and thus face additional challenges in their transition to college. These include needing to support family members at home, struggling to meet their own expenses, and not having the same level of support as other students.