Editor’s Note: This post was originally published to Timothy Nixon’s blog on April 25, 2020. It is republished here with permission.
I just read an article from Spectrum titled, “You Will Never Understand Racism Like I Do.” The article is a clear example of what is wrong with the conversation about “race” in America.
First, whenever a conversation about race is discussed with whites and about whites, it is usually if not always from the white perspective. The Anglo culture becomes the undeclared, unchallenged norm from which all other perspectives are judged without dispute. For example, in Theology, theologians call the interpretation of non-white theologians (African American, Hispanic, Asian) with a different perspective “liberation theology,” thereby removing their theological interpretation from the mainstream of thought and marginalizing their perspectives instead of critically challenging their own long held suppositions.
The article in Spectrum begins with some long held ‘white’ suppositions about race that need to be challenged. One is “white” innocence or naivety that whites always appeal to whenever they say or do something that is beyond the pale of decency or protocol. The new trend is to call anything they say that is out of order an attack against “political correctness.” You will hear this whenever someone white goes off the rails and says something so abhorrent or obscene that it defies any sensibility or ethical sanity.
Second, the article did a poor job of investigating the facts in general and the specific incident surrounding the student’s original engagement with the professor. As the article points out, the student was the professor’s “reader.” As such, she regularly graded papers for the professor from other students and knew the quality of papers other students turned in and the grades they received for the work they produced. What caused the “red flag” for her was receiving such a “low” grade when she knew that the quality of her paper exceeded that of other students in the class. It was this fact, based on her knowledge of papers that she previously graded for the professor that caused her to challenge the grade she received. It was upon inquiry, that she discovered her professor’s objection with her paper was based more on the “content” than its quality. He disagreed with her position on “white privilege'” and based on that disagreement, gave her a lower grade.
Spectrum ignores this discriminatory issue that students of color often face and to what extent this kind of racist behavior, either consciously or subconsciously effects the ability of Anglo professors to fairly treat and grade them. How often have students of color been subjected to harsh, unfair treatment or a lesser grade, because they were non-white; or because their views did not comport with those of their white professor? Why is it that Spectrum did not in any way explore this issue? Why did they not investigate whether this particular professor had a history of this kind of behavior of racial bias in his grading in previous classes or with previous students? Instead it dealt with the very low hanging fruit of trying to understand, sympathize or justify the professor’s actions as a possible misunderstanding or lack of sensitivity, portraying the matter in more unambiguous or defensible terms.
The reality is, the professor allowed his racial bias to cloud his ability to fairly analyze and evaluate the quality of his student’s academic work. He penalized her unduly because her views on race did not agree with his. Her position on white privilege triggered in him hidden biases that he had about the issue and caused him to mistreat her and punish her for voicing that opinion in her paper. In his position of power, this bias was exacerbated when he penalized her academically by giving her a lower grade.
Spectrum’s shoddy reporting leads to another problem. Spectrum made several factual errors in the article. It said the “It’s Time” movement was the result of an MLK program. That is factually inaccurate. It is well documented that it actually was a Black History Chapel. But I guess to Spectrum, it was just another “Black” program so what difference did it make…”MLK,” “Black History,” …Tomàto…Tomäto…what’s the difference, why bother getting it right, they all look alike.
I could go on about the authors treatment of the faculty member’s “colorblind” view of race in order to explain away his comment to the student that she shouldn’t express pride for being black, using some kind of false spirituality in trying to make Jesus complicit in his bigotry by saying we are “One in Christ.” Really? Why is it that no one ever tells Jews to stop taking pride in being Jewish because we are “One in Christ.” I wonder how that would come across?
Spectrum, like many, so called “liberal” magazines, thinks it can get a pass with this kind of inept racial reporting because from time-to-time it tries to hold the General Conference’s feet to the fire on issues like Women’s Ordination or creation science. But it continues to do a poor job when it comes to making an honest credible effort on issues of race, specifically related to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Does Spectrum have the kind of editorial board and racial representation with individuals in positions of power so that when it ventures into subjects like this it will do a better job of getting to the REAL problem and hold itself accountable in the future? Only time will tell.
This comment is from the blog of Timothy Nixon. The blog has been in existence since 2015. You can find the original blog and comments made to his blog at: timothypnixon.com. Timothy Nixon, D Min., pastors in the Lake Region Conference.
Image courtesy of Timothy Nixon.
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