Southern Hospitality 

On Friday, February 27, 2016, I was the guest speaker at Southern University for their Black Christian Union vesper service. While I was preaching about unity to the student body, a different message was being heralded on campus via social media. Several students on Yik Yak – an anonymous local feed for posting ideas and having conversations – were posting insensitive and racist statements.  

 
  
 I, of course, knew nothing of this until I looked at my phone after the service, and was greeted with screenshots of the conversations and tweets of consolation and support. Later that evening as I got back to my room, it hit me. 

In 2016, on a Seventh-day Adventist campus, there are 18- to 22-year-olds who see my people as “banana eating monkeys”; who, in worship, can refer to black people as “slave labor”; and who see me as a “nigglet”. The thing is, because racism is inherited, not inherent, these kids most likely learned it from their Bible-believing, truth-bearing, Sabbath School attending, “good” Adventist parents.

  
The Seventh-day Adventist church has a racism problem. It’s not a race problem – the idea of diversity and race isn’t problematic at all. However, throughout our church’s history, racism has consistently reared its ugly head. The most stirring thought from this weekend for me was the realization that I don’t know who is sitting next to me when I’m in church. In the same sanctuary where I am praising God, there could be people right next to me who see me as “less than”. It’s sobering to me that my children could attend a General Conference session or academy with someone whose parents use the word “nigger” at home.

Racism doesn’t just simply cause us to have regional conferences and white conferences. Racism leads to death. It is an insidious evil that can cause someone to walk into church during prayer meeting and kill nine black gatherers simply because of the color of their skin. Maybe he saw them as “nigglets”. The same evil that leads to hate crimes and lynching is the same evil that sits in our pews every Sabbath morning, or even, God forbid, in our boardrooms.

We must start a serious, proactive conversation on how we can work toward eradicating racism in our church. It will be difficult and painful. It will require honesty and humility. But it is time. If we don’t, it’s possible that 25 years from now, if my son is invited to speak at the Adventist university in Collegedale, Tennessee, he will receive the same “Southern hospitality” that greeted his father.

By: Corey Johnson

Twitter: @coreymaurice

119 thoughts on “Southern Hospitality 

  1. So two or three students, maybe white, post racist comments. So, of course that makes the whole campus racist. And justifies black power salutes and abandoning what you say you were promoting. Makes sense to me.

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  2. “DAVID LEE” and “STEVE HARRIS” Harris are indeed correct. Whites do need to take more ownership in the road to healing as far as racism is concerned. I sense irritation and annoyance in the comments of “CONCERNED MEMBER OF SAU FAMILY” and “MA” that appear to deflect and blame victims. I sense a need to defend Southern University when it doesn’t need defending. I could be wrong in my perception. However, I don’t think the author was implying that those who posted the comments were speaking for the entire body of Southern. But, with racism, there is no telling. There is a tendency to hide behind anonymity which is what blacks have had to live with for centuries. A smile in the face and a knife in the back. This is terrifying. “SAMANTHA” suggested empathy and to LISTEN I do believe that some feel like they ARE listening. Perhaps, however, they aren’t listening with a heart of love, but with a critical one. Or maybe there are things they can’t share… Questions to ask: What makes you the MOST disturbed by all of this? Was it the comments on Yik Yak? The author’s reaction? The continued racism within our denomination? The fact that maybe you want to say some politically incorrect things and cannot? Whatever it may be, we all need to self-evaluate more. (See DA pg 650.5 in regards to soul searching)

    True healing begins with repentance, righting wrongs between your brothers. Turning the other cheek is necessary. However, keep in mind that the one who is continually turning the other cheek is at an advantage to best utilize the opportunity to develop and exercise true Christlike characteristics. (Which just means I’d rather be the one turning the cheek than the one doing the slapping).

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  3. Some people are saying that the writer made general comments against the university. Where? He never says or insinuates that! He specifically says “several students” were posting the comments. Even if only a few perpetuate it, racism is a cancer with far-reaching implications, not just at Southern but everywhere in society, and that’s the point. And it exists in the SDA church whether people hide it or show it.

    God does not approve of any kind of hate towards people and it certainly isn’t in line with the unity (among brethren ) preached in the New Testament.

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  4. The blood of Jesus that was shed on Calvary was the same red color that flows through the veins of every white, black, brown, yellow, and red skinned human being. Racism found anywhere in the church which is the Body of Christ must be purged from us. Each of us must plead through prayer that the Lord will cleanse our hearts and minds of this cancer.

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