Joseph Graves | Race, Racism & the Church

In Dr. Joseph Graves’ recent book, Racism, Not Race: Answer to Frequently Asked Questions, he and his co-author build a case that our concept of biological races was brought about because of the racism that was a part of the fabric of our lives, not the other way around, as is often assumed. In a previous series of episodes, Dr. Graves helped us to understand the nuances of why race is not a biological concept. In this episode, we build on that, talking about institutional racism, the myth that athletic ability is tied to race, and the church’s inaction, so far, on following the call to love our neighbors and enact justice.


Dr. Graves will also be a speaker at our conference, so be sure to sign up today!


I really appreciated this podcast! It was so enlightening!


Great podcast! Good information to share.


The magic word is inequality. Equality being something Christianity lost 1950 years ago.

Such a great podcast. His discussion of the church’s role in racism is challenging and convicting.


I read the transcript and thought it was really good.

But, for me, the institution that needs to be transformed the most is the church, because institutional racism in America could not stand one more day if Christians stood up en masse and said, we will not take this anymore.

Some churches are moving in that direction. The Episcopal Diocese of NY had a “Year of Lamentation” to express sorrow for church and state involvement in slavery and racism. (I live in Connecticut but my church is in NYC. Connecticut was also involved in slavery.) There were a number of planned activities. We read together Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” and had zoom discussions in participating parishes. Then Dr. Kendi joined the whole diocese via zoom for a discussion. And activities are ongoing.

We also have a Reparations Committee. (I think the word “reparations” triggers even more fundamentalists than “Critical Race Theory”!)

As children all over the world get ready for bed, the moon watches over them. The moon knows that when we sleep, we dream. And when we dream, we imagine what is possible and what the world can be.


As long as there is inequality, racism follows.

Racism leads to inequality

Inequality came first and stayed. Racism is an effect of it. Not a cause.

After listening to the podcast again today, I am thinking more about Graves’s points about the church in the U.S. My practical questions:
How do we move the knowledge that “racism is bad”
to an understanding of “racism is alive and well”
to the recognition that “we live in a racist system that is antithetical to the Gospel”
to the decision that “my local church and I must work against racisim for the sake of the Gospel?”

My rhetorical question:
Why is it easier to convince the church in the U.S. that dinosaurs are somehow a gospel issue, but leave the continued workings of our racist history as “the way things are?”


I’m saying things from UK perspective, but let’s start with the fact most people don’t even understand what’s racism. Personally I blame political correctness. Racist things are being said and done without realising they’re racist, as long as certain words aren’t used, because PC isn’t about not being racist but making sure one doesn’t come across as racist. In turn this prohibits any grown up discussion in most settings as everyone is terrified of being labelled a racist.

White people don’t want to admit that because
A) they’re ashamed and some feel guilty B) they’re scared that if they admit having been privileged, that will negate their achievements

Can’t really answer 2 next questions as racism here in UK doesn’t seem to have that much to do with Religion.

My theory would be that the dinosaur issue is just a lot easier to deal with. Imagine your congregation is all white…

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Just listened to the episode and two things really stood out for me

  1. distinction between racism and bigotry. Because how many times you’ve heard “but the Black people can be racist too!” No, they can’t, but they (and other ethnic groups) can be bigoted
  2. finally hearing crime rate has nothing to do with the colour of skin. Although I’m not sure how I’m going to convince anyone. Just for background, seems like here in UK this is the biggest excuse, even those claiming not to be racist will say something along the line “but they do commit most of the crimes!”.

I think the statistical thing has really grown because of how both sides in America use it often. It’s useless most of the time. One side will say that ( and these are made up i don’t know the actual numbers on hand ). But one person will say the cops in America are racist because 40% of the people dying by cops are black even though they only make up 16% of the American population. Then the other person will say the cops are not racist because less than 1% of cops fire their weapons outside of training and Jill someone. Then the other person says well 60% of the inmates are black even though they make up only 16% of the population. Then the other person will counter with well they also commit 80% of the crimes. Then the other person reports back with well 60% of white criminals just get a slap on the wrist and given a shorter sentence. Then the other person says blacks are 3x more likely to reoffended.

Again those numbers are just made up. I’m not sure what the numbers are and to me summing you a entire social issue involving millions of peoples and hundreds of various circumstances can’t be justifiably summed up in a statistic. But I see it all the time online.

For me the argument over racist vs bigot though is just semantics. I see black people referring to other black peoples
As racist against their own kind and ect… for many people and for many decades the terms have been used interchangeably. I’ve even seen arguments go even further and say that no one is racist because racism requires a collective power that goes beyond individuals. So the KKk is not made up of racists but are made up of bigots but the KKK supports racist systems that oppress minorities and so on. So they basically say only systems and laws can be racist and individuals can be bigots. I think it just depends on the individual and how they are using the word. Words change overtime anyways. So what a word means now may carry a very different nuance or weight 100 years from now. Much like how gay went from a term of being happy to homosexuality. When I was a kid the term queer for example was interchangeable with gay. Depending on who was using the term you could determine if it was being spoken with a positive or negative connotation. But nowdays they seem to carry a different meaning depending on whose talking. Some say LGBT and some say LGBTQ and Q has a distinct meaning from L or G. I’ve meant some lesbian women who don’t like the term gay and think it’s best reserved for homosexuals and others who use the term to identify with. I always just try to see how is the person actually using it. If it’s unclear I ask. But generally such as with racist or bigot I tend to understand what they mean.

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Yes, Black people can be racist. They aren’t as racist as whites, but can be racist nevertheless. For example, look at “Nation of Islam.”

Racism seems to be dependent on power, not skin tone. In a society where. a deeper hue of skin color predominates, racism against those with paler skin is often present. It is something we all have in common.

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Surprisingly, some Blacks can prefer lighter-skinned Blacks.

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Sounds like a distinction without a difference. For an example of structural racism, I would consider the Rwanda genocide to be a racist retribution to a formerly racist group which collaborated with a racist colonial power. And in all those groups, there were people who were not racist. So I fear we have made a bit of a muddle of it.

You make good points, and I’ve witnessed (and participated in both sides) of such conversations. There is excellent research and outstanding reporting that demonstrates the facts of institutional racism in the justice system, but it’s not on the racist’s favorite YouTube channel, and would be rejected as the product of the “Biased Main Stream Media” by those who have decided to allow Fox News and its ilk to tell them what news sources are and are not trust worthy.


If your point is that Black people can participate in racist systems that oppress other Black people, point taken. But I think when people say, “Black people can be racist too” what they usually mean is "Black people can be prejudiced against white people. But there is not a comparable systemic issue where Blacks are using power and privilege to marginalize and disempower whites at a societal level. So that is usually what people mean when they say racism only works in the one direction, whites against Blacks.