Equality, Racism, and Rep. Lynn Greer’s “Monkey” Email (opinion)

Let’s start at the beginning. Genesis 1:26 says: Then God said, “Let us make man [i.e. mankind] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Our nation’s founders acknowledged this creation mandate in the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What did they mean by created equal? Did they mean everyone will have the same amount of money, the same talents, or the same opportunities? Of course not. They meant all mankind (men and women) are equal because God said it’s so. When Genesis 1 says God made them in His own image, He made no distinctions between race, religion, or station in life. There were no kings and no courts, only all of mankind on equal footing and equal standing, under God.

Genesis does make a distinction between men and women, stating that they’re also equal, just different, but that’s another issue for another day.

With respect to race, what all of this means is simply that God makes it clear that He made us all the same because we’re all made in his image. For that reason, there’s no difference in our rights or how we should be treated. The “dominion mandate” in the second part of Genesis 1:26 says God gives every man and woman (equally) “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens…” In other words, we’re all free to own property, raise families, pursue industry, and the like.

I believe if we use this creation perspective as a grid for issues of race, things become clear very quickly. We’re all the same in God’s eyes, no exceptions and no conditions.

What’s more, God commands us to love one another and treat one another the way we want to be treated. Moreover, Philippians 2 says “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. For these reasons, I believe God hates racism and we should too. In its purest form, racism is superiority and exclusivity, both of which stand in opposition to God’s design. As the Declaration reminds us, our rights are unalienable, which simply means because God gave them to us, no man can take them away. In other words, if God says we’re equal—and he does—no person has the authority to say we’re not or the right to assume superiority.

In my opinion, what all of this means is that we should never, for any reason, entertain the thought that anyone, regardless of their skin color, their race, religion, or station is less than us, because God’s been clear with us that they’re not. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that, I learn from him.”I believe if we all truly viewed the world this way, there’d be much less heartache.

With respect to the email sent by Rep. Lynn Greer referencing the case study about monkeys, all I can really do is shake my head. He says it was a case study referring to all elected officials, not African Americans in Alabama. Ok, maybe so. I’ll take him at his word. But I trust he’s now realized that even if racial slurring wasn’t his intent, walking that close to the edge is foolish.

History is what it is and we can’t prevent it from framing the present, regardless of intent. To truly consider others as more important than ourselves, we must be sensitive to the fact that certain terms evoke tremendous emotion and pain that’s real, not imagined. I do think it’s imagined when talking about spoiled, affluent students at Cornell who get their feelings hurt because someone expresses a political opinion, but I absolutely don’t think it’s imagined in matters of race in the deep south. Ultimately, we’re all responsible for what we say and do, not our intent.

Much more could be debated about this issue but the lesson on Rep. Greer’s email seems clear: stay away from the edge on issues involving the dignity of our fellow man.

When it’s all said and done, it’s important for Yellowhammer readers to know that, no matter how one assesses yesterday’s actions or reactions, we condemn any hint of racism and when it occurs and we’ll never hesitate to call it out.

Moreover, hopefully, we can do so in a redemptive way, reminding our readers that this life is very short. Soon, we’ll all be old and the world will no longer find us very compelling. Therefore, regardless of our religious beliefs, when we lay our heads down each night, each of us should soberly ask, “Did I please God today in my words, thoughts, and deeds?” Or, should we be agnostic, at least ask, “Was I kind to others today, and did I treat them the way I’d want to be treated”?

Clearly, we all fall short of that each day, but when our failures involve others, it’s my hope that, as a community, we will seek the kind of forgiveness that owns our failures and acknowledges how we made others feel. That kind of humility usually overcomes a great deal of heartache, and overcoming heartache is what we must all strive for when it comes to race.