Shaun King had some interesting stuff on his social media pages today regarding public conversations from young whites who attend or attended a private Christian school in Florida.
For the uninitiated, these rich, white kids are having a conversation about when and where to use the terms ‘nigga’ and ‘nigger.’ In public. In 2016.
The girl who posted this, Olivia Duncan, appears to have wanted to poll her friends on usage after arguing with her boyfriend, a spoiled brat named Duke Bronson (who is the only one who seems to have the common sense that if you are going to trot around the internet saying stupid, racist shit you should probably lock down your social media pages). One kid, a charming young lacrosse player named Luke Hubranis, chimed in with “white supremacy” and “hard r.” Way to live up to the stereotype of the offensive, racist lacrosse brat, Luke! Bronson chimes in with “They are niggers, that is the term our great ancestors gave them Nigga is slang.” I doubt there was anything great about your ancestors, Duke.
The whole conversation is wrong. It is also not as rare as many would like to believe. I heard stuff like this all the time growing up from whites who didn’t know or interact with blacks and even more of it when I went off to college. White kids, particularly rich ones, are pretty oblivious to how awful and offensive their words and deeds are. Even Christian educated ones. Especially Christian educated ones.
Why would I say that? There are several reasons, but the primary one is that the majority of conservative Christian schools in the United States only came into existence as a response to desegregation and that the communities and schools that use them are rooted in white supremacy. How can we be surprised that the children and grandchildren of bigots would casually propagate their dated and immoral worldview?
This Brat Pack belongs to the fine folks at The First Academy, a self-proclaimed “Christ-centered, college-preparatory school.” TFA brags that 100% of their graduates have been accepted to college. As you can see here, their little tykes are real bastions of critical thought and reflection that any college would be lucky to have. Above all, TFA prides itself on what they call their “greatest achievement– equipping young men and women to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives with extraordinary integrity, unquestionable ability, and life-long service to the global community.” What could speak more to their high moral fiber and their commitment to service than debating what form of a racial epithet that they should use when they see or interact with black people?
This is no surprise. The First Academy is a Baptist school. And the Baptist church, along with most conservative evangelical churches, only got into the school game following the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision. By 1969, when desegregation really took hold, there were entire counties in the south that flipped from having nearly every white child enrolled in public schools to nearly none (or actually zero, in the case of Holmes County, Mississippi in 1970). When the courts ruled that the first white-only private schools would not be considered tax-exempt, the religious right pounced. They opened universities that prominently flouted federal law, like Bob Jones University.
The history that follows is not something you will find on Bob Jones University’s website, but it is 100% accurate.
When the IRS had sent a letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to find out whether or not they discriminated on the basis of race the school responded clearly: We do not admit African Americans. Jones argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible. Indeed, this argument was popular with conservative school leaders who sought to capitalize on the fear and anger of whites who opposed desegregation. Naturally, the state rejected this position, so Jones and other evangelicals, like Jerry Falwell, tried to alter the terms of the debate. Whether or not they were admitting blacks wasn’t the issue, they argued. It was whether or not they had the religious freedom to act in accordance to their faith. They should not be forced to allow blacks into their school, to hire blacks, or to sanction interracial marriage. The Bible is clearly against it!
You might note that this as the exact same playbook they are running today against gay marriage and LGBTQ rights.
The Good Ol’ Days (circa the 1940s): Back when we could openly not allow blacks into our school. “Hey gang, wouldn’t it be swell if it took another 60 years for Bob Jones University to allow interracial relationships?”
As Bob Jones University lost ruling after ruling they “softened” their position. First, they tried admitting one part-time student (who happened to work at the school). See– we are not segregated, it is just that there are not many qualified black applicants!! That failed. In ’75 they tried allowing in married blacks. Why married blacks only? If you guessed “fear of interracial dating” pat yourself on the back. BJU put policies in place that would allow them to expel any student involved in interracial dating or advocating for acceptance of it. This failed too. The federal government was not fooled– Bob Jones University was a discriminatory institution and therefore could not be granted tax-exempt status. No one told them they couldn’t spout their hate or live in “accordance with their faith,” no matter how odious that faith was. They simply couldn’t skirt paying taxes on their hate-club.
Bob Jones University fought this into the early 80s. They lost a Supreme Court case on the topic by an 8-1 margin, the lone dissenter being known racist William Rehnquist (a man who once wrote that Plessy v Ferguson was right and should be reinstated). They continued to prohibit interracial dating until 2000. Seriously. Here is how their PR spokesman, Jonathan Pait, explained it back in 1998:
God has separated people for his own purposes. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different from one another and intends those differences to remain. Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established.
This is the legacy of conservative Christian schools in America. And it isn’t ancient history. I was just learning to drive when Pait offered that pathetic defense of his employer’s discriminatory policy. I was just starting off to college when they finally let go of it. I’m only 34 years old. This was practically yesterday. And it is built right into what The First Academy practices. It is bullet number 1 in their doctrinal beliefs. When they tell you that they believe that the entire Bible, “all 66 books of the combined Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and are inerrant in the original writings” they are telling you that they believe that blacks are a subservient race, damned by god for the sin of Ham. This is what they point at to justify their political obsession with homosexuality and abortion while largely ignoring adultery, divorce, greed, and poverty (major points of conflict under both the old and new covenant). Indeed, this point is reinforced in the third of their vision statements: “The First Academy will aspire for excellence in every area to be a role model for Christian schooling. We will remain a sustainable institution that impacts families for generations to come with respect to money, management, and marketing.”
Nothing says you are Christ-centered like a focus on money, management, and marketing.
These kids are uncommonly open about their racism. Most of them appear to be so ignorant of it that I pity them. Others, like the two boys mentioned above, are flagrant and proud of it. I have no patience for them. Ultimately, both are simply a reflection of their “Christ-centric” upbringing. And in that, they are all too common.