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Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Christian Perspective on Race and Racism

 ***Note: As a member of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers, the Oread Center believes an important part of our work includes offering a Christian response to pressing matters that affect us all. The purpose of this particular response is not to address all of the complexities of racism present in American society or institutions of higher education, especially those complexities associated with the structural or systemic realities of racism. While we believe that structural and systemic racism is present in American society, and that racism must be addressed on those levels, the purpose of this statement is to offer what we believe is a Biblically faithful way to think about race and racism on the level of interpersonal relationships and immediate agency. We offer this statement to the particular Christian community in Lawrence and at the University of Kansas in the hope that it provides some immediate handles for how we can respond to the situation at hand in our own community. We ask for patience from our readers as we work in the coming days to articulate a thicker response to the structural and systemic dimensions of race in American society and appropriate Christian responses.***

***As many have observed from our title, we are leaning on Cornelius Plantinga’s work on sin for our framework.***

 Introduction

Many of us in Lawrence are aware that our region was politically established on the moral impetus of preventing the spread of slavery in American society. That John Brown, the 19th-century freedom-fighter, remains an iconic figure in our local memory is no historical accident. The University of Kansas is proud of the fact that the school practiced racially open admissions from the first day its doors were opened. Frequently forgotten, or never learned at all, is the more complicated history of both Lawrence and the University of Kansas- a history that in many ways is a microcosm of America’s larger racial history. While Lawrence was the seat of the Free State movement, and the University of Kansas always welcomed students of African descent to enroll, segregation within the city and the university was historically prevalent. Both Lawrence and the University of Kansas did not completely desegregate until the late 1950s and only as a result of years of dedicated work from local Civil Rights activists, which included many university students.

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