Is the Organization really free from racism?

by dedalus 23 Replies latest jw friends

  • dedalus

    One of the claims Witnesses like to make is that they are color-blind, that their religion transcends matters of race and culture. By and large, I think most "apostates" accept this, though it's all too obvious that Witnesses are bigots when it comes to all non-members.

    But how true is the claim that Witnesses escape racial stereotyping?

    I attended an inner-city congregation with mostly black brothers and sisters. For some reason, the Society always sent up Circuit Overseers from the South. The last CO in my old area, a certain Daryll Hendricks (sp?) would waste no time correcting the particular speech inflections of our black elders. Why? Did any of them harp on his annoying drawl? Did they complain about his peevish pet phrases, as in "It ain't no cotton-pickin' good!"?

    One day, Hendricks was out in field service with my mother. He was complaining about the proliferation of the word "Yankee" in our New England territory. "Yankee Peddler, Yankee candle, Yankee magazine ... why do y'all want to use that word?" he explained.

    My mother, always too witty for her own good, replied, "It doesn't bother us -- you see, we won the war."

    But I can think of more telling examples of racism. One white elder refused to let his daughter date a black brother in whom she was interested. Another white elder, at a gathering, publicly compared black people to monkeys. (A number of people, thankfully, were offended, and said something; others laughed it off as a good joke.) An elder's wife once remarked to me that her grandchildren were remarkably bright, even though they were half-black. And another brother, also white, claimed that our congregation was "educationally challenged" because there were so many of "those people" in it.

    Furthermore, I think the same sort of segregation occurred with Witnesses as occurs at college, work, and everywhere else in the world: cliques consisted of members of the same race, almost inevitably.

    Perhaps my experience merely reflects the particular city in which I grew up, which was, in its own way, uniquely affected by issues of race. Or perhaps the alleged color-blindness of the Witnesses is just another complacent, self-congratulatory pat on the back.

    The issue becomes more complicated, however, when you consider that the Watchtower has printed racist articles in the past, claiming that blacks are by nature meek, servile, (but luckily) teachable; one article claimed they decended from Shem or Ham and therefore are an accursed race; another article strongly discouraged interracial marriages. Can we really say that the Organization has extracted itself from its previous views? Or are racist attitudes still being perpetuated, just more quietly and privately than before?

    What do you think?


    [edited for spelling, grammar, etc.]

  • metatron

    The racism is hidden and cuts both ways.

    Years back (80's, I think) there was a C.O. named
    Green in the Pa/NJ area who ravaged congregations
    with deletions of elders for little or no reason.
    (I asked one why he was removed - he insisted he
    was given no specific cause) Anyhow, he did this
    so that "our people" would be in charge (i.e. black).

    I have no doubt that there are still problems with
    race relations in parts of the south. I heard of
    lynchings that never made the papers in the 80's.
    They still have segregated schools in Miss. - the
    whites go to private, the blacks get stuck in public
    - with horrendous turnover in teachers (National Public
    Radio) In that kind of climate, many congregations
    are quite awful. On this score, I gotta say if the
    Society can do anything to erode the years of division,
    more power to 'em.


  • Francois

    It may have the appearance of freedom from racism, but big deal. It is rotten to the core with the most egregious elitism in Christendom. Everybody's gotta look down on somebody, and the witnesses look down on everybody. You want that?

  • patio34

    I can't speak from experience on racism in my area as there aren't many races. However, I agree with Francoise about the elitism. It's based on the same things as everyone else bases it on: wealth, education, single/married, etc.
    When I used to preach, I thought I would never be able to honestly say that you could find friends at the Kingdom Hall and that Jesus' saying about getting mothers, brothers, a hundredfold was simply not fulfilled in jws. It was more like give up your present friends and hope you may find another one some day. Many have not found one.

    A big problem with the structure of jws, IMO, is that they disdain social activities by the kingdom hall saying the existence is solely for preaching work (read making new recruits).

    Other religions and organizations have much voluntary activity for their members; e.g. wives study groups, social activities, singles, teens, etc.

    Jws have zero. And so their members can be very isolated if they are not among the elite of the congregations--and the elite includes the elders.

    Just my 2 cents,

  • CornerStone

    Hello Dedalus,

    An interesting subject. Of course racism exist among JW's, allthough I believe they try harder than most to try to overcome it. As defining racism there are two views on it: 1) Racism defined as simple racial bigotry and 2) Racism defined as the race in charge and holding power over another race ( like whites owning all the businesses thus holding power over others, like blacks, who own few busineses). This view is usually held by non-whites and by it's definition automaticaly makes whites racist. How convienent! I never believed number two was an accurate definition of racism. Oxford American Dictionary defines racism as 1) Belief in the superiority of a particular race. I'll go by that definition.

    A elder friend of mine has told me about the deep-seated racial anamosity he experienced in the South. Even being "deletted" for some crazy infraction of the P.O.'s rules. He would talk about it all the time so I know it hurt him deeply.

    Out this way I have seen and heard it expressed by all sides. Interestingly, there is a particular sub-culture among the many sub-cultures of JW'dom that seems to benifit from activly trying to be colorblind. I believe, especially in the major metropolatian cities, that blacks have a more level "playing field" in the congregation when it comes to rank, status, and position than they would competing in the corporate world against whites. I believe because blacks have had so many cards stacked against them from the start that competing with their "white" counterparts ( whatever that is ) is oppressively chalanging. However in the Kingdumb Stall, er.. I mean Kingdom Hall the field is more playable for them. I honestly believe that much of what society has ingrained in their conscience can be set aside and they can look their white brothers in the eye and say I'm just as good as you. This, I think, is a positive result, although it sadly comes from within JW'dom. O'well, can't win'em all.

    Now before anybody gets "offended" at my reasoning and begins to question my "credentials" ( am I white, black, pokadot?, etc.), Ill say that I am a mix, "mut", and grew up POOR in an "inner city" neighborhood, the concreet jungle. Beans and rice for dinner EVERDAY and wearing plaid, "flooding" pants to school, ( O the Shame! ). Also, half my reletives are black. Now, do I get a pass? Yes, no, mabey? Well, I did not want to offend ANYONE so I will apologise now, I'm sorry if I offended ANYONE! There!

    Darn it! I missed the Simpsons writing this.


  • crossroads

    Does anybody know how many if any-african-americans
    have been a member of the Governing Body?
    Just my 2-cents-I don't know what the answer is but
    I could make an educated guess.

  • SixofNine


  • nicolaou

    There was a discussion here some time ago called 'The Society, Race and an always white Adam'. You may find it interesting


  • crossroads

    Thanks-it's nice to know that the ALMIGHTY is not prejudice

  • Francois

    Here we go with south-bashing again. God, that gets old.

    Here in the south, my congregation was integrated into a formerly black congregation (yep, they were segregated by order of the Tower until the mid seventies). Some of those black bros/sisters were the most ferocious racists I've ever seen anywhere. They had their own set of beliefs based on nothing more than their own wishful thinking. For instance, after Armageddon, blacks were going to take over leadership of the planet and the whites would be the servants. After Armageddon no less!!!

    I'd also like to point out the the scenes of some of the most violent protests against integration took place OUTSIDE the south: Watts, Racine, Boston, Indianapolis, Gary, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis just to name a few.

    Let the rationalizations begin!!


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