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.]