Racial segregation is a system of legal racial discrimination. Racial segregation has been apparent many times in our history and is still apparent today, especially in the Arab world such as in Israel and Afghanistan. There are many factors fro racial segregation such as economic, social, historic and allegedly religion. I will asses the claim that “religion promotes racial segregation” which I believe to be false. By examining evidence from racial segregation in the 19th and 20th centuries I intend to conclude my claim.
Christianity has been an important force within this, as has Islam, so by examining these religions, within my argument, I will be helped to conclude to my claim.
Apartheid was a system, which existed in South Africa for about 50years. It was abolished in the late 1980’s following a rapid change in public perception of racial segregation throughout the world. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘separation’ or ‘apart hood’. In English it means any legally sanctioned system of racial segregation.
Basically, Apartheid was racial discrimination institutionalised.
History of South Africa, leading to Apartheid
The English and Dutch colonised South Africa in the 17th century. They used firearms to defeat the Africans, take the land and make the Africans into a race of servants. They believed that the Africans were ignorant, stupid and they gave them little and poor education, while the Europeans were educated thoroughly and expensively.
In 1910, the union of South Africa was set up. This meant that the two white people, the Boers and the English, were united, after the two Boer wars, and given self-government.
By doing this though the British liberal government had forgotten to safeguard the interests of three-quarters of the population, the black Africans. A member of the house of lords, supported by a bishop, did propse that africans should have the right to stand for parliament in South Africa, but the idea was pushed aside and the afircans were left without protection in the hand of their white empolyers. This idea supported by a bishop, suggests christianity opposed racial discrimination and segregation, however as a political idea, it had not enough support. Africans were often forgotton, they had not won any power and could not make their voice heard. Without political power, their lves remained the same as slaves to the white people. This was the start towards Apartheid.
At the beginning of this century, europenas started to find it harder to keep their control over South Africa. With South Africa becoming the richest industrial country on the African continent, and africans doing all the manual labour making this welath, they wanted a share of it. They learnt about trade unions, through talking to each other, and how tese raised the standard of living for europena workers. With the modern world developing around them, these africans wanted their share o of wealth, idependance but mostly, of dignity.They could not be kept scattered famrs and scattered agriculteral workers.
The second reason for control becoming harder is because Aricans knew that there were not free, independent African states. Before this they thought that there were perhaps many things that the white man coud do and they could not. Now they knew that Africans too could run governements, armies, universities and realised that it was its edication and trainging, not the colour of one’s skin which makes the difference.
The Europenas in South Africa had one of the highest standards of living in the owlrd with chepa servants, goods and the best jobs. They did not want the afircans to advance, gainging equal edications, increasing African wages and increaing he pirce of goods. The europenas wanted to keep their life of aristocracy and did this through Apartheid. This form of racial segreation, at this point appeared to have no promotion from religion, but purely caused by economic, political and social factors.
Apartheid starts- timeline
1948 –> this South Afican Antional party wins the generla election. Apartheid starts. Stratesgists in the national party invented it as a menas to cementt control over the economic and social system. The initial aim of Arpratheid was to maintian white domination and extend racial segregation.
Apartheid in Practise
The South Africans were to be kept separate by not beng allowed to live as citizens with rights in European towns. They were ordered to live in ‘Bantustans’, the native areas, which were slums and disease ridden communities. They were not allowed to mix with europeans by sitting in the same cafes, wating rooms compartments of trains, or seats in parks. They were not to bathe on the same beaches, go to the same cinemas, play on the same games fields or in the same teams. In white communities, where many afircans had to find work. Often there was only one public toilet fr the whole community. People would have to que for hours for a wooden shack. Whereas the white people could walz right into theirs. 12% of the land was left for the africans, most of which was dry, poor, mountainous land on which they had to farm and live. However over three- quarters of the popullation was african.
Mixed marriages and mixed sexual relationships were prohibited, and everyone had to register as white, black or mixed, but only white were excepted in society. Communist political groups were banned so the opportunity for equality between races was stopped. Black people were even banned from certain areas and people from different races were prohibited from using the same public amenities and education facilities. These actions do not fit in with the benevolent nature of god. Religion therefore would not promote it as religion also follows this benevolent principle and believes in the equality of all.
Africans become aliens in their own country
1951 –> the bantu authorities establish a basis for ethinic governemtns in african reserves, known as the “homelands”. They were idependant states to which each african was assigned by the governmetn according to the record of origin. This was frequently inaccurate though. This meant all political rights, includign voting, which an african had were restricted to the designated homeland. This resulted in the black people in Sotuh Africa losing their citizenship in South Africa and becomgin citizens of their homeland. They lost any right of involvment with the South African parliament which held complete hegemony over the homelands. From 1976 to 1981, four of these homelands were creates and 9million South Africans were denationalized. Africans living in the homelands needed passports to enter entyer South Africa and became aliens in their own country.
1961 –> South Africa left the commonwealth. Amny people in england and europe felt sorry for the africans. They believed Apartheid was wrong, even though they themselves were partly resonsible for creating it. Chruches thought that it was contary to christianity, suggesting that the hypothesis is wrong and religin does not promote racial segregation. Christian missions encouraged Africans to improve their position and atempted to educate themselves. They made peaceful, no violent, attempts to improve their postion.
The christian chief Luthuli was given the nobel peace prize in 1960 for his efforts to abolish Apartheid. This again suggests that christianty was attempting to improve racial harmony. Some africans decided that Luthli’s methods were useless and that only violence, secret organisation and sabbotage of government understatings would force a change in policy. An orgnisation called ‘ Psear of the nation’ was formed and one of its leaders was the famous Nelson Mandela, avtively involved in trying to improve the africans position in society. In 1964 however he was caught and given a life sentence for treason and sabbotage.
He made a speech as his trial and it included this passage. “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the african people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ide of a democratic and free society in which I hope to live for and to see realized. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. Nelson Mandella was not an actively christian man in faith but it appears he was one in morality. He believed in equality among all people, one thing which the bible teaches. He did not want wrongs for wrongs but tried to make them right, and this is another thing which the bible says jesus taught. This suggests again, that christainity was not promoting racial segregation as it would not contradict inslef if the government was truly religious, in both faith and morlaity.
The bible syas ” Thou shalt not kill”, however this is exactly what the white police were doing. They often killed inicent people, without remorse. In 1960 in the “Sharpville masacre”, this is exactly what happened when large groups of blacks in sharpville refused to carry their passes. The government declared a state of emergancy, accesible due to the public safety act and the criminal law ammendmant act of 1953, increasing penalties for protesting and disobeying the laws, which were against basic human rights. This lasted for 156 dyas, 69 people were left dead and 187 wounded.This wielded the Public safety act and stated the white regime had no intention of changing the unjust laws of apartheid. All the victims were black, and most shot in the back, suggesting they were running away. To me it does not seem like a religious promotion, shooting people who are trying to voice their view and who are running away.
The beginning of the end
South Africa became internationally isolated, due to its principles of Apartheid. The changing world around it began to see the wrongness of racial segregaiton and discrimination. The civil rights movements in the USA were spreading across the worlkd and many african states were gainging independence, such as Zibabwe. The United Nations condemned South Africa and investors in the buisness world were pressured into refusing to invest in South African companies. South African sports teams were barred from international events and its culture and tourism were boycotted. South Africa was also banned from the commonwealth. These international movements, combined with internal troubles persuaded South Africa that its hard-line policies were untenable. In 1984 some reforms were introduced, however many of the Aparthied laws were repeated. A new constitution was introduced which gave limited representation to certain non-whites, although still not the black majoirty.
What started of as a political movement to mainatin white domination in 1948, began to end, not because of blakc rebellion for that had been happening for year. The IT started due to again, a political motive. South Africas economic systems began to fail, due to companies and investors refusing to work with South Africa, anyone in South africa or anyone connected buisnessly with South Africa.
South africa began to lose support from the world. In the 20th century, many dangerous wars had been fought and were being fought, such as WWI, WWII and the cold war. It was a dangerous time to have many interntional enemies and little if not no allies. Its Social status internationally was not good and this was another reason fro it loosengin its grip on Aparthied. However the violence continued in South Africa throughout the 1980’s. Though she had loosened her grip on aparthied, South Africa’s hand was still firmly held.
South Africa was not supported by any religious communities suggesting religion’s are against racial segregation. The reasons that South Africa started to end Aparthied was not religious, it was political, social and economic, suggesting that religion played none or little part in ending Aparthied,
A new beginning
In 1989, F.W.De Klerk became president of South frica, succeeding P.W.Botha. On Feb 2nd 1990 he made a declaration that apartheid had failed and that the bans on politicla parties were to be lifted. Nelson Mandella was released from prison and De Klerk went on to abolish all the remaining apartheid laws. In 1991, Nelson Mandella became president of the ANC. Also in this year, the international olympics comitee lifted a 21 year ban barring South African athletes from the olympic games. In 1994, Nelson Mandella became the first balc president of South Africa. Aparthied was now fully abolished, but it had taken since 1910, legally to succeed in giving the Africans the fully , equal political power they humanely deserved. Nelson Mandella served untill his retirement in 1999 and was succeeded as president by Thabo Mbeki.
So did religion promote Apartheid?
Throughout Apartheid, religion in morality and faith played little part, if not none in promoting racial segregation. In South Africa’s 20th century, racial segregation was purely a political movement to maintain white domination, over black rebels, due to history. The end of Apartheid and the main opposition to Aparthied was not religious in morality or faith. It was the right to basic human rights and economic and social status internationally that began the end of apartheid. This shows that racial segregation in this case does not have to be part of a religious movement.
It had a slight movement against it in the case of chief Luthilu and christian missions supporting education for africans, but this was rapidly crushed as the Sout African government had no resepct for religious principles. This shows that the most brutal and extreme forms of racial segregation was fuelled ergressing and progressing by an international status and political movement, trying to sustain power. It shows that this period of racial segregation therefore progressed with the effects of its history but then reversed to then fit in with the chnagin world and its opinions. It did not change under the influence of religion.
Racial Segregation in the USA
Racial segregation in America was not very extreme but challenged the rights we as white people take for granted. It ended, in the 20th century, and also it started in the 17th century due to slavery. Slavery in the 17th century was an institution that made little distinction as to the race of the slave or the free man. But by the 18th century, the overwhelming number of black slaves was such that white and Native American slavery was less common. The slavery in USA led to racial segregation. Slavery under Europeans slaves (or indentured servants) was followed by the enslavement of local aborigines in the Caribbean, and eventually was primarily replaced with Africans imported through a large slave trade as the native populations declined through disease. Most slaves brought to the Americas declined through Caribbean or South America. Black people in America were slaves or freed slaves, and therefore not well off. The distinction of slaves as ‘blacks’ led to them being thought of as stupid and unworthy of a proper life. This led to racism and the institution of racial segregation.
At the time of the civil was, slavery (a form of racial segregation) had been abolished in the Northern states and regularly preached against by white ministers in the north, suggesting Christianity was against it. However it was still legal and important to the economy in the south, which depended on cheap agricultural labour. The basic issue of the civil war was ” could the federal government force southern states to end slavery, or could the southern states leave the union to preserve slavery”. The union (the north) was led by president Abraham Lincoln and the confederacy (the south) by president Jefferson Davis. This civil was to with many things, not just slavery. However Lincoln’s aim was supposed to be to free all slaves held in territory under confederate control. In actuality it did not happen. Slaves were not freed in the remaining states until the passage of the “thirteenth amendment to the constitution”, eight months after the war (1865).
At the end of the civil was, the federal government moved to extend legal equality to African-Americans, by outlawing slavery with the 13th amendment. The reconstruction between 1865 and 1877 followed this completing this aim. In1877, a compromise between northern white elites and southern white elites ended this though. The northern troops were to withdraw from the south and the southern whites were given a free hand to reinstate discriminatory practises. Many states adopted the restrictive laws, enforcing racial segregation and the second-class status of African Americans. From here to 1896, Supreme Court cases destroyed many of the civil rights for black people. Here are some examples of the principles segregation promoted in the south.
African Americans- not allowed sharing a taxi with whites.
– Not allowed to enter a building through the same entrances as whites.
– Not allowed to drink from the same water fountains as whites.
– Have to use separate pubic toilets to whites.
– Have to attend separate schools to whites.
– Must swear on separate bibles to whites.
– Must be buried in separate cemeteries to whites.
– Were excluded from restaurants and public libraries.
– Were excluded from parks and many other public places such as zoo’s.
– Had voting rights restricted.
Racial segregation was not just legalised, but also in social context. African Americans were expected to step aside to let a white person pass, and even not look at a white person in the eye.
This did not seem to be promoted by religion. It seemed to be encouraged by the eagerness to attain the power white people once had over black people, in the days of slavery. Once they had been their slaves and they were someone to look down on, however now they had to treat them like equals and did not like it. After the failure of the reconstruction, white people saw their chance to obtain that power they once had and so took it, getting revenge for losing cheap labour and the satisfaction of power.
Throughout all this, Christianity gave great support. In Mt. Olive Baptist church, in Tefell county, Georgia, education classes were frequently held, of which they would teach to those with less education than themselves, the black people. This suggests that the churches were trying to solve the problems in society, caused by racial segregation and so opposed racial segregation.
The so-called “Jim Crow Laws” were now regulated racial segregation. In 1896, the Supreme Court concluded the Jim Crow laws were constitutional as long as they allowed for separate but equal facilities. In the following years, the court made this statement a hollow and meaningless requirement by approving discrimination, even in the face of evidence of profound inequalities and un-religious ideas in practise.
In addition to the Jim Crow Laws, society was expected to enforce the Jim Crow Etiquette. This was a set of unwritten rules governing how blacks and whites should interact. Not only were they politically separated but socially separated. Breaking this code could result in a lynching, a brutal form of sadistic murder. Between 1578-1898, 10,000 lynching took place. Murder s totally against most religions and when it is shown with no remorse as it is here; it is easy to suggest that the racial segregation and discrimination appearing here was definitely not religious. The murder of Emmett Till in 1955 shows that even with changing public perception of the racial segregation laws after WWII, racial segregation was still at large.
Many black radio preachers and church preachers were talking about Emmett Till, demanding “something must be done in Mississippi now”. This shows that Christianity here criticised the actions of racial segregation and the laws in America that controlled this segregation. The impact of the Emmett Till case on black America was immense. For the first time northern blacks saw that violence in the south could affect them in the north, Emmett Till was from Chicago- in the North. The civil rights movement was at its most important time in the fight against racial segregation.
Complaints were often taken to the Supreme Court about racial segregation and discrimination. They were often however dismissed. However after WWII, attitudes against segregation turned in the federal courts. Many civil rights movements were up and coming, especially ones opposing Racial Segregation, backed viciously by Black Churches in the Deep South.
The leadership role of black churches in the movement was a natural extension of their structure and function. They offered members an opportunity to exercise roles denied them in society. Throughout history, the black churches served not only as a community ‘bulletin board’, but a people’s court to solve disputes, a support groups and a centre of political activism. This all enhanced the importance of the church minister, the church and Christianity itself, especially in the opposition, not promotion of racial segregation. The most prominent clergyman in the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King travelled America making speeches and inspiring people to become involved in the civil rights movements. He often protested against racial segregation and discrimination, but all protests were along the lines of Christian Doctrines and non-violent. He frequently wrote articles for
The Christian century magazine, in which people were
Comforted and inspired to oppose racial segregation.
In 1957, king joined with the Reverend Ralph David
Abernathy and Bayard Rustin to form the “Southern
Christian leadership conference (SCLC). This was a
Christian organisation aimed at ending Racial Segregation.
This is evidence showing Christians were actively working
Against Racial Segregation and so suggests Racial Segrega-
-tion was not promoted by religion. The views of the group
Stemmed from Christianity, not politics as it seemed to do
with other anti-racist groups such as the ‘Nation of Islam’
Organisation (NOI)-see information of Malcolm X. The
Importance of the SCLC was that now the Black Church, a
powerful organisation in the south was to become fully
Involved in the struggle for civil rights.
In the south of USA, especially in the 1950’s, Christianity
has a great effect on people. Rosa Parks, a member of the
SCLC refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white
person. She did not believe in racial segregation.
Christianity inspired her to fight against racial segregation.
Her actions led to the Montgomery bus company to accept
Integration of races. Bus segregation here was terminated
and this was due to the inspiration of Christianity. Martin
Luther King once said about her ” Nobody can doubt the
depth of her Christian commitment and devotion to the
teachings of Jesus”. This suggests the teachings of Jesus
oppose racial segregation, as Christianity does itself. This
presents a suggestion that far from promoting racial
segregation, religion actually actively worked against it.
Martin Luther king and Christianity also inspired a student
sit-in at a restaurant in North Carolina, which had a policy
of not serving black people, a fo0rm of racial segregation.
These sit-ins spread across black students in the deep
south. They were inspired by his motive, to obtain equality
and by the doctrines of this religion. This opposition had a
great effect on society, showing Christianity has a great
deal to the start of the end of racial segregation and also
to do with the opposition of racial segregation. Within six months these sit-ins were also successful against segregation in public parks, swimming pools, theatres, churches, libraries, museums and beaches. In November 1962, Martin Luther King was arrested and seen to prison for demonstrating against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. While he was in prison, he was criticised by a group of clergymen from Alabama who described him as a political extremist. Though what Martin Luther King was willing to go through to obtain Racial integration, showing the strength of Christianity against Racial Segregation, here I am given conflicting ideas about whether Christianity was promoting Racial Segregation or not.
The end for Racial Segregation in the US
During the 1960 presidential election campaign, John F.Kennedy argued for a new civil rights act. Martin Luther King and many other Christian civil rights activists supported this act. After the election, it was discovered that over 70% of the first two years of his presidency, Kennedy failed to put forward his promised legislation. In 1963, he was assassinated, proof that many people were against the civil rights movement, supporting racial segregation. These people were prepared to use non- Christian principles such as murder, to bring about their aims, suggesting the motive, promoting racial segregation, was also non- Christian.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the new resident took up the cause and was able to get the legislation passed with the support of Martin Luther King and Many other Christian leaders. This shows how much of an influence Christianity was in ending racial segregation, overcoming such great challenges and suggests that religion was far from promoting racial segregation.
Martin Luther King is most famously known for his speeches against racial segregation, two of which are ‘I have a dream’ and ‘I’ve been to the mountain top’. By examining these, it is very evident he has taken his principles against racial segregation from the word of god and the teachings of Jesus, a strong source of doctrine in Christianity. In ‘I have a dream’, his belief that “all men are equal” coincides with Christian belief. He also talks of “brotherhood”, which the gospels of Jesus often talks about and supports this with his visionary that “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little whit boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”. He talks about this as ” the glory of the lord” being revealed, suggesting it is his belief that God believes in equality. This is repeated by his continued reference to “with this faith”, which I think shows he believed that God would help get rid of racial segregation, suggesting therefore that God is against racial segregation.
The ‘I’ve been to the mountain top’ speech also makes reference to these opinions. He talks of his “sick white brother”, suggesting he disagrees with the actions of racial segregation and discrimination, but he still shows his Christian love with reference to brotherhood. Lastly he refers to his “want to do Gods will”, signifying it is God’s will to attack racial segregation.
On the 3rd April 1968, King made his famous “I’ve been to the mountain top” speech. The following day, he was killed by a sniper’s bullet while standing on the balcony of the motel where he was staying. His opposition killed him. Christianity says “Thou shalt not kill” and King supported this, evident through his past actions but his opposition did not and therefore was not Christian. On10th March 1969, Jones Earl Ray pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Malcom X was another important person opposed to racial segregation and motivated by religion. He was born Malcom Little, son to Earl Little who was an outspoken Baptist minister and avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
Malcolm was often involved in crime throughout his teens and twenties. When in prison, he became intrigued by his brother’s conversion to Islam and joining of the “Nation of Islam” (NOI). He began to study the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the NOI. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African- Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success, through racial segregation and racism itself, with a backing of Islam.
This supports the claim again that religion opposes racism and racial segregation. Among other goals, the NOI fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. This aim of the NOI seems different to what Holy Scriptures of Islam teach- equality of all, similar to the doctrine Christianity teaches. This suggests that it might not be religion acting as a motivator for the NOI, though they pretend it does. Instead it is politics and economy and their ambitions to achieve revenge promoting their actions, so for white people to understand how Black people feel under the oppression of racial segregation and racism.
In 1952, Malcom left prison and was a devoted follower, with a new surname, “X”. (He considered ‘Little’ a slave name and chose the ‘X’ to signify his lost tribal name.) In 1964, Malcom fell out with Muhammad and the NOI. He discovered that Muhammad was having secret relations with six women in the nation of Islam Organisation, some resulting in children. This was against the teachings of Islam, another point that suggests the NOI was not as true to Islam as it claimed to be. Also a point, which suggests therefore that the NOI was not working according to the doctrines of Islam, and this, suggests that Islam did not promote racial segregation. This also suggests that the NOI did not follow the doctrine of forgiveness, promoted by Islam. The NOI did not follow the doctrines of Islam but promoted racial segregation and racism, but towards white people and so was not as true to Islam as it claimed to be. Malcom X terminated his relationship with the NOI and founded his own organisation, “The Muslim Mosque, inc”.
In the same year he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a life-altering trip. For the first time he shared his thought and beliefs with different cultures. He said when he returned he had met “blonde haired, blue eyed men I could call my brothers”. This reference to brotherhood is similar to that of Martin Luther Kings, so suggests that a force opposing racial segregation is equality and agape love (a strong religious principle), something both these people believed strongly in. Malcom X returned to the US with a new outlook on Integration and a new hope for the future, not the one promoted by the NOI. This time when Malcom spoke, instead of just preaching to African- Americans, he had a message for all races. It was one of equality, and one promoted by Islam, suggesting Islam promotes racial harmony, not racial segregation.
By 1965, relations between Elijah Muhammad in the NOI and Malcom X had become increasingly volatile. Malcom had become “marked” for assassination. He escaped once, but on February 21st 1965, 3 gunmen shot Malcom 15 times at close range. He was 39 years old. 15 Hundred people attended Malcolm’s funeral days later, showing the immense support he had. These people were of all faiths and all races.
In March 1966, 3 black men were convicted of first-degree murder. They were all members of the ‘Nation of Islam’ organisation. This again provides evidence that Islam promotes racism, for Malcolm X was working against it. However taking into account the previous actions the NOI took, I believe that Islam did often not promote their actions, but revenge for history and the treatment they had received since the days of slavery. However another claim could be that they were in line with religion, as they were supposedly protecting their faith, one thing that Islam promotes, their actions could have been backed by Jihad, ‘holy war’. Leading to the NOI’s actions was a different interpretation of Islam.
The examples of Racial segregation in South Africa and America in the 20th Century suggests that many people were against the racial segregation imposed on black people. However I believe that religion provided the strength to fight against it, both physically, in the case of the NOI and in a pacifist way, in the case of Malcom X and Martin Luther King. The true people against racial segregation however were inspired by religion, and not just using it as an excuse to achieve revenge, such as in the NOI’s case. Therefore religion was a motive against racial segregation and not promoting it. I will have to look at what Holy Scriptures say about racial segregation and racial equality to make a conclusion on this matter.
What does religion say about racism and equality?
Some say racism comes from ancestry. 3 million years of evolution has taught us to be protective of our own blood groups. It also teaches us to be protective of our own groups in society, including a protective nature of religion, often Islam through Jihad (‘holy war’), if that religion is under threat, and lead to racism, resulting in racial segregation. Religion may promote inequality, racism and lead to racial segregation, for racism is often the basis for racial segregation, though many religious doctrines do not promote it.
The New Testament seems to be clearly opposed to racism. Jesus treated a samara tin woman as his equal (John: 4), while those around him at the time treated women as lower class and were prejudiced against Samaritans. This suggests Jesus taught against prejudice, despite others promoting it, an example when religion overrides the external authority (see “Why do we practise racial segregation?”), and prejudice is the basis for racism.
The commandment “Love thy neighbour as yourself”, suggests Christianity taught people to love each other, not matter who they were, including the relationship between different races. The doctrine of “Agape Love”, Christian love in a benevolent nature is supported by the Samaritan story above.
Before his crucifixion, Jesus asked a Black African to help him carry his cross, not a white man, which suggests he recognised this man as his equal. If he taught to treat everyone as an equal, not matter who he or she were then he must not have taught racism hence not racial segregation. Jesus’ teachings are the basis for doctrines that most Christians hold.
Colossians 3:11 says “here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is in all. This suggests a claim that even though these people are different, Christ makes them the same and Christians should recognise this. However, this statement could also suggest that Christianity has an intolerance of other religions, and so a form of racism, which may not promote racial segregation, but possibly lead to it.
Many say racism is absolutely incompatible with Christianity. The bibles teaches that all human beings and created in the image of god and have a capacity to understand, empathise, appreciate and communicate with each other, irrespective of racial background. The bible says, “god hath made of one blood, all nations of men” (acts 17:26). This suggests an opposition to racism and so racial segregation.
Racism however rejects or ignores the biblical assertion that all human beings are created in the image of god. Instead racism looks to sociology, history and economy to address racial problems and promote racial segregation suggesting racism follows no religious beliefs.
However there are many religious groups that preach a doctrine of hate and intolerance of other religions and racial segregation, such as the “Nation of Islam” organisation. These groups draw their theology and doctrines to some degree from the teachings of the mainline religious groups but do not follow the “agape Love” doctrine that most religions hold. Religion often opens the way for intolerance and ‘isms’, by its focus upon the exclusivity of memberships and often by stressing the element of the “chosen people”. If I follow this evidence it is very apparent that racism is closely connected to religion and religion can sometimes promote racism though not meaning to. Religion shows no evidence that it promotes racial segregation however and often works actively against it. Rather it is, like racism, historic, social and economic problems promoting racial segregation and religion.
Why do we practise racial segregation?
Often in the past when racial segregation has been practised, it has been legal. The laws have allowed it to be practised. This could be one reason why it has been practised. Our conscience is often controlled by an external authority; our friends and family, but more by laws, and by people who set them, the government. This is due to punishments being set to discipline those who break he law.
However not all laws are good ones, such as those legalising racial segregation. Even so, from an early age these are pressed firmly into our conscience and so even if we learn they are not right (at an older age), we learn we must do them, to survive in society and to not disappoint external authorities. This principle allows us to accept the practise of racial segregation, even if it seems unjust. The whole decision making of what is just and what is unjust becomes turned upside down when you have a corrupt external authority.
Religion helps provide justice. As I have already shown, religion is a powerful motivation and inspiration to people, overriding external authorities when it seems just. The reason for this is that religion answers first to god, then society and god principley aims to achieve justice. Racial segregation and racism is unjust and therefore god seeks to fight against it through religion, and not promote it.
There is a thin line between the connections of religion and racism. Promoting it and working against it stem from religious doctrines. Though South Africa’s racial segregation was not primarily anything to do with religion, the aim was to protect the white race and so suggests it comes from the aim to protect ones group in society. Therefore religion can promote racial segregation, though not meaning to, but the force that works against racial segregation is much stronger as it is based on faith and not so much laws.