Copyright (c) 2006 University of Maryland School of Law
University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class
SYMPOSIUM: GOD'S LAW IN THE PEOPLE'S LAW: A DISCUSSION OF CONTEMPORARY ISSUES ARISING FROM RELIGION AND THE LAW: RACE, RELIGION, AND LAW: THE TENSION BETWEEN SPIRIT AND ITS INSTITUTIONALIZATION
6 RRGC 51
George H. Taylor*
My reflections flow from the following recent comment by the critical race scholar Derrick Bell:
In my writing, I have focused on the economic, political, and cultural dimensions of racism, suggesting its permanence because of the social stability it provides in a system that contains great disparities in income and wealth... . But I want to raise ... the possibility of a deeper foundation growing out of an undeniable fact. Most racists are also Christians. 1
This statement is Bell at his best: at once both extremely provocative and extremely unsettling. I want to explore and develop two aspects of Bell's remark. First, if we want to examine and understand the many dimensions of racism, it is not enough to employ economic, political, or cultural criteria, important as those may be. The perspective of religion or theology offers another vantage point from which to comprehend racism's workings, a perspective that may in fact offer a "deeper foundation" for understanding racism's perdurance. Second, despite the likely inclinations of many that any conjunction of race and religion would typically be a positive, even inspirational one - the story of how religious faith has sustained many engaged in the long struggle for civil rights - that is not the only story of race and religion to be told. "Most racists," Bell reminds us, "are also Christians." 2 In Part I, I want to relate both the positive and negative stories - including the positive value that his Christian faith has ...
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