Is Racism Biblical?

A Sermon by Dr. Kofi A. Boateng

To answer the question whether racism is biblical, we shall take the question apart. We shall not engage in an intellectual exercise but empower ourselves to cause social change and mutual acceptance. May the Holy Spirit guide me to convey the essential message He wants to teach us.

RACISM carries two concepts. One is RACE and the other is RACISM. In my early years in the USA, coming from Ghana, I was baffled whenever I was given a piece of paper to select a category to place myself. I certainly have never been White, but I was also not Black. To this day, I have not seen African in the categories and I continue to be confused. Yes, I am Ghanaian and African and now also an American, but I have never been Black. I have been a person not a color.

The Bible refers to people as Israelites, Canaanites, Moabites, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Jebusites, Philistines etc. Race, as described by skin color is a concept that has been created by man, and not God, and therefore not in the Bible. I never met a Black man in Africa, but I know millions of Africans who range in skin color from midnight black to snow white. When I was growing up in Ghana, I knew Gas, Ewes, Ashantis, Yorubas, Ibos, Fulanis, Hausas, Zulus, Indians, Syrians, English, French, etc. but never any group called Black. Where did race that attaches superiority to Whites and stages of inferiority to others, come from, and for what purpose?

 When shiploads of English people landed on the eastern shores of the United States, they did not consider themselves White. They were English people yearning to be free from monarchical rule and oppression. Soon, the competition for land, scarce labor, and the need to maintain one’s social status of relative wealth, led to the construction of social hierarchies. This need for labor, preferably free, to build a new agrarian economy led to indentured servitude and slavery. In that hierarchy, white skin color was at the top and black skin color was at the bottom, with every other shade of skin color in between. Through colonialism, this social definition of race was exported to all parts of the world as Europeans fanned out to take the resources of other people and lands. The continuous perpetuation of this social construct of hierarchy gave birth to racism. Some call it systemic racism because it has become ingrained in our thoughts and manners of dealing with each other. Sadly, the psychology is that those at the top, the Whites, believe that it is a natural order of things that they should be in the superior position setting their own likes and dislikes as standards for the rest of humanity. Those at the bottom, Blacks, accept that it is their misfortune to be at the bottom. Tragically some have even bought into the lie that they are a cursed people creating hopelessness and a vicious-fulfilling prophesy. Yes, systemic racism is built on a falsehood waiting to be toppled. To maintain a false system, one needs to justify it.

What is better than reaching into the Bible to accomplish just that? If it is in the Bible, or if you can make people believe that it is, then you can maintain the false social structure of superiority of White over Black, Brown, and Yellow for unchallenged access to the privileges that go with that for generations.

We start with Noah’s curse of his son Ham for daring to look at Noah’s drunken nakedness. People have used this one little story to justify slavery, apartheid, and yes, the subjugation of all non-White people on the planet. But does it make sense? After the flood, the Book of Genesis says that all the people of the earth came from Noah’s three sons- Shem, Japhet, and Ham. Ham gave birth to Canaan. Noah did not curse Ham, his own son, but his grandson saying: “Cursed be Canaan, the lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25). These thirteen words have been stretched from a very direct curse to one specific grandson whose skin color the Bible does not tell us, to defend the enslavement of and killing of millions of Africans, native Americans, and Asians; colonize their lands, and ensure their continued servile class. All because one group of people wants to ensure that for generations, they and their descendants will be at the top of the social hierarchy. Noah was not God to generationally bring punishment to more than three quarters of the population of the planet for something that he was partially responsible for being carelessly drunk.

No one has seen God, but European painters have managed to inject a psychological image of a gray bearded White man in universal minds. Jesus did not pose for any artist or photographer, yet a young White man with blue eyes is the picture gracing walls. The Bible certainly has many instances of captured slaves and no direct condemnation of slavery, but nowhere does it propose the innate superiority of one group of people over another as racism means. Jews as a chosen people were a medium for the message and character of God to be imprinted on earth. When they faltered, and they did many times, these chosen people were severely punished by God, oftentimes tens of thousands of them died in days. I am reminded of a line in the play that captures the anything but privileged position to be a chosen people. Teyve in “Fiddler on the Roof” said:

God, I know we are the chosen people, but sometimes, can’t you choose someone else?”

Racism is not in the Bible, but people have imagined it there for their own bad intentions to be unauthorized and unearned masters of others. The hopeful news is that what man constructs, man can deconstruct and replace. Since racism is a social construct, it means that society can tear it down through many ways.

The story of the Canaanite woman and Jesus is instructive. Jesus bluntly told the non-Jewish woman who wanted Jesus to cast demons from her daughter that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs”.  Some have considered this an unfortunate and prejudiced statement by Jesus, if not an outright insult. In a strong example of speaking truth to power, the woman stood her ground and replied Jesus, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table” (Matthew 15-21-25).

Her challenge startled Jesus. He replied “Woman you have great faith. Your request is granted.” You may say that this bold and intelligent Canaanite woman staged a peaceful protest. She laid the groundwork for the message of salvation to be extended to all mankind versus limited to Jews as Jesus had implied, and perhaps intended. The Canaanite woman was archetypical of Rosa Parks whose refusal to move to the back of the bus sparked the civil rights movement in the USA in the sixties.

Something else to note. Assuming that the Canaanite woman was a descendant of Noah’s cursed grandson, Canaan, then Jesus’s declaration would have ended the presumed curse. For those who want to read racism into the encounter with Jesus, it ended in what we would call today, an apology, freedom, and co-equal acceptance. Racism’s foundation was crumbled by Jesus when he announced his mission “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).  

The encounter of the extension of the Abrahamic promise to all people that this darling of a woman ignited was formalized by the Apostle Paul when he wrote,

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male, or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong in Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3: 26-29).

We know racism when we see, feel, or read about it. In the same way, if we believe in social justice, then we should commit to dismantling racism and oppression through personal and social actions and policies. Actions include personal, group, national, and international supports for quality education for all, opportunities for all, quality health and nutrition for all, being involved, praying for strength and God’s spirit of acceptance, and honestly believing and acting out what we recite in the Lord’s prayer that God’s “will be done on earth as it is done in heaven”. There is no and cannot be racism in heaven. If it were, then God will not be just, in contrast to what He commands us to do reflect His spirit. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8).

The ridiculous baselessness of color-based racism that arrogates superiority to one skin color is demonstrated in this question. Is the zebra white with black stripes, or black with white stripes? The answer is, it is neither. It is a zebra. God loves colors and consistent identification through what we now call DNA. The black and white stripes of a zebra distinguish it at quick glance from a horse and adds variety to wildlife-nothing more. We accept and pay to see the beauty of greens, browns, and blues of landscape, ocean, and sky. We express romance with a variety of colored flowers. We convey equal adoration for our black, gray, and white furred pets and animals. Color breaks monotony and adds zest to life. Restore sight to the blind and they will appreciate seeing colors-any color. If we accept colors in animals and nature, why do we reject them among people, also created by God? Dr. Martin Luther King dreamt of people being judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. He was right.

The inward person is what counts.  That is biblical. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). The outward is just like a feather of a bird, the fur of an animal, the greens of plant, or pigments of a flower. They help with visual enjoyment and identification. They do not confer superiority, or standard of beauty and acceptance of one over the other.

In 2020, our family was enlarged by three boys. Two of them are, for lack of a better word, biracial, and carry Biblical names. I pray and hope that no one in the family or any circles the boys may find themselves will teach Malachi, Eli, and Jackson that they are superior to anyone. Racism is taught. It is not inborn. The boys will succeed on the strength of the characters they develop, opportunities extended and taken, and acceptance of others. They will fail for not taking advantage of the positives in their way. They will be bigger by feeling for others and thinking more about others than about themselves.

Yes, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. As we enjoy the different colors of plants, animals, and nature, let us enjoy and celebrate our black, white, brown, and yellow skin colors without judgement or attribution of superiority. In this I have hope. No one made their skin color, just as no one chose their family. Racism, I declare, is not biblical.

Dr. Kofi A Boateng is the President & CEO /Founder of Traders International, Inc, a commodities broker. He is a graduate of Yale, Northeastern, and Walden Universities. He is a sometimes preacher at his church, The First Presbyterian Church of Ossining, He can be reached at

Posted by on Feb 12 2021. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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