Confronting Racism in America
Re “The Heartbeat of Racism Is Denial,” by Ibram X. Kendi (Sunday Review, Jan. 14):
The actor Sidney Poitier, who grew up in the Bahamas, remarked that only by coming to the United States did he begin to encounter racism. As a Virginia-born Southerner, I am sure that all Americans carry in our minds scars of racism.
Not long ago, in conversation with a good friend who happens to be black, we acknowledged to each other that we both had those scars. Who could escape them in the Jim Crow era in which both of us were raised? Check with anyone on the street who denies being a host to such scars, and I will have to suspect that he or she is not a native-born American.
A hopeful difference among us is that some of us, somehow back there, learned to fight the influence of racism in our upbringing. My allies in that fight were mostly some fellow members of the Christian Church, many of them spiritually akin to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As it says in the New Testament: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And one evidence of this truth is our common shares in the sins of racism.
The scars persist — in seminary presidents and presidents of the United States.
The writer is president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary.
To the Editor:
How sad that on a weekend when we celebrated the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a peaceful black preacher who promoted unity and trust in our country, The New York Times afforded a black professor the opportunity to instead sow division and discord. To up the ante, Ibram X. Kendi specifically condemns as racists the American presidents Jefferson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon and Trump (low-hanging fruit).