‘Barbershop conversation’ focuses on steps needed for racial equality
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
MURFREESBORO — Among the many powerful moments of the 2020 Virtual Summit was the “barbershop conversation” with Grant Gaines and Ternae Jordan.
The two pastors got together to discuss the topic of racial justice, and how the Bible promotes and defines it. Gaines, pastor of Belle Aire Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, and Jordan, pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, Chattanooga, gathered at the Blue Raider Barbershop in Murfreesboro to film the video conversation.
A portion of their discussion was shown during Summit, and the entire conversation between the two pastors can be viewed at TBCSummit.org. Below are some excerpts from the discussion.
On why conversations about race — which can often be “scratchy” even among fellow believers — are so important …
Gaines: Our nation’s attention obviously has been directed toward this issue in 2020 (but) it’s been an issue in our nation for a long, long time. In my lifetime, I’m 37, I’ve never seen such a racial divide or such a racial focus. … I think it’s so important — especially really since the death of George Floyd — (for) this to be at the forefront of the conversation in our nation and in our churches. I think pastors, like you and I, and church leaders need to be speaking in to this conversation.
Jordan: I think that if there ever was a time that the church needs to be having this conversation, it is now. … We have to be the light in this dark time, and in this dark situation. … Unfortunately, racism has been prevalent here in our country for over 400 years, it has just become covert. But (with) the George Floyd situation, we all sat and we all watched that whole nine minutes. I think it has pricked the conscience of this nation, and I believe that’s why this conversation is so prevalent right now. I really do.
Gaines: Being salt and light means that we have a unique influence as Christians in the culture. I think what makes our influence unique is that we have the Word of God and we have the Spirit of God. We ought to be directing our thoughts in ways that are different from the rest of the world.
On what the Bible says about racial unity and racial justice …
Jordan: I think you start with the word unity. I think if we removed the word race, because first of all, there’s only one race. You and I are brothers. We may not look alike, we might not have the same skin color, but we were both born from Adam and Eve. Even after sin came into the world, and God decided to destroy the world in the book of Genesis, there was only one family on that boat that was Noah, and the whole world has been replenished. So until we really start looking at the Scripture the way it is, we will continue to allow Satan to divide us with various aspects. So I don’t want to talk about race. I want to talk about unity, and then we can see what the enemy is doing by throwing the word race in there.
On the definition of racism …
Jordan: I have a definition of racism. I know a lot of people say that minorities are racist or the majority are racist, but I disagree. I think the term racism is you have to have power. You have to have authority to oppress in order to be racist. Racism is a systemic term, and it’s different between just prejudice and racism. Racism has to have power and authority. You and I might have our individual prejudices. So I think we have to start right there, if we’re really going to get an understanding. I have to be able to oppress someone because of their race or their skin color in order to be racist.
Gaines: So, what people will do was that they will say, I’m not full of hatred towards someone who looks different from me. So, therefore, I’m not a racist. I’m not overtly hating someone because of the color of their skin, therefore, I’m not a racist. But here’s the second part of the racism definition the way I understand. It’s not only covert racial hatred, it’s also implicit racial bias. Those are things that sometimes you can be blind to, that you might not even recognize you’re doing, and that’s what a bias is. That can also lead toward these systems of oppression and racism.
Jordan: Racism is a system. It is a system, again, as I mentioned, we really need to be able to determine between prejudice. You may not like my blue shirt. That doesn’t mean that you have a problem with me. We have prejudice about our schools that we attend, but racism is a system of power that is over a group of people that continues, and when you talk about racism, I mentioned this earlier, when we were talking about the Bible.
I don’t think the Bible calls racism the same thing we call it today. I mean, when we talk about, as I mentioned, the family of God, when we talk about being from one family, it’s not the same term that we use it today. I think that’s why the church has to use the Word of God as its foundation.
On the topic of white privilege …
Gaines: One of the things that comes to mind that often comes up in these kinds of conversations is the idea of white privilege. Now, when that comes up, a lot of white people get defensive, they talk about, “I don’t have white privilege,” and it’s something that from, their perspective, they don’t see as a problem, but from an African American’s perspective is a problem.
That’s one of those things where I think folks aren’t seeing things from the same page, so to speak. So let’s just tackle that issue. I mean, do you think white privilege exists? What is it?
Jordan: These are the kinds of conversations and terms that divide us. Let me just put a pin right there, and let me go back to desegregation. Before we desegregated … well, we were segregated. So, we integrated the cultures. The word integration means, I take some of yours and you take some of mine. That’s what integrate means, but what actually happened with desegregation was assimilation because I didn’t have anything you wanted. So what we did as a race of people, we assimilated into a culture. So, when you use the term white privilege, people get defensive, but the reality is that if you were in a position that you didn’t want. … I don’t think anybody wanted to leave their community to go to the African American community or to go to a desegregated community, but it was those who were oppressed and didn’t have, we wanted equal rights and equal quality.
On listening to each other …
Jordan: The key for us is to hear each other’s story. … We become so defensive that we can’t sit down, look another brother in the eye and have these conversations, and this is what keeps us at odds. I knew that the enemy was going to come in with something, and now what has happened with the boycotts and the violence. People are less concerned about this issue, which is the enemy. Nothing has changed. We have got to communicate. We have got to have these kind of conversations.
On the attitude toward policemen and law enforcement …
Gaines: I think it’s important that we talk about that and to point that out. But this does not mean you are anti-police. This whole false dichotomy that you have to either love the law enforcement community or care about the Black community. It is just that it’s a false dichotomy. (People) can care about both.
On the steps we can take to begin the healing process …
Jordan: As we as a country, anytime there’s a problem, and this even when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, there are a couple of things we have to do.
Jordan: Number one, we got to acknowledge we’re sinners. The second thing we got to do is repent. You cannot be saved until you repent, and racism in this country needs to be acknowledged and we need to repent. Then we need to come together under the blood of Jesus Christ, realize, and as I said, the church has its role to play.
I believe the world is looking at us. We can say what we want to say about the marches in the streets, but one of the things that I — as an old man — am appreciative to. I saw just as many young whites, young white kids that grew up, they’ve grown up with each other in the streets and you can’t tell me those kids are not from another planet. They’re from our Bible studies, our youth group, and the church, we need to acknowledge that unless we be a good example for these young people, we’re going to lose. Our lights are becoming dim. But God has given us a tremendous opportunity.
Gaines: For too long and too many errors, the white church was silent and because of their silence was complicit.
Jordan: (Pastors have) got to lead the conversation. Our people are looking for us to lead. They’re looking for us to lead, and so I would say you find somebody that can have this conversation, and not look at things from the way you see it, but listen to their stories.
Listen to the challenges that they have, create opportunities in our churches, for our people to have meals together, to talk, to get to know each other. One of the things that Satan uses, is he keeps us separated by not knowing each other. Then let’s come to grips with what we’re dealing with today is not a right-left thing. That offends me. This is not a conservative and liberal thing. That’s where we’re getting away from being the plumb line where Christ is the center. I’m a pro-life. I am pro-life, but I think George Floyd’s life was pro to. So we cannot talk about life in the womb without talking about all life.
On moving forward and making progress …
Jordan: We have got to stand together on this issue. … I just want to encourage all of our brothers. Let’s not be distracted by what the enemy is doing. God has given us a tremendous opportunity to come together, and really show the world that we are the light that God is looking for.