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Are we witnessing a return to racial segregation?

Progressive values promote a “good” separation of God’s image-bearers

Centennial Elementary School in Centennial, Colo., promotes its Families of Color Playground Night last month. Twitter/@realchrisrufo

Are we witnessing a return to racial segregation?

If the photo above was in black and white, you would be excused for assuming it was a relic from the past. The picture captures a sign in front of an elementary school advertising a “Families of Color Playground Night.” But the photo is not from the Deep South during the height of segregation—it is a photo of Centennial Elementary School in Centennial, Colo., an upper-middle-class suburb of Denver. And it was taken last month.

Centennial is not a white supremacist enclave seeking a return to “separate but equal” but a place many would describe as culturally progressive. After all, the event advertised was organized by the school’s “dean of culture” as part of its diversity and inclusivity initiatives. Every single elected official representing Centennial, Colo., is a Democrat.

Notably, this is not the first time a place that prides itself on progressive values promoted a new form of racial segregation. In fact, many college campuses have created “safe spaces” where people of color receive assurances they will not encounter any white people there.

Is racial segregation fashionable again? Perhaps, but in a new form. For some, it appears that the sin of our past was not a legally imposed system of racial segregation but segregation for the wrong reason.

Today, we are told the world is divided into two groups: the oppressors and the oppressed, and those groups are largely, if not exclusively, defined by race. White people are the “oppressors” and people of color are the “oppressed.” We are further told it is our moral obligation as a nation to fight for the oppressed against the oppressors.

Under this framework, the racial segregation of the Deep South in the 20th century was wrong because it perpetuated oppression by white people. But racial segregation in Colorado in 2021 is designed to stop oppression by protecting people of color—at least temporarily—from the presence of white people. Therefore, it is supposedly good.

This is more than simply a new perspective on segregation. It is a representation of a radical worldview. Instead of judging people based on what they have done, we are encouraged to reserve judgment until we have accounted for their identity and motives.

Racism isn’t wrong simply because it perpetuates oppression but because it perpetuates the idea that we are defined—seemingly, exclusively—by our skin color.

The logic that justifies the “good kind” of racial segregation is the same logic that justifies the “good kind” of rioting and looting.

Christians must quickly recognize the problem because God doesn’t grade on a curve. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Furthermore, the fact that someone has wronged us does not give us permission to wrong them. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). Oppression is wrong, but opposition to oppression does not give us license to do anything we want.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a playground that has only people of color; this is the status quo in most of the world, and that is due to population, not prejudice. But there is something inherently wrong with policies that segregate people because of their skin color. Racism isn’t wrong simply because it perpetuates oppression but because it perpetuates the idea that we are defined—seemingly, exclusively—by our skin color.

For Christians, the most important thing about anyone is the fact that we are made in the image of God and in desperate need of redemption through Jesus Christ. This is inherently unifying because it reminds us that the most important thing about every single human being we meet is something we have in common—we are image-bearers of God.

Once we reject God as Creator, we destroy not only the source of all truth but also the only foundation of human equality. As our founders wrote, “All men are created equal. …” If we are not created equal, we are not equal. Just look around. We are not equally healthy, fit, or capable. We do not look the same and cannot do all the same things. We are not, in any practical sense, equal. Therefore, if we are not made in the image of God, we are left with the survival of the fittest and war between factions—a war between factions untethered from any moral absolutes.

Without moral absolutes, there is no moral truth, so the ends justify the means. In such a world, some will argue that one form of segregation is good and another form of segregation is bad. If we do not quickly remember the source of our equality and morality, racially segregated playgrounds will be the least of our concerns.

Joseph Backholm

Joseph Backholm is senior fellow for Biblical worldview and strategic engagement at the Family Research Council. Previously, he served as a legislative attorney and spent 10 years as the president and general counsel of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He also served as legal counsel and director of What Would You Say? at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview where he developed and launched a YouTube channel of the same name. His YouTube life began when he identified as a 6-foot-5 Chinese woman in a series of YouTube videos exploring the logic of gender identity. He and his wife Brook have four children.

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